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Oak Leaves

May 5, 2017


Senior Delivers 'Conflict Transformation' VIA


Virginia Rendler

On Thursday, April 27, 2017, Senior Lucas Al-Zoughbi delivered “Conflict Transformation in Palestine” as his Senior Series Values, Ideas and Arts (VIA) presentation in Cordier Auditorium.

Al-Zoughbi is a peace studies and psychology double major from Bethlehem, Palestine. Next year he will be attending Michigan State University for its joint Masters and PhD program in ecological community psychology.
 
In his VIA, Al-Zoughbi said his aim was to educate people about the situation in Palestine as well as about the connections between Palestine and Manchester. For example, when his father was arrested, former Peace Studies professor Ken Brown had a large role in his release due to a nonviolent movement in which he encouraged students to write letters on behalf of Al-Zoughbi’s father. “The reason I decided to submit a proposal for a VIA is because, as a Palestinian coming to the United States, I’ve realized most people don’t know what’s going on,” Al-Zoughbi said. “I think it’s important for U.S. citizens to know because their tax money is going to the Israeli military, and the oppression of an entire population. And that includes Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza strip, Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel who are treated as second class citizens.”

Al-Zoughbi began his talk with a music video by a Palestinian band centered in the Deheishe Refugee Camp and a description of Operation Cast Lead, or the Gaza Massacre of 2008. He noted that over 5,000 Palestinians were wounded, whereas less than 100 Israelis were wounded. According to Al-Zoughbi, these statistics show that this is not a war, it is an occupation. Al-Zoughbi shared a poem by Rafeef Ziadah in which one line reads, “these are not two equal sides, occupier and occupied.” 

This issue is very close to Al-Zoughbi. “I grew up in Palestine,” he said, “which means growing up with the knowledge that you are Palestinian, and your life, if taken, would mean less than someone else’s. In regards to a judicial justice, next to nothing would happen [if you were killed]. My father had experienced torture and imprisonment by Israel, and the legacy of the history of oppression, injustice and resistance has instilled this passion in me.” 

He is also inspired by his family’s consistent work for social justice. He described the checkpoints in Palestine that prevent Palestinians from leaving or returning to their homes, and the two million people living in the Gaza Strip that have experienced four wars.
 
As Al-Zoughbi explained, there are 61 military checkpoints in Palestine, some that can lengthen a 10-mile commute to up to seven hours. Sixty-nine babies have been born at these checkpoints, and of these, 35 babies died, as well as five mothers.
 
He shared other statistics as well: since 1967, 48,488 structures have been demolished in Palestine, including homes, businesses, and apartment complexes. 5,199 people in Palestine are homeless, and over half of those are minors. There are 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, and 800,000 since 1967. There are 450 child prisoners held by Israel, which is a United Nations–declared Apartheid State.

Al-Zoughbi believes that students of Manchester have a responsibility to care about this conflict. “The reason that I came to Manchester was the peace studies department, but I also fell in love with their mission statement, specifically the portion that says ‘we respect the infinite worth of every individual,’” he said. 
“I think that’s something that we as individuals should do,” he continued. “In the situation in Palestine, where individuals are not being respected, and rather are oppressed, killed, ethnically cleansed, brutalized, tortured and deprived of their basic human and civil rights, this should matter to you as a moral human being. But beyond that, the fact that your tax money is funding this oppression, that should really matter to you because you are literally paying for this injustice. I think it’s important to be an active citizen of the world.”

Lucas Al-Zoughbi’s father, Zoughbi Zoughbi, founded the Wi’am Center for Conflict Transformation, an organization in Palestine that works for diplomacy and women’s rights, and works with youth and victims of trauma. There is a program through Pathways Summer Service at Manchester where students can volunteer at Wi’am over the summer.
 
Al-Zoughbi encourages students to do their own research, or simply to visit Palestine. “I want to get people interested in this situation so they’ll learn for themselves,” he said. “It could be said that everything I have to say is propaganda, and then I’d also encourage people to go and visit for themselves. That is something I’ve been doing since I came to the United States --  trying to encourage people to go to Palestine and see for themselves through their own eyes. Being there in the community and culture and feeling the camaraderie there gives hope. We often say, ‘Respect existence or expect resistance.’ We want more comrades and allies from around the world to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel for it to respect human rights and international law.”