Muslim Students at Long Beach: Anti-Semitic skit and anti-Israel program

Israeli-Palestinian exhibit, skits draw crowds at Friendship Walk
The Muslim Student Association’s 26-panel display on the Israeli occupation of Palestine sparks debate between Jewish, Muslim students.

Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A 10-foot high, 26-panel wall was placed on Cal State Long Beach’s Friendship Walk Monday for the Muslim Student Association’s presentation of Checkpoint, the first a several events organized by the MSA for Palestinian Awareness Week.

The wall showed in graphic detail pictures and testimonials of those affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the Israeli “Summer Rains” air strike that killed 50 Palestinian children to the stories of foreign Palestine supporters like Rachel Corrie, an American crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. Several panels also criticized the U.S. political record of supporting and providing aid to the Israeli government.

In the center of the display was a doorframe “checkpoint,” over which hung an Israeli flag symbolically splattered with red paint.

“We hope to achieve awareness, and to show the other side of the story that has not been told,” said MSA President Syed Hamza.

Possibly the greatest controversy came from skits performed by MSA members of that depict the Israeli border patrol’s treatment of Palestinian travelers. The skits showed patrol officers detaining Palestinian students, businessmen and pregnant women from crossing the checkpoint.

“It’s all factual,” Hamza said. “There are people who have actually gone to [Israel] and seen it happen in front of them; they’ve been through checkpoints.”

The skits were met with applause, but skit actors and MSA supporters also engaged in debate over the skit’s depiction of Israeli soldiers. Some supported the skits as accurate, while some called performance “guerrilla theater” and anti-Semitic.

Jacob Lopez, a freshman math major, said that MSA delivered a “powerful” performance that delivered the conflict’s message.

“It accurately portrays the atrocities in Palestine,” Lopez said. “It’s showing how it is in Israel when they try to cross the line.”

CSULB faculty was also present at the display and during the group’s event skit performances.

“If you watch the mainstream media in Europe – in Britain or in France – this stuff is like common knowledge. It’s not really up for dispute,” said history lecturer Sherry Vatter, who teaches history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at CSULB. Vatter added that, from what she saw, the wall’s presentation appeared to be factual.

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, of the University Interfaith Center and adviser to Hillel, publicly disagreed with Vatter.

“Panel by panel, it’s a complete misrepresentation, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, lies, hearsay,” Bookstein said. “All this is doing is creating tension on campus and creating a great divide between Jewish and Muslim students.”

The MSA will also host a presentation by Anna Baltzer, author of “Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories,” today in the Beach Auditorium, and a presentation from Amir Abdul Malik on Wednesday at the Friendship Walk.

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