Palestinian students see catastrophe in celebrations of Israel’s founding

Fethya Ibrahim, a junior at UW, participates in a die-in on Red Square representing the depopulated Palestinian village Hadatha. Each of about 50 participating students had a similar sign with the name of a depopulated Palestinian village written in English and Arabic. (Photo by Aditya Ganapathiraju)
Fethya Ibrahim, a junior at UW, participates in a die-in on Red Square representing the depopulated Palestinian village Hadatha. Each of about 50 participating students had a similar sign with the name of a depopulated Palestinian village written in English and Arabic. (Photo by Aditya Ganapathiraju)

Pro-Palestinian protesters expressed their side of history by hosting a “die-in” on Red Square at the University of Washington on Monday to commemorate the 1948 Palestinian exodus.

Sprawled out around the center of Red Square, around 50 individuals laid in silence holding signs with the names of lost Palestinian villages. The silent protest lasted 15 minutes, followed by a speech by freshman Amani Azzaidani, which caught the attention of on-lookers during the busy passing period.

The die-in was organized by group of pro-Palestinian members of the UW and greater Seattle community, including SUPER UW, a student-run Palestinian activist organization. The group had been planning a week of events to commemorate the Nakba on campus and had arranged the die-in after learning that a pro-Israeli celebration was to take place on Red Square on Monday.

A public Facebook event made by student organizations Students Supporting Israel at the University of Washington and Washington Students for Israel invited the community to “rock with us like it’s 1948” and celebrate Israel Week at UW with Israeli music, henna, cotton candy, t-shirts and freebies.

According to the Israel Week at UW Facebook event page, the pro-Israeli celebration did not take place on Red Square due to coinciding with ASUW’s student elections. Instead, a table was set up outside the Husky Union Building with small Israeli flags, buttons, and t-shirts; and students decked in blue and white cowboy hats handed out free sunglasses.

“Nakba Day” in Arabic means “Day of the Catastrophe,” and is commemorated by Palestinians annually on May 15th to mark the day after the 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence. It is a time that is celebrated by Israeli Jews because it marks the acquisition of land to serve as a Jewish homeland. The tension between the Palestinians and Jews led to the loss of life on both sides as well as the creation of over 700,000 Palestinian refugees by 1948. Today, there are over 4 million Palestinian refugees registered under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Senior Meva Beganovic, sophomore Rabbia Pasha and senior Yasmeen Samad (right to left) lie silently among the sea of die-in protestors, while students passing by on their way to classes look on. (Photo by Aditya Ganapathiraju)
Senior Meva Beganovic, sophomore Rabbia Pasha and senior Yasmeen Samad (right to left) lie silently among the sea of die-in protestors, while students passing by on their way to classes look on. (Photo by Aditya Ganapathiraju)

“The Nakba represents not just the loss of physical property, it’s more like the domino effect of the erasure of culture and the rights of people,” says freshman Yoseph Elaameir. Many protesters like Elaameir connected personally with the Nakba.

“If it wasn’t for the Nakba, I would be in Palestine and not here,” said organizer Samar Azzaidani. “Every generation in my family was born in Palestine except for me and my siblings. After my dad had left Palestine to study abroad, he was not allowed to return home.”

The event lasted less than half an hour, but because of Snapchat’s “Our Campus Story,” it ended up being viewed by Snapchat users all over the UW campus.

“It felt good seeing that support and having a much bigger reach than we expected,” said organizer Maye Ismail.

Both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups will be hosting events at UW the rest of the week. Israel Week celebrations are to take place on Red Square on May 13th, 14th and 15th at 12:30 p.m.; and a Nakba display will be at the Quad on May 15th from 10a.m. to 2p.m.

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