Following the series of hate crimes that occurred last spring, another act of vandalism was recently committed on the walls of the Third World Mural, located at the Memorial Union.
The Star of David, a recognized symbol of Judaism, was painted inside the Palestinian-depicted red, white and green dove. The dove makes up only a part of the multicultural mural, which represents various minorities on campus including Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and Arab Americans.
Many students expressed concern about the defaced image, asserting that the implications of the crime are far more profound than the act itself.
“It is not just a defacement of the multicultural mural, but it directly attacks minorities and is a threatening message to Palestinian students,” said Secretary of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Dina Wahbe.
Wahbe asserted that Israeli settlers who invade Palestinian homes and villages in the West Bank today – the center of the Israeli occupation – often use a Star of David to express anti-Arab sentiments.
SJP held a rally at the Memorial Union on Sept. 29 to condemn the crime and were joined by other student groups including the Chicana/o student organization MEChA, the Muslim Student Association, Pakistani Student Association and the Asian American Christian group. The groups united on their stance against the act of vandalism, and expressed their support for those affected by it.
Speakers at the rally continually emphasized the ability of the defaced image to target both Palestinians and Jews in very different ways.
“The Star of David is indeed a symbol representing Judaism, but does not necessarily represent a Zionist, pro-Israeli stance for everyone,” said Ahmed Desouki, a member of SJP. “The graffitied image, therefore, conflates Judaism with the state of Israel, and is potentially harmful for those who do not believe in or are committed to both.”
Allison Hargreaves, senior neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, is of Jewish background and expressed sorrow over the vandalized image and its potential affect on Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
“It is really disheartening to have an anonymous message that could be viewed as an attack, especially on a campus which promotes diversity and the representation of all cultures,” Hargreaves said. “Many Jewish and pro-Israeli students would like to engage in a calm and peaceful dialogue, but incidents like this make it difficult to do so.”
David Turkell, junior international relations major, is also of Jewish background and expressed similar sentiments regarding the defaced image.
“Vandalism is rough and there is no excuse for it,” Turkell said. “I think we should take it to more of an interfaith dialogue between those who believe in the state of Israel and pro-Palestinians. We’re all Aggies and we can definitely have a clear setting [for this].”
Campus officials responded to the incident by sending a memo to the campus community, which stated that they would not allow these assaults to go unchallenged.
The campus will promote the Hate-Free Campus Initiative during the Student Activities Fair Oct. 13 in response to the vandalism, Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Rahim Reed and Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro said in the memo.
Chancellor Linda Katehi launched the “hate-free” initiative last March after the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center was vandalized and half a dozen swastikas were spray-painted and carved around campus.
SJP members will meet with the director of the Cross Cultural Center today to discuss their next steps of action in dealing with this issue.
NOURA KHOURY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.