Hosted by Bloomington-Normal Coalition for Peace and Justice (BNCPJ) and Common Action Free School (CAFS), a panel presentation titled “Toward Peace and Justice in Palestine: Four Perspectives” attracted over 30 community members for a discussion of current realities in Palestine.
The event was inspired by, and a continuation of, discussions on Palestine held by the Common Action Free School in 2011.
Kicking off the presentations, Josh McGowen provided historical background to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and touched upon forces in the U.S. corporate media that propagate bias against Palestinians. He relayed his own experiences witnessing the oppression of Palestinians, including even the harassment of foreigners traveling in Palestine. Mr. McGowen also provided the audience with the brutal reality of how Palestinians are treated by Israeli soldiers crossing into their own country and the humiliations inflicted upon them on their own land.
Dylan Hile-Broad shared his experiences traveling last summer on a solidarity delegation to Palestine. His slideshow presentation brought the realities of Palestinian life to Bloomington-Normal. He shared his own experience seeing the violence of Zionist settlers against Palestinians, always on Palestinian land, and how Palestinians defended themselves against daily attack. In one case, Mr. Hile-Broad shared his discussions with peacekeepers who accompanied Palestinian children to school to protect them against Israeli settler attack.
Bob Broad, also a participant in the aforementioned solidarity delegation to Palestine, addressed the oppressive circumstances facing Palestinians. Mr. Broad relayed the extent to which his trip to Palestine informed him of Palestinian realities, saying that he now vehemently opposes the use of his tax dollars to fund Israeli violence and oppression against Palestinians. He later provided a three-point plan of action, which included community education, public pressure on politicians, and the building of the boycott and divestment campaign.
Rana Kunkar, born and raised in Palestine, concluded the panel presentation with her experiences, both as a child in Palestine and as a college student in the United States. Ms. Kunkar expressed through personal stories the daily struggles of Palestinians to simply exist, highlighting that the continued existence of Palestinians was an act of resistance in the face of Israel’s genocidal policies.
In one story, Ms Kunkar spoke of her strong belief in education as a child and how she had to violate an Israeli curfew in order to take required education examinations that would determine her future. When an Israeli soldier ordered her to turn back at gunpoint, thereby ruining her chances of future educational attainment, Ms. Kunkar ignored the command in order to take the crucial tests. Her stories of resistance, and her detailed stories of constant Israeli raids, arrests, and unending prison sentences, disgusted those assembled and provided inspiration for action.
Ms. Kunkar stressed, in agreement with other speakers, that the conflict was not primarily about religious difference, even though religion gets exploited in the conflict. As all the speakers pointed out, Ms. Kunkar said that the conflict centers on an undemocratic Zionist movement to steal land from the Palestinian people.
After the presentations, the audience discussed what the four perspectives heard in the presentations. Below you can find pictures of the event, as well as the event flyer.