Protest Wall Causes Stir Across Campus

By Daniel Tedford

During the proclaimed “Freedom Week” at Cal Poly, a
controversial protest was held Wednesday and Thursday in front of
the Bronco Student Center, which featured an artistic
representation of the “wall” that borders Israel and Palestine.

The event stirred emotions from various viewpoints, and made for
raucous debate and analysis from bystanders and protesters
alike.

“It’s awareness,” said Amir Mertaban, a fifth-year international
business marketing student and ASI senator-at-large. “Israel has
titled this wall a security fence. This looks nothing like a fence
number one, and this has nothing to do with security. We are trying
to show the reality of what’s going on in Israel.”

A scaled down version of Israel’s wall featured quotes from
persons concerning the conflicts in the Middle East, a flag stating
“free Palestine,” and signs stating things such as “freedom
fighters.”

Accompanying the quotations and statements were suggestive
interpretations, such as red hands pressed against pictures of
tanks and soldiers pointing guns in the direction of civilians.

More inflammatory statements surrounded the wall as well.
Posters flanked the wall with statements such as “Israel is a
terrorist state,” and a portion of the wall showed the Star of
David equating to the Swastika.

“There was a symbol there that said Star of David equals Nazi
sign and it’s basically tit for tat,” said Jesse Duke, a
fourth-year computer science student who was attempting to protest
with an alternative view to what was being shown.

He stood in front of the wall with a sign that showed a crescent
moon and a Swastika hanging from its tip. It read: “Today it’s the
Jews. Tomorrow it could be you.”

“It’s saying Israel is a terrorist state, so for example, Israel
as an institution, not necessarily the Israeli People, not
necessarily the Jewish people, but Israel as an institution as a
war criminal is what we are talking about,” said Mertaban.

Mertaban made it clear in both the interview and his speeches
that the event was meant to raise awareness surrounding the events
happening in the Middle East and that no particular people were
being attacked, but it was Israel’s government that was the main
perpetrator. Yet there were some who felt attacked and
offended.

“I saw it (Wednesday) and started balling,” said Rachel Travis,
a fifth-year history student. “To display something as awful as
this and not even display the other side. It shouldn’t be
allowed.”

Travis, who is Jewish, also expressed concern over one of her
future professors who spoke at the event.

Dr. Mahmood Ibrahim is a professor of history at Cal Poly and
spoke against Israel on the subject of its problems with Palestine
and war with Lebanon.

“I have this professor next quarter. How can they do that?” said
Travis who is worried that her Jewish faith and heritage could
cause bias feelings toward her from Ibrahim.

“I understand it’s their country (they are standing up for), but
they call Israel a terrorist state when Hezbollah and Hamas have
been declared terrorists groups,” she said.

On Thursday, various persons that were involved in the protest
gave speeches. One of them was Yafa Oweinat who made one of the
more controversial statements of the event that was greeted with
applause from those observing from the grass.

“I supported Hezbollah when they fought against Israel and I
support Hamas because self-defense is not terrorism,” said Oweinat.
The statements were made in reference to what the protesters called
a “genocide and holocaust in the holy land,” in reference to the
continued fighting between Israel and neighboring nations, such as
Lebanon and Palestine.

Mertanban was also involved in his own aggressive speech while
during his speech he pointed to an ROTC member walking in his
fatigues.

“Punks like this guy right here,” said Mertaban in reference to
the Iraq war and other conflicts in the Middle East.

“[When people do this] it doesn’t make me feel very good. But it
makes him look ignorant cause he doesn’t know a thing about the
war,” said CPFC cadet and first-year kinesiology student Michael
Boutwell, who was the brunt of the remark.

Mertaban is passionate about the problems in the Middle East,
partly because he is directly connected to the area. His uncle
lives in Lebanon and his store fell victim to bombardment. His
uncle is also paralyzed from the waist down due to a car
accident.

“His life is ruined; his family’s life is ruined,” said
Mertaban.

Daniel Tedford can be reached by e-mail at news@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

Protest Wall Causes Stir Across Campus

Protest Wall Causes Stir Across Campus

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