In an effort to increase campus consciousness around the Israel-Palestine conflict, two student groups — Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine and Oberlin College Jewish Voice for Peace — have invited Palestinian-American author, legal scholar, and human rights activist Noura Erakat to speak on campus Monday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Dye Lecture Hall.
College senior Nicki Kattoura was inspired to bring Erakat to speak at the College after Palestinian activists were targeted and brutalized last March. Erakat offered instrumental insights into the violence.
“During Trump’s embassy move to Jerusalem, the Palestinians — as they do every year — held their Great March of Return, which basically signals Palestinian demand to have refugees return to Historic Palestine who were displaced after the formation of Israel,” said Kattoura. “Thousands and thousands of people marched along the Gaza border and were basically massacred by Israeli military forces.”
Noura Erakat is an assistant professor of Legal Studies, International Area Studies, and Social Justice/Human Rights at George Mason University. Her upcoming book Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine looks at the role of international law in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“We thought it was important to bring someone who could bring an international law perspective to the Palestine issue,” said College senior Raphael Dreyfuss, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Many students agreed that more education around the issue would be beneficial.
“I think it’s a conflict where you really don’t hear both sides of the story a lot of the time,” said College first-year Julia Binder. “I grew up in a very liberal Jewish community that was super open to talking about everything and very inclusive, and somehow this topic — the Israel-Palestine conflict — almost never came up, and I very much felt like I had to educate myself on it.”
While the Israel-Palestine conflict is often hotly disputed, pro-Palestine groups on campus find that events are mostly well-received by the campus community.
“We don’t really find that events are particularly controversial on campus,” said Dreyfuss. “Students are generally very receptive — even students who disagree often come to our events, and we talk things through. Where we find the most pushback is from people off-campus. … We often get pigeonholed by off-campus views of our voices; there’s all sorts of people who would like to present Jewish students at Oberlin as under siege by the Palestine movement when the reality is that [Jewish students] actually make up a large percentage of the Palestine Solidarity Movement.”
Other students think the talk is an exciting opportunity to educate students on campus.
“[When] the Israel-Palestine conflict comes up, almost everyone I talk to is like, ‘I feel like I don’t know enough to say anything’,” said Binder.
For Kattoura, starting the conversation is a fulfilling enough goal.
“We just try to mobilize students to organize around campus,” he said. “And it doesn’t have to necessarily be Palestine in particular, but organize. [Noura Erakat] is a great speaker, I think if it’s a matter of you leaving the event and speaking to your friends about the event, I think that’s going to be enough for me.”