Students walking the path across the Science Center Lawn this week could not help but walk through a chain-link enclosure sprinkled with potted trees whose leaves intermingled with instantly-recognizable logos of international corporations. The display, called “Fruits of the Occupation”, was created by Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP), which hopes to raise awareness of the economics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – from U.S. aid to Israel to the profits being made by companies who support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and, finally, to strategies of economic activism.
The theme of the installment follows what SPJP representatives said has become a widespread trend in activism: attempting to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through economic pressure. SPJP has embraced the strategy this year, pressing for a student boycott of Sabra hummus, whose parent company supports the Golani brigade, while petitioning the administration for Sabra’s removal from campus snack bars.
Posters hung on the fence of the installment mention the Sabra boycott efforts, and the logos hung on the trees within the enclosure suggest more potential targets – General Mills, which has a factory in an Israeli settlement, is one; Motorola, Chevrolet and Pizza Hut are among other corporations accused of picking the fruits of the occupation.
These boycotts are one of the answers to the question Ahmad Ammous ’13, the President of SPJP said the group faces most often. “People often ask what they can do about the conflict,” he said, “and this is the answer: it’s pressuring the government [to stop supporting the occupation] and stopping purchases of products that benefit from the occupation.”
A panel will be hosted by SPJP this afternoon that highlights those and other options for those looking to get involved. Josh Ruebner, the National Advocacy Director for the campaign to end the U.S. occupation in Israel, and Barbara Wein, Director of Peace Brigades International, will lead the discussion, which is titled “What you can do about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
Ayman Abunimer ’12, an SPJP member, called the speakers the “founders of the end-the-occupation movement”, and noted that while the display is mostly intended to alert students to the profits being made from the occupation, SPJP also hopes that it will get students thinking about what they can do to help if they so choose.
“Fruits of the Occupation” is the fourth large scale spring display in SPJP’s four year life-span.
Previous projects include a map of the West Bank occupation, also located outside of Beardsley, which highlighted the presence of Israeli settlements in ostensibly Palestinian territory; and a now-famous Wall simulating the wall separating Israel and Palestine, complete with checkpoints and guards, that stretched across the front of Parrish.
Construction time for the projects has ranged from a full weekend (for the wall) to a handful of hours for this year’s project, but the majority of the effort put into the installations goes towards planning.
Ammous said, however, that the effort of securing permission from the proper deans was justified by the efficiency and punchiness of the message the display imparts to Swarthmore’s time-starved community.
“It can be very hard to bring people to a more educational event like a movie,” he said. “Swatties are busy. It takes a lot of effort on our part [to put up an display], but it only takes like three minutes for you on the way to lunch to understand what the point is.”