Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The travelling Israeli Wall of "Genocide"

Letter to the Editor; USC Daily Trojan:

I was startled to see a familiar wall on the USC campus this week. In 2008, I graduated from UC Irvine, the original location of this particular wall. UC Irvine has experienced a lot of controversy because of this traveling wall.  Almost as much as the wall it is meant to replicate, which was built by Israel to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. Many argue that the wall violates international law but Israel insists it has saved lives. At UCI, this wall and the controversial speakers and protests that have accompanied it has caused a lot of negative feelings and bad press. So much so that the Muslim Student Union, the organization that constructs this wall on the UCI campus every semester, is rumored to be investigated by the FBI. Also, Anteaters for Israel, the UCI Jewish student group that takes the upmost offense to the wall, launched a law suit against the school for Antisemitism. Though I am very supportive of the Palestinian cause, and feel that it is important for USC students to be aware of it, I am extremely disappointed to see this wall as the way of sparking this conversation. I feel that this wall is not productive, it is a hostile, in-your-face, accusation that offends many people. Maybe this is the point, but I offer this food for thought: In 2007 a group of UCI students, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Jew and others decided a more productive way to educate UCI students about the conflict -- what is really going on -- was travel there and talk to those who live the conflict. We formed the Olive Tree Initiative and traveled to Israel and Palestine for two weeks talking to people from both territories. I learned so much for the people there, but what was most important was that Palestinians- and Jews -- do not want, nor need, us to be fighting their conflict on our campus. They want to get jobs, go to school, travel the world and raise family’s – in peace and without violence. Last week I traveled to Lebanon and visited a Palestinian refugee camp. Those refugees didn’t hate Israel, they didn’t hate the Jews. I asked them what they wanted, what I could do for them. All they wanted was dignity, to be treated equally, to get an education, to be able to get jobs and to see the world. That is the cause we should be helping them with, not vilifying Israel. There is enough of that. I agree that Israel, the US and the world has wronged the Palestinian people, but fueling hate towards Israel doesn’t right these wrongs. I hope those who look at the wall, and those who brought it to USC, will ask how it helps the Palestinian people achieve these goals. There are real things people can do for the cause. And I hope those who care about Palestinians, and Israeli’s, and ending the conflict in the region will look into the Olive Tree Initiative on their campus or find some other way to bring peace to the conflict. 
You can read my blog posts from my trip throughout Palestine and Israel here.

Katharine Keith
MA in Public Diplomacy Candidate, USC
Co-Founder, Olive Tree Initiative, UCI

Click here to read my friend and colleague, Paul Rockower's letter to the editor on the same subject. Well said, my friend.

Also, watch our very short documentary on the Olive Tree Initiative:


Katharine Keith said...

Thanks to Daily Trojan for posting my letter to the editor.


Anonymous said...

It's Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

Here is the link:


(If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)