As the vice president of the UC Davis Students for Justice of Palestine, fourth-year international relations major Sohail Morrar wanted Senate Resolution (SR) #20 to bring awareness about Palestinian human rights violations to campus.
“Although there are the people in the opposition that say it divides the campus, I feel like it created solidarity between many groups,” Morrar said. “I think that solidarity comes from these groups of people constantly interacting with each other on campus. It is a united force.”
Even though Morrar did not author the divestment bill, his personal investment in the matter dates back to his last trip to Palestine in September 2009.
“I thought it was important to have my voice heard, seeing as I have family members who live in the territories and understand what it’s like to live under occupation,” Morrar said. “The bill does connect those companies that do commit human rights to the Palestinian cause and I also feel like the bill helps Israel because it helps Israelis become aware of these human rights violations. Being aware means that you can fix them.”
Morrar’s last trip to Palestine included a long stop in Biet Diqqu, a small town on the outskirts of Jerusalem where his family resides. Over the years, Morrar’s family has been affected by the steady settlement and expansion of Israelis, slowly encroaching onto their land. As a result of this settlement, the town has been disconnected from the main city, and is therefore taken out of Jerusalem’s jurisdiction by law.
On this visit, many of Morrar’s relatives from around the world came to the village. During such gatherings, it is typical to stay up all night enjoying the company of the reunited family. Their celebration was cut short however, when Morrar witnessed an Israeli military incursion in the middle of the night.
After a nearby village warned the people of Biet Diqqu that the jeeps were on their way, Morrar and his family watched Israeli soldiers look for a young man, while shooting sound bombs, throwing smoke grenades and launching tear gas around the town.
“Everyone was coughing and crying,” Morrar said. “For the villages, the incursions disrupt their lives. Whether you’re sleeping or spending time with family, having the military come looking for young men is a disruption, and is in a form, terror.”
While in Palestine, Morrar also had an incident with the Israeli government while attempting to enter Jerusalem at the Qalandia checkpoint. Although Morrar had a United States passport, he was still not allowed into the city.
“It just depends on how the Israeli soldiers feel, and to me, that is a mechanism of control. It has nothing to do with security,” Morrar said. “I’m an American, coming in with a passport. Why won’t you let me in?”
Bringing back these personal experiences to UC Davis, Morrar believes that the bill is an important force on campus, despite its failing vote in senate.
“Whether the bill passes or it doesn’t pass, these violations will still occur. Does it really matter?” Morrar said. “It is important to have your voice heard. It gives a voice to people who do feel like it personally affects them and to people who I think understand the Palestinian peoples’ struggles.”
RITIKA IYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Abby Alcala.