Student Protests and Death Threats: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Gets Personal at FAU

Student Protests and Death Threats: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Gets Personal at FAU
Illustration by Paul Garland

The dormitory hallways at Florida Atlantic University were uncomfortably quiet. By 3 p.m. Friday, many residents had left to begin their weekends. The air conditioner thrummed loudly in their absence. A stale odor, mixed with the chemical sting of cleaning products, struck 21-year-old Gabi Aleksinko as she and her friends made their way from door to door.

Aleksinko looks the part of a hippie activist, with long brown hair flowing past her shoulders and oversized earrings in the shape of peace signs. But there's a steeliness there too. Though she's lived in South Florida since she was 11, her parents are Argentine, her great-grandfather a Ukrainian refugee. Righteousness runs in her blood.

On the afternoon of March 30, Aleksinko, a nonpracticing Catholic, was accompanied by three other members of the campus club called Students for Justice in Palestine — including her boyfriend, Matthew Schneider, who is Jewish and vice president of the club. A resident adviser escorted them through three dormitories as the students used tape and printer paper to carry out their mission. They chatted, laughed, and told jokes, eager to break the silence of the halls.

Gabi Aleksinko, Noor Fawzy, and Matthew Schneider say the mock eviction notices were designed to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Monica McGivern
Gabi Aleksinko, Noor Fawzy, and Matthew Schneider say the mock eviction notices were designed to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes.
A copy of the mock eviction notice.
Monica McGivern
A copy of the mock eviction notice.

Stamped diagonally in large, gray, capital lettering across their fliers was the word Eviction. A fake Palm Beach County Court case number and warrant number appeared in the upper right corner. On the lower left was the official seal of Palm Beach County, and in the lower right corner was a stamp of approval from FAU's Housing Department. "We regret to inform you that your home is scheduled for demolition shortly," the flier began. "You have three days to vacate the premises... or you will be subject to arrest."

A couple of students emerged from their rooms and panicked. "Crap, we got evicted," Aleksinko heard them whisper.

"Is this for real?" someone else asked.

"Nah, keep reading," the protesters responded.

At the bottom of the page, in large, bold letters, the flier stated: "Not a real eviction notice. Not affiliated with county." Then, in smaller type: "This notice is meant to spread awareness for the plight of the Palestinian people. Remember, American tax dollars pay for the Israeli occupation."

By sunset, Aleksinko's feet ached from walking up and down so many flights of stairs. Her team was exhausted. They were disappointed that only six or seven people stopped and asked them about the fliers. They had no idea what was coming.


With her FAU T-shirt and long, curly dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, Noor Fawzy does not look the part of the frightening activist. She has a 4.0 GPA, is majoring in political science, serves as secretary of the College Democrats, and dreams of being an ambassador.

In early May, Fawzy gathered with other members of Students for Justice in Palestine's board on the couches of the FAU student union in Boca. Downstairs, her classmates played Ping-Pong. Upstairs, the hallway was mostly quiet, except for the stream of visitors — everyone from custodians to students — who walked by to say hello. "SJP! My people!" one man shouted, raising a fist in support.

Fawzy, 21, is the Muslim daughter of Palestinian refugees. Her mother was raised in Venezuela, her father in Kuwait. Her grandfather fled Palestine in the years leading up to the establishment of Israel, when violence between Zionists and Palestinians was frequent. Fawzy attended high school in Coral Springs. Her family is among roughly 101,000 Arab-Americans in Florida, a state with the fourth-largest Arab-American population in the country, according to the Arab American Institute.

Fawzy still has relatives living in the area she calls Palestine — a swath of land between Egypt and Jordan where Jews and Muslims trace their ancestral roots back thousands of years. In the late 1880s, a movement called Zionism beckoned Jews to return to their Holy Land in droves, to establish a safe haven from deadly persecution they faced in Russia and other parts of the world. At the time, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain took control of the area during World War I.

