Op-Ed: SPJP On Their Latest Installation

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 (1)

The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.

-Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 50

As you walk to your classes this week, you will encounter an installation in the Science Center quad meant to represent the barriers to education that Palestinians face on a daily basis. Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) have constructed an interactive display of statistics and real-life testimonials from Palestinian students and educators describing the obstacles to education they face. We encourage you to participate in this installation; take an ID card, walk through the exhibit and learn about a Palestinian student or educator’s life. Our objective is to raise awareness about these salient issues often unreported in media coverage of politics and the peace talks in Israel and Palestine.

The threat to Palestinian education has many faces. Sometimes the threat is physical such as the destruction of schools by Israeli military attacks and by government-issued demolition orders or the harassment of students and teachers by IDF soldiers and settlers. Sometimes the threat is more subtle. Distances between students’ homes and their schools are prohibitive and contain multiple checkpoints along the way. American scholarships promised to Gazan students have been annulled, compounding the financial burden many families face in sending a child to school. The Israeli blockade restricts building supplies from entering Gaza — tools necessary to construct schools for the growing school age population or rebuild them after an attack. In 2012, Palestinians in the West Bank were not allowed to take the October SAT test, giving them an extreme disadvantage when applying to any university abroad. In that same year, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the Israeli policy of refusing Gazan students access to West Bank universities. In all these ways and more, Palestinians in the West Bank, and especially Gaza, are being denied equal opportunities for education.

Access to education is a universal human right. Schools are not just centers of academic learning; they are also centers of formative social interaction, personal growth and opportunity for employment. Denying or hindering access to education not only affects the well-being of children today but also impacts their future as adults in terms of being productive and informed citizens. For the parents who see their children harassed and denied the opportunity to go to school, a feeling of helplessness is reinforced. Not only do the physical restraints such as the Wall or the Israeli blockade of Gaza constrict the development of the present community, but these restraints deny Palestinian society a generation of children benefiting from a good education and produce a bleak future for the community.

SPJP feels that bringing this issue to campus is crucial because the humanitarian aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict often gets lost and overshadowed when discussing the politics of the matter. This topic is especially relevant to us because as college students, we all benefit from our education. At Swarthmore, it is taken for granted that there will be class on Monday. We don’t have to worry that our classes might be canceled because the buildings they are held in have been demolished. We don’t have to worry that Public Safety will stop us on our way to class, search our bags, and detain us. Our intention is to create a dialogue so we can all appreciate the great privilege we’ve had thus far in our educational careers. More importantly, SPJP hopes that this installation raises the awareness that other students — our age and younger — cannot attend school or college because their education has been consumed by the politics of their situation, and that this knowledge can contribute to a more informed dialogue about Israel-Palestine in the future.


Letter submitted by Joelle Hageboutros ’16, Maddy Booth ’15, and Aneesa Andrabi ’16 on behalf of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine.



  1. Really classy of SPJP to put this up on Holocaust Remembrance Day. You have 364 days to pick from and you picked this one? Unbelievable. You’re an embarrassment to your cause. This is sickening.

  2. @Yom Hashoah

    I’d like to respond as a member of SPJP, but also as a Jew and someone who has deep personal connections to the Holocaust.

    I want to give a brief family history not to claim ownership of the Holocaust’s memory or to win the moral high ground, but just so you know where I’m coming from. My grandparents were both German Jews born in Breslau, Germany. My grandmother escaped with her family in 1936, but my grandfather was interned at Buchenwald before escaping and ultimately surviving. No one else in his family survived.

    SPJP’s exhibit is meant to demonstrate the barriers Palestinian children face in trying to get an education. Yes, Israeli actions are a big part of this, but they are not the only ones, and our exhibition reflects that.

    The exhibit has nothing to do with the Holocaust. I know some may see the Holocaust and Israel as inextricably linked, but I respectfully disagree and think condemning Israel for its human rights violations in no ways attacks the validity or legitimacy of the suffering of Holocaust victims.

    I think your accusation is problematic, because as in the past, it is antisemitism without antisemites. You might not believe me, but I can assure you I was at all those meetings and there was never any intention of making these two events coincide. You’re assuming intention from coincidence, and I think that’s dangerous.

    Again, this was all coincidental, but the exhibit doesn’t actually begin until tomorrow.


    • The Palestinians don’t want the Holocaust acknowledged. In fact, Abbas worked very hard for decades to deny it. Personally, I think it is very important to honor the memory of those who perished and survived, including your relatives. May G-d rest their souls in peace.

      Statement from Hamas Ministry of Refugee Affairs on U.N. Relief and Works Agency plan to include Holocaust education in the curriculum taught in Palestinian schools, February 28, 2011

      “We cannot agree to a programme that is intended to poison the minds of our children…Holocaust studies in refugee camps is a contemptible plot and serves the Zionist entity with a goal of creating a reality and telling stories in order to justify acts of slaughter against the Palestinian people.”

    • Danny: Are you aware that Hamas and other Palestinians think the Holocaust never happened, and won’t teach anything about it in Gazan schools? Hamas calls Jews “Nazis” in its charter, and advocates killing all Jews by hunting them out.

