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April 21, 2017

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Logo



Students for Palestine Host Conference on Campus
 

Maddie Jo Shultz


Students for Justice in Palestine at Manchester University hosted a conference on Saturday April 8, 2017. The conference kicked off at 1 p.m. with workshops on the second floor of the Academic Center; attendees could acquire information on the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, whose slogan is “Working Together for Freedom, Justice, and Equality.” Its website is uscpr.org.

From 3 to 4:30 pm, attendees had the opportunity to watch a 2016 documentary called “Disturbing the Peace,” which demonstrated the destruction resulting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinians in the Gaza strip. Sitting alongside the Spartans in Winger Auditorium were a few Purdue Boilermakers, who drove to Manchester’s campus especially for the event. “This issue is widespread throughout the Middle East,” said Sherin Khawaja, a junior at Purdue, of the bloodshed. “Five or six years ago, it was just an issue for the Palestinians, and now it’s become a global issue. You can easily relate it to current events, like what’s happening in Syria.”

Khawaja and several of her Purdue peers discussed the issue and their feelings surrounding it directly following the documentary. Their opinion regarding the Israeli government changed after the Gaza bombings in 2014, mostly due to how disproportionate they find the violence. “Look at how much destruction they’ve caused, with zero effect on them,” Khawaja said. “If it’s just a question of self-defense, why murder innocent people?”

A less serious and more interactive aspect of the conference was the workshop, held at 8 p.m. in Wampler Auditorium, where participants learned a style of Palestinian dance. Ahmed Haman, a guest speaker who travels the country, specifically to colleges and universities to inform students about the issues in Palestine, showed them a native dance known as dabke.

Haman grew up in a small village on the northeast side of the Gaza strip, and both he and his hometown have been affected by the destruction. The Israeli occupiers destroyed the trees in the village—the occupants’ primary source of income. Haman says he and his fellow Palestinians became accustomed to the destruction, and they often became suspicious when the bombings temporarily stopped. “It was like the silence before a storm,” Haman said. “If nothing happened for a while, we worried.”

In the midst of this chaos, however, the Palestinians find hope—through dabke. “We never stop dancing; never stop celebrating,” Haman said. “If it’s a wedding, it’s everyone’s wedding. Traditions have evolved, but we maintain a sense of being and resistance.” 
Haman and his friend Hamza, who accompanies him to the workshops and seminars, agree: “They can kill us, burn our houses, but they can’t demolish our culture,” Haman said.

For the dance, the 21 attendees were split up into seven groups of three. Hamza played a traditional instrument, similar to a flute, while the dancers lined up in a circular formation with their feet aligned to a line on the floor. The dance commenced in sequences such as: heel, stomp, stomp; left heel, left stomp, right stomp-stomp. “We’re big on stomping,” Haman said, then became serious. “Close your eyes and listen. How loud can we stomp before it blocks out the sound of the bombings?"

The individual groups separated once they learned the dance, and each did a different set. When put all together, it synchronized perfectly. Haman explained that this creates a sense of unity and togetherness; a “collective resistance.” Attendees remained at the workshop until 9:30 that evening, or at least until their feet were tired of stomping.