In 1947, after 6 million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, the United Nations proposed partitioning Palestine into two independent countries — one for Jews and one for Palestinians. The Palestinians declined. Instead, Arab forces attacked Israel and lost. The 1948 war ended with the establishment of Israel — the world's only modern Jewish nation — and hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinian refugees. Israelis celebrated their Independence Day. Arabs called it "the Catastrophe."

For the past 64 years, Palestinians and Jews have lived an uneasy coexistence marked by frequent violence. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip from neighboring Arab nations. Under a United Nations accord reached after the war, captured lands were to be returned to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. However, neither the land swap nor peace has ever come.

Today, whenever either group builds homes or schools on occupied land, it is effectively staking a claim on that area. Israel maintains military and political control over large swaths of the occupied territories. It's nearly impossible for Palestinians to receive permits to build in these areas, and thousands of their homes have been razed because the Israeli government believes they are harboring terrorists or have built the structures illegally. Angry and feeling powerless, many Palestinians have fled the region over the decades. Others — including Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group that governs the Gaza Strip — have launched suicide bombs and rocket attacks and called for Israel to cease to exist. How the two sides might come to live peacefully is a riddle that no president, prime minister, or assassin has been able to solve, though many have tried.

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18 comments
glass slipper
glass slipper

SLEEP WITH DOGS AND BECOME INFESTED WITH PARASITES! And just to prove my point here is where it leads, among other places: Yair Klein Reveals That He Was “Asked by the Colombian government to help train FARC.” 28062012 Yair Klein Israeli mercenary. Photo Week [The old master trainer of mercenaries and terrorists is threatening to do the one thing which no other source has ever done, reveal that he trained both sides of an American limited war effort in Colombia, and promised to provide details of that era. This is mind-blowing stuff.....think about it,.....the man worked for the Israeli government, to carry-out secret American military and drug control policy, with the full consent of the Colombian host government. Klein is validating every known conspiracy theory about the secret S. American drug war, especially those speculating about CIA drug-running. More importantly to us today, is that Yair is validating the most ludicrous conspiracy theory imaginable (the one that has kept me searching for proof), that the CIA trains and finances all major terrorist operations in secret, in order to justify the open creation of paramilitary counter-forces (death squads), such as the dreaded AUC in Colombia, which was also trained by Mr. Klein and his British and American associates. This is an identical set-up to that now being employed from Pakistan to the Middle East, as well as in Africa...the Pentagon/CIA train both the terrorist armies (a.k.a., "al-Qaeda") and the Special Operations military forces who fight against them. It is no coincidence that Special Forces are the units which train together on the international level, as well as the primary motivational force within the US Military. According to popular doctrine, all military forces should be trained by "SpecOps." Yair Klein could never reveal such geostrategic secrets and survive the telling, but maybe he is the kind of guy who doesn't give a shit, or possibly a real "jedi warrior" type who fights for honor or the cause of justice in this world. Until Klein, or someone like him, blows the whistle on the whole stinking mess, researchers like me will continue to search for someone, or something which proves incontrovertibly, that the United States government is the world's greatest source of terrorism.]http://www.google.com/search?q=%0D%0Ahttp%3A%2F%2Ftherearenosunglasses.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F06%2F28%2Fyair-klein-reveals-that-he-was-asked-by-the-colombian-government-to-help-train-farc%2F&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-ContextMenu&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGNI_enUS479

glass slipper
glass slipper

Zionism is going to be the death of the United States of America as we are already feeling the dreadful effects of being led down this dangerous path with willfull compliance by the very people who took an OATH OF OFFICE to defend the Constitution of the USA and to guard against ALL ENEMIES FOREIGN AN DOMESTIC .  Enough death and destruction on the behalf of Israel.

Jescot
Jescot

Nanook - What was the reason for Cast Lead ? Did it have to do with the launching of hundreds of Kassam rockets into Israel from Gaza? Seems you have selective memory as well.  No one is whitewashing anything. The rockets are still falling this summer and Israel will still have the right to defend its citizens from the terror of rockets purposely fired at civilian centers without regard to where they fall. Why don't you tell Jon where those palestinian rockets are aiming? They are not just "protest the occupation' "raise awareness" or "bringing justice"fireworks.  Please also tell Jon what SJP is doing on campus to advocate for peace by talking honestly about what the palestinians are doing wrong by delving into the complexities of the conflict. 

