Letter to the Editor: Calling for justice with a mock wall

When you walk by The Rock this week you will find a mock border wall erected around it. With this installation as our protest, we come forward to declare opposition to apartheid, wherever it may occur, be it in Evanston, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands or Israeli-occupied Palestine.

This wall may be disturbing, it may make you uncomfortable, you might feel as though it creates tension; however, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue…there is a type of constructive tension that is necessary for growth.”

This wall is our protest, our rejection of the colonial policies of the U.S. in the borderlands and of the Israeli forces in Palestine. It is our rejection of the normalizing mainstream discourse that seeks to obfuscate the difficult issues and reject the voices of indigenous and oppressed peoples. The wall at The Rock represents our consciousness of the violence surrounding us and supporting our wealth and privileges. It represents our collectivity and determination to end global apartheid and work toward a world with no borders.

With this demonstration we demand that indigenous voices are heard and that our complicity with these oppressive policies, as U.S. taxpayers and Northwestern students, is recognized. Our groups mean to show how the militarized border is present everywhere in the United States where people of color, indigenous people and migrants are exploited. We are in opposition to police brutality, state-sanctioned violence and colonialism.

On campus, there is hardly a dialogue about the historical and systematic forces that lead to migration or have created what No More Deaths calls a “perilous militarized zone” at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, last spring, a small group of Northwestern students went to the Tucson desert to provide humanitarian aid to people facing the conditions of border militarization. What we saw was not people dying, but rather people being killed.

The U.S. has implemented “deterrence” strategies that push people into the most dangerous sections of the desert. Since the implementation of these deadly strategies in the 1990s, it is estimated that over 5,000 bodies have been recovered on the US-Mexico border. What’s more, as has been reported by No More Deaths, people continuously face psychological, physical and verbal abuse by Border Patrol.

These conditions are dehumanizing and violent toward migrants and border communities, and we cannot continue this crisis. In fact, here at Northwestern, undocumented students are not actively supported. There is no central person that a student can go to for questions, no scholarships or financial aid. We have work to do.

The Apartheid Wall in Palestine, is financed by an annual $3 billion dollars in U.S. military aid to Israel, supported by steadfast U.S. diplomatic support in the international community and is built and maintained by many of the same corporations that contribute to border militarization and mass murder of migrants here in the United States.

The wall, which has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, cuts through the West Bank, separating villages from their farmland, preventing the movement of the indigenous Palestinian population and seizing more land to build illegal Israeli settlements. It plays a central role in maintaining the apartheid policies that oppress Palestinians, separates them from their families and subjects them to mass incarcerationtorture, humiliation and death every day.

The wall is an imposing symbol of the dehumanization and violations of human rights endured daily by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government. It is a physical reminder of Israel’s disregard for Palestinian life and failure to establish peace, justice and equality in Palestine.

As members of the Northwestern community, we cannot turn a blind eye to injustices in Palestine or in the borderlands.  We cannot ignore the oppressive policies of Israel that are bankrolled by our government and actively supported by our institution through investments and partnerships, nor can we ignore the destructive policies of our own government in the borderlands.

It is our responsibility to demand a shift in the discourse surrounding indigenous peoples all over the world. As members of the Northwestern community, we have tremendous privilege and opportunity to effect change in our society. With this privilege comes the responsibility to look at the messy and uncomfortable issues, to challenge our worldviews and above all to promote justice for everyone even if it means deviating from the established discourse.  For as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Students for Justice in Palestine and MEChA de Northwestern encourage you to check out the mock border wall and think about how you are not disconnected from these issues. We invite you to come speak with us about these issues. This is a call to action to stand in solidarity with everyone fighting against unnatural and violent boundaries. May we honor the spirit of those who have died and continue to seek an end to all walls and borders that divide our communities, both around the world and here at Northwestern.

Dalia Fuleihan and Cinthya Rodriguez

Students for Justice in Palestine

MEChA de Northwestern