Approximately 15 protesters erected two large, illustrated wood barriers at Sather Gate on Wednesday afternoon as a public statement portraying Israeli-Palestinian relations and supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Put on by the Students for Justice in Palestine, the walls served as a backdrop for a staged military checkpoint, and were meant to represent the barrier that currently separates parts of Israel along and within the borders of the West Bank.
“We’ve set up a mock apartheid wall and also a mock checkpoint to call attention to the daily life of Palestinians,” said David McCleary, a graduate student and member of SJP.
He added that Palestinians are sometimes subjected to “invasive searches” and blocked passage for “often capricious and unclear reasons.”
Two demonstrators, wearing green T-shirts that read “Israel Defense Forces,” held cardboard cutouts of guns. Other protesters lined up in front of the mock checkpoint with colored “identification papers” and attempted to pass through the barriers. Those who portrayed Palestinians and resisted the “guards” were yelled at, thrown to the ground and blindfolded in front of the barriers.
The barriers were painted with messages, such as “Israeli Apartheid” and “Resist state violence,” and included images of target symbols over both a dove and a fist.
McCleary said the demonstration was to raise awareness about the treatment of Palestinians and encourage the UC Board of Regents to approve divestment from corporations associated with the Israeli military and “complaisant” about the occupation of Israel in the West Bank.
While the ASUC passed a resolution to divest in spring 2013, UC Davis’s student government court overturned a similar passed resolution last week, raising questions over whether the issue was actually related to student welfare.
Becca Berman, president of a pro-Israel group called Bears for Israel, said that the protestors were “grossly misrepresenting” what apartheid is, and felt “marginalized” by the BDS movement that SJP supports.
“(SJP does) not engage in any kind of dialogue to address the issues that they are saying they wish to discuss on campus,” Berman said. “These screaming matches on Sproul are not conducive to any sort of dialogue about peace.”
Wednesday’s protest was a continuation of demonstrations organized by SJP for Israeli Apartheid Week. The group distributed 600 mock eviction notices to residents of Unit 2 on Sunday, in reference to the real eviction notices some Palestinians in occupied territory receive.