Jescot
Jescot

To be very clear -- I believe a Jewish democratic state would not be sustainable and would have problems with an Israel if it ONLY annexed the entirety of the Judea Samaria.  Within a two state for two people solution I don't believe the demographic scenarios. They have been saying these things for as long as I can remember and they say them about Europe and I also don't believe the "threat" there or here in the US ( especially when it comes to the extremists that are obsessed to Sharia law taking hold in the US - It's laughable.)   Calling for a one state solution to force the issue and create a melting pot now is counterproductive towards peace. Or as a stated before to have a "divorce". I also am very very very skeptical of anyone that holds the views that a one state solution could be a reality through the involvement of international bodies ( or annexation) has the interests of both parties really at heart. Worst case they really want the destruction of another people and speak in code and at best they are again ...naive or believe a fantasy sold to them by the extremes.   The "increasing" calls for a one state solution are based on frustration and an emerging strategy by many to reach their goals of destroying Israeli demographically by edict. 

Mkrammer
Mkrammer

Israel has MANY non-Jewish citizens. 25% of the the population in Israel are NOT Jewish. Which is approximately 1.8 million people.

DJKA
DJKA

Why is it a problem for a Jewish state to have non-Jewish citizens? Would you prefer that they harass and expel non-Jewish citizens the way that Muslim states do? Do you have a problem with Christian countries that have non-Christian citizens? Is the Anglican-democratic UK sustainable?

Nfawzy
Nfawzy

Jescot, there is nothing "off" about the claim that in 10-15-20 years, the non-Jewish population in Israel proper will become the majority. And it is not "my" prediction. You don't have to take it from me. You don't have to take it from any Palestinian or any organization that is making the same claim. You can simply refer to the words of Israeli leaders, such as current PM Bibi Netanyahu, who said publicly in 2003 (as finance minister) that "Israel's growing demographic problem is not because of Palestinians, but of Israeli Arabs." And this was in 2003, almost one decade ago. In 2009, Israel Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in an article in the Commentary magazine listed the non-Jewish "demographic threat" as one of the existential threats against the state. Nevermind the fact that the "demographic threat" label is just so grossly offensive. Secularism is not really as relevant here. The Zionist state calls itself "The Jewish state." That's a problem when 1/5 of the population is not Jewish and it will become even more problematic when that non-Jewish population becomes the majority in a proclaimed Jewish state. You are correct in stating that a "Jewish-democratic state" is not sustainable. This was my point to begin with. This is one of the major reasons behind increasing calls by Palestinians and non-Palestinians for a one-state solution.

Jescot
Jescot

There are certain demographic changes throughout history and certainly now changes are accelerated.  While I would never want to see the Jewish character of  Israel ever disappear there would be no way to stop it from happening and remain a democracy I would recognize. I think your prediction is a little off and I will assume might have been exposed to you from people who want it to be true on the Palestinian side and those who want to stoke fear on the Israeli side.   I have a problem with both.  Look this article I found and take note that from an Israeli perspective equally as "threatening" the scenario you present is the birthrate amount the ultra orthodox that would also change the nature of what is a "secular" society. Also feel free to glance on the YNet article.  http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/109021/20110204/israel-arabs-population-demographics.htm?page=all http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4209333,00.html

Nfawzy
Nfawzy

Jescot, just to be more specific, would you find it perfectly acceptable for a Jewish-proclaimed state to impose its authority over a non-Jewish majority, which according to demographic trends will come into fruition within the next 10-15 years, if not sooner? Do you think that such a state under those circumstances would be able to sustain itself? Just to clarify, the future non-Jewish majority I am speaking of is the one that will be realized within the borders of Israel-proper, and is separate from the Palestinians living in Occupied Palestine and those who are in the diaspora. Please keep in mind that if a Palestinian state were to come into fruition in the presently-occupied territories, the Palestinian citizens of Israel would not en masse leave to settle in the Palestinian state. 

