Education

What was that demonstration on USC’s campus all about? ‘No one is in danger’

USC pro-Palestine students hold mock Israeli checkpoint

University of South Carolina group Students for Justice in Palestine staged a mock Israeli checkpoint to demonstrate the difficulty in moving between Israeli territory and Gaza and the West Bank
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University of South Carolina group Students for Justice in Palestine staged a mock Israeli checkpoint to demonstrate the difficulty in moving between Israeli territory and Gaza and the West Bank

Dana Al Hassan was just trying to get home.

Two men dressed in bright green vests with the words “Israeli Occupation Forces” written on the back stopped her, asked for her identification and demanded she empty her bag. After a few minutes of questioning, they denied her entry and shoved her away.

Of course, Al Hassan wasn’t actually trying to cross the Israeli-Palestinian border. This was just a demonstration (signs near the demonstration said “This is a demonstration. Nobody is in danger”) that was held in front of the University of South Carolina’s Russell House Student Union on Wednesday afternoon.

USC’s Students for Justice in Palestine organized the event to draw attention to the real-life effects of Israeli military checkpoints that Palestinians must pass through, sometimes several times per day, said Al Hassan, the organization’s president.

“In order for you to start your day as a Palestinian, you have to get up early, like at four or five, to wait in line for the checkpoint,” Al Hassan said.

Israel says it needs the checkpoints to keep its citizens safe.

“Border closures and checkpoints have been among the only mechanisms at Israel’s disposal to prevent would-be suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities,” according to a post on the Anti-Defamation League’s website. “Israel understands the economic hardship the closures impose upon Palestinian civilians who cannot go to their jobs in Israel or receive and send shipments. Israel eases the closures and passage through checkpoints when the threat of terrorism is reduced.”

Both of Al Hassan’s parents are Palestinian, and her father is a refugee from Palestine. One day, Dana Al Hassan said she wants to return to Palestine.

“I want to raise my kids in Palestine,” Al Hassan said. “Palestine is my home and always will be my home.”

Similar pro-Palestinian organizations have set up mock-checkpoints at places like University of California Berkeley, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Everything you’ll see in this demonstration is what the Palestinian people face on a routine basis,” said Bratton Young, who doesn’t attend USC but helped organize the event.

As the organization set up on one of the most heavily traveled parts of campus, many students walked by and appeared to be reading the pro-Palestine signs and drawing mixed reactions.

“I’m intrigued. I want to know what their purpose is, because there isn’t much of an explanation,” said Aspen Mayhew, a USC student majoring in elementary education.

Once the demonstration started, a crowd of about 15 stopped to watch.

“I think it’s great that this is being shown. I think this is a sheltered part of the country,” freshman marine science major Chris Janson, who saw the demonstration, said of South Carolina. “There’s a human cost to everything.”

Several students who witnessed the demonstration said they disagreed with it, but declined to be interviewed on the record.

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