      Do you condemn human rights violations in Gaza by Hamas, in the West Bank by the PA, and in Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan by Islamists? The shooting of polio workers in Pakistan is worthy of note, as is the kidnapping of 300 young girls this week by Boko Haram from a school in Nigeria who are now forced to marry Islamic extremists, against their will.

      Is the Holocaust a fictional story since the Palestinians think it is? I assume this curriculum is what SPJP supports in Gaza and the West Bank.

      It is very sad that you would align yourself with an organization, Hamas, that denies the Holocaust, since your relatives perished in it.

  3. SPJP and J Street are cosponsoring a dialogue on this week’s installation on Friday May 2nd 1:30 PM Kohlberg coffee bar. We encourage all to come and use this opportunity to channel opinions and sentiments in a productive manner.

  4. Will SJP be hosting an event about Israeli children who are forced to take cover from Hamas rockets on their way to school?

    Or is it only certain ethnicities who live in the Middle East who deserve justice for their suffering?

  5. Just some facts about Gaza:
    1. A UN sponsored race was cancelled last year because Hamas decreed that women cannot run publicly, even in their mandated burkas.
    2. Hamas bans books and women can only read those that it approves.
    3. There are religious police that patrol Gaza, as in Saudi Arabia, and a woman can be arrested if she is not covered head-to-toe. It is also illegal for women to ride bikes or play musical instruments.
    4. Israeli universities have many Palestinian students, and free speech. There is even a form of affirmative action for the Arab students, to make sure they are fairly represented.
    5. Gays are arrested and imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza and flee to Israel to escape religious persecution.
    6. Israel protects religious freedom, free speech and the right to love whomever one desires. Hamas and other Islamic groups do not.

    Those Swarthmore students who idealize Hamas, and demonize Israel, need to examine why they support Hamas, a group which subjugates women, and imprisons gays and women.

    The worst crime for a woman in Gaza and other Islamic countries is falling in love, because it can set her up for a misnamed “honor killing”. If she falls in love with a woman, that’s a double whammy.

  6. To respond briefly to the points above:

    It is puzzling to me what leads individuals to believe SPJP supports Hamas. Hamas’ actions frequently violate the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and SPJP in no way supports them. The exhibit was about children’s barriers to education. Surely everyone, no matter the identity of their government deserves an education.

    As for Holocaust denial, while I know very little about Palestinian views on the Holocaust (and without survey data, I think that claim is highly dubious), Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime of the modern era.”

    Finally, why would SPJP possibly be expected to have positions on events in Nigeria and Syria? Surely, human rights violations everywhere are wrong, but SPJP focuses on Israel and Palestine. The implication that SPJP should condemn “Islamists” everywhere equates violent jihadism with Palestinians, which is not only highly problematic but also clearly false.

  7. Danny: 1. Hamas controls education in Gaza. They ban books for women in their universities. Hamas recently mandated gender segregation in all schools, public, UN and state-sponsored, including that female teachers can only teach girls, male teachers only boys. This is all well-documented.

    2. Since Hamas is committed to destroying Israel, and killing Jews (see the Hamas Charter), Israel limits them from entering Israel. It was the Palestinians who performed suicide bombings and killed thousand of Israeli Christians, Jews and Muslims. The PA and Hamas have received billions of dollars in foreign aid to build schools and universities, but the money trail unfortunately too often winds up in bombs or foreign personal bank accounts.

    3. Abbas has built his reputation as a Holocaust denier. His academic paper, “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” argues that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to spur more Jewish immigration to Palestine.

    So in other words, Abbas, as a Holocaust denier, has for decades said that the Jews created a fictional event with the Nazis called the “Holocaust”, so as to justify a state of their own, Israel. His one-time recent statement acknowledging the Holocaust was prepared long after SPJP was formed. He still says that 1 million, not 6 million Jews were annihilated during WWII by Nazis.

    4. Of course the Palestinians advocate and practice violent jihad. What do think suicide bombings and missiles fired at Israel are? A gesture of friendship? Again, please see the Hamas Charter.

    Danny, I realize that it is politically correct to be against Israel and on the side of the Palestinians, Hamas, and the PA now. But please at least research original documents in between protests.

  8. First, I want to make absolutely clear again that we do not support Hamas. As Danny said in his last comment, “Hamas’ actions frequently violate the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and SPJP in no way supports them.” I’m not sure where we led you to believe otherwise.

    You also seem to be conflating the beliefs of some Palestinians with all Palestinians. Yes, some Palestinians may support violent jihad, some may deny the Holocaust, and some may want to kill Jews, but that in no way means that all or a majority of Palestinians hold these views. It certainly does not mean SPJP supports these views. Some anti-apartheid activists endorsed necklacing and attacks on white South Africans, but I don’t think you would argue that all anti-apartheid activists supported this. It is the same of those who support human rights for Palestinians.

    Finally, there are human rights violations from Israelis and Palestinians. Since 2000, Israeli security forces have killed 6,739 Palestinians, and Palestinians have killed 1,087 Israelis, according to B’Tselem. SPJP condemns human rights violations from all sides.

  9. Timmy,
    How do you feel about the recent kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers and the widespread support that action received in Palestinian social media?

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