Nfawzy
Nfawzy

Jescot, would you be perfectly fine with a Jewish-proclaimed state that has a clear non-Jewish majority within the next 10-15 years? All of the demographic trends point to this.

DJKA
DJKA

The main takeaway from this article is that college students are nitwits and divorced from reality. Those pro-Palestinian activists are simply idealistic idiots, not anti-Semites. And the pro-Israel kid cheapens the fight against actual anti-Semitism by crying wolf about this. The commenter Jescot seems to have a good handle on things.

Matthew Schneider
Matthew Schneider

I'm not advocating either solution personally; that's up to the Palestinians and Israelis to decide. But, I don't think it's a "fantasy of extremists" for the two peoples to live together in peace under one flag. Whether the two sides can reconcile their differences enough to agree to a one-state solution remains to be seen, however. It seems more likely that there will be a two-state system put into place in the future, but I don't think we should automatically rule out one state just because it seems more difficult. A one-state solution would not "destroy Israel," just as mixing two ingredients together doesn't destroy either ingredient. It merely creates a new mixture, one that Palestinians *and* Israelis would both accept. That said, a two-state solution is also a viable solution, if that is what the people decide. Each would have their own land and independence. It makes sense, but again, it's not the only possibility.

Jescot
Jescot

Matthew- I understand your point of view and you express it very well. Peace is the prize no matter what solution is agreed upon by both Israel and the Palestinians. However I think the idea that there will be a marriage of two peoples is naive...hopeful but naive. What will happen eventually will look like a divorce not a marriage.  I also will point out again that Israel would never accept what you propose not even those sitting on the very left in Israel.  Personally Israel to me exists in part  so Jews have the power to effect their  own destiny and history. If you are offering up a one state solution no matter how it's presented you are in a sense yourself proposing the end of the Jewish State.  I also believe anyone in the Jewish community who calls for a one state solution does not have the best interests of Israel or the Palestinians at heart.  I do have difficulty the morality of occupation BUT do not think the entirety of Israel is under occupation. When I hear that things like Haifa is a "Palestinian city" or see a map that does not differentiate the territories from Israel it makes my skin crawl.  I feel strongly that proposing a one state solution is again a fantasy and either comes from a dark place or out of naivety. I don't think you're coming from a dark place but without paying attention to nuance and a certain "messiness" of the reality one can get lost very quickly and be influenced by those who are at the extremes.  I want Israel to perfect its own vibrant democracy within it's own borders ( wherever those borders are eventually agreed upon by the two parties) and I also want the same for Palestinians. Two states for two peoples. To talk about one state just cuts off dialogue because one side will simply never agree. Yes Matthew a one state solution is a great hypothetical worthy of thought and an exchange like this one but anyone who pushes this idea past the hypothetical as the ONLY pathway to justice is not contributing to a solution. Its an extreme position.  I am very wary and uncomfortable with any extreme.  Matthew - Please know that even though it might be read that I feel you  yourself are naive I do not mean it  as a pejorative in any way. I appreciate the way you challenged my ideas and hope you feel the same about how I challenged your own. 

Jescot
Jescot

I have no idea what you are saying at all. Two states for two peoples. Anything else is fantasy of extremists on either side. 

Nash Oudha
Nash Oudha

 where did you came with these facts.. lame

Jescot
Jescot

If you are  calling for any country to be dissolved you are clearly stating you do not think that state is legitimate. Not legitimate - no right to exist. The right of return will never happen period and for anyone to perpetuate the hope there will be is not helping the cause for peace.  You are operating in a fantasy if you think Israel or any other country would make moves that would ultimately cause its demise.  People on either side of the conflict who are calling for a one state solution are on the extremes and move us backwards not forward. On either side as well people need to stop perpetuating a fantasy and passing that fantasy down to our children.  

Jescot
Jescot

How is calling for a one state solution not antisemitic when what you are calling for as justice will dissolve very raison d'être of a sovereign state? 

Matthew Schneider
Matthew Schneider

 All-caps hate speech: the sign of an intelligent, rational individual. (cough)

 
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