SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A week of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel events began calmly at the University of California, San Diego, despite fears of a repeat of last year’s hostilities.
“We learned a lot from last year, and there isn’t the anxiety,” Keri Copans, the Hillel director on the San Diego campus, told JTA Tuesday.
This marks the first year that pro-Israel students have responded to Justice in Palestine Week, an annual event run by the Muslim Student Association at San Diego, by staging pro-Israel events of their own.
On Monday, Muslim Student Association students constructed a mock “apartheid wall” covered with anti-Israel slogans and materials. The pro-Israel students, led by Hillel and Tritons for Israel, held up professionally made pro-Israel signs about 100 yards away, and relations between the protesters were cordial.
Police and the university administration were on hand to defuse tensions, Copans said.
“It’s been very calm,” Muslim Student Association president Sarmad Bokhari told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “This is not about hatred. It’s about awareness about the situation.”
A pro-Israel rally is scheduled for Tuesday, along with speakers and continued pro-Israel tabling throughout the week.
Last spring, a heated attempt to have the university divest from Israel-related investments was narrowly defeated, but tensions between the two student communities were high, Copans said.
New pro-Israel community and faculty groups organized at the start of the school term, Copans told JTA, and were available to support the pro-Israel students during the weeklong anti-Israel event being held May 9-13.
In addition, a series of Muslim-Jewish dialogue events took place this past year at the school, and pro-Palestinian and pro-Jewish students became acquainted with each other and talked constructively, she said.
“The students know each other this year,” Copans said. “We’re definitely on different sides of the walkway, but there’s not that animosity.”