Saturday, November 3, 2012

Students for Justice in Palestine Conference (Day 1)

I found out today that Iyad Burnat has been barred from entering Jordan to fly to the U.S. for his speaking tour. How much we take our freedom of movement for granted! I just flew across the country, no big deal, and Iyad can't even go 30 miles to the only airport he's allowed to use.


I also found out that, thanks to my Michigan friend Mares, and her advocacy, I'm going to fill Iyad's spot at the church he was going to speak at on Sunday. I was planning to surprise him. but I'll do my best, as this is now my first event on my tour. It's bittersweet. If anything, it reminds me of why I'm on tour in the first place.

At the U of M law school, waiting for the conference to start.

Our lovely leaders Sasha and Liza, going over campaign strategies

Nada Elia (from Seattle!) talking about gender dynamics within the Palestine Solidarity Movement

Dinner was tables full of Middle Eastern food. I was happy to re-connect with a friend from Whitman, who was in my Arabic class. He did my Jordan program the year after I did, and also worked in East Jerusalem for a while. Now he's doing solidarity work in Chicago, and I'll probably catch up with him there after Michigan. He also has a computer full of unposted writings on Palestine. He also has regrets about our lack of gumption at Whitman (for me, it was not standing up to a sorority sister's disgust at Arab guys, for him it was apologizing to Hillel, of which he was President, for trying to podcast a mock Legislative Hearing on Palestine). We were newer to the issue back then, newer to standing up, and there weren't a lot of examples around for us to follow.

And there we were, three years later, at the Students for Justice in Palestine conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It reminded me of my SJP friend in Berkeley, who told me that my friend, the Hillel Israel rep he conversed with for months...well, he saw her back in Jerusalem at a demonstration and she looked like she was at peace, not jumpy or agitated, but comfortable with herself in a way she wasn't before. I'd never known her any other way, but knowing about that transformation made me hopeful.

We're all transforming in some way. I'm excited to see what the next two days have in store...