Today's Guest Column
Today's Guest Column

Entire villages depopulated. Zionist militants forced 750,000 Palestinians into exile through a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. More than 500 Palestinian villages completely gone. This was the catastrophe — Nakba Day. Those who weren’t violently removed fled in fear of another massacre like in the village of Deir Yassin. Militants destroyed or confiscated their remaining lands and possessions. This marked the beginning of the ongoing erasure of Palestinian culture and identity.

By the time Israel declared its independence in 1948, much of the damage from the ethnic cleansing had already occurred.

Last week on McKeldin Mall, Israel Fest attempted to not only erase and mock the memory of the historical Nakba, but also the ongoing Nakba. Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes, annex land and expand settlements, furthering its ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Home demolitions were at a five-year high in 2013, according to Reuters, and the United Nations reported that this year 237 Palestinian structures have been demolished and 465 Palestinians have been displaced.

Meanwhile, Israel continues the expansion of West Bank settlements at an alarming pace, in violation of the fourth Geneva Convention and the Oslo Peace Accords. Just this year, during the so-called “peace negotiations,” Israel approved the construction of almost 14,000 homes, a record.

Construction of housing units doubled during the second half of 2013 compared to 2012.

You did not see any mention of this at Israel Fest, as you drank from a SodaStream machine, a product made by exploited Palestinian labor situated on an illegal Israeli settlement. You did not hear about the 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom unjustly face indefinite detention without due process of law, as you bit into your appropriated falafel sandwich. You did not hear about the Prawer Plan that would forcefully displace 70,000 Bedouins that was almost passed in December, as you appropriated the “exoticness” of their culture when you entered a Bedouin tent or took a camel ride.

You climbed a rock wall, but were not shown what lies beyond the apartheid wall.

Students for Justice in Palestine is a group of university students, faculty, staff and community members that promotes justice for and rights of Palestinians. Contact the organization at umdsjp.events@gmail.com.