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February 27, 2023 11:36 am
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‘Apartheid Architecture’: Ohio State SJP Criticism of Israel’s Life-Saving Border Walls

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avatar by Alex M. Grosman

Opinion

University Hall at Ohio State University. Photo: OZinOH/Flickr

On January 31, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Ohio State University (OSU) presented at the Ohio Union on what they call “apartheid architecture.” In a grossly misinformed presentation, two architecture students discussed Israel’s physical security measures and borders, which they claimed serve the sole purpose of oppressing Palestinians and separating them from Israeli society.

However, this claim couldn’t be further from the truth; citizens of Israel have the same constitutional rights regardless of race or religion. Israeli Arabs serve in every facet of public and private life — in the parliament, the Supreme Court, and as diplomats. Nevertheless, according to SJP at OSU, this freedom is somehow similar to apartheid South Africa, where black South Africans’ education was limited and segregated, and they were restricted from working in skilled job positions or having any form of political representation.

Although presenter Ismael Gad, a graduate architecture student, said that “a lot of this information isn’t openly available,” not a single source was cited throughout the presentation.

For instance, a slide from the presentations included several misleading maps. The first map showed a “State of Palestine” in 1947, encompassing all of Israel today as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This map neglects the fact that there has never been an independent Palestinian state. Mandatory Palestine was a British protectorate until 1948, and home to both a sizable Jewish and Arab population.

The rest of the maps were taken out of context and have been debunked numerous times.

Furthermore, the presenters called the Gaza Strip, which Israel voluntarily gave up in 2005 to foster peace with the Palestinians, “the world’s largest open-air prison.” Namely, the presenters claim that the Gaza border wall was built for the express purpose of “controlling Gaza’s resources and those entering and exiting Gaza.”

What they failed to mention, however, is that the security barrier was erected to prevent terrorism after the Second Intifada, when more than 1,000 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

The security barrier has decreased the frequency of terrorist attacks in Israel by 95%.

The presenters also failed to mention that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization with leaders that have vowed to destroy the State of Israel, and they left out that the Gaza Strip shares a border with Egypt. They hypocritically accused Israel for instituting a blockade, but ignore that Egypt maintains a comparable policy regarding its border with Gaza.

“A home is a safe, peaceful place,” one presenter asserted, “but Israel has no qualms about destroying innocent Palestinians’ homes.” He said this with a photo on the slide behind him of a Palestinian man crying while his home was being demolished. In reality, Israel adopted a policy during the Second Intifada to deter future terrorism by demolishing the homes of those convicted of committing or being an accessory to acts of terror. Peer-reviewed scholarly research by professors from Hebrew University and Northwestern University found that home demolition in Israel causes an “immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks.”

To the presenters, Israel’s “apartheid” nature even bleeds into its environmental practices, despite Israel being widely recognized as a world leader in environmentalism and fighting climate change. In what they called “eco-apartheid,” the presenters accused Israel of uprooting olive trees that have “been there for thousands … millions of years.” They also accused Israel of importing European pine trees and purposefully planting them on Palestinian farmland to make it unusable. The picture used to emphasize this point? Photos of trees planted in the Negev, Israel’s vast and mostly uninhabited desert. “By planting non-native trees, Israel is changing the identity of Palestine and contributing to violence,” one presenter stated. Apparently, even efforts to fight deforestation fall under SJP’s definition of “apartheid.”

The presentation ended with speakers reminding the audience that “all of these crimes are committed on stolen land, which is why we need to continue to demonstrate.” The “stolen land” label erases Jews’ ties and indigeneity to the land of Israel, and ignores the original granting of territories by the UN to Arabs, which they rejected.

Although the SJP presenters may be architecture students, their intersectional approach to demonize Israel through every lens — architectural, geographic, environmental, etc. — combined with blatant misinformation is nothing new. The presenters said they also intended to present the misguided presentation at Ohio State’s Knowlton School of Architecture. As an institution of higher learning, one can only hope that the OSU administration will know better than to allow SJP to spew this inaccurate propaganda and architectural knowledge to the greater OSU community.

Alex M. Grosman is a student at The Ohio State University, and a 2022-2023 CAMERA fellow.

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