April marks the beginning of what everyone hopes will be a pleasant spring. With the Arab-Israeli conflict spiraling into a war and Israel Awareness Month and Arab Awareness Month both commemorated in April, there is much to be cautious about right now. Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rallies involving GW students were held throughout D.C. and without incident on March 30. This is a good example of student activism at its best. Understandably, tensions mount every day with the sight of renewed bloodshed in the Middle East. Because emotions are running higher than they have in recent memory, cooler heads must prevail at GW when both sides make their causes heard.
The right to peaceably assemble and protest is a time-honored American tradition protected by the First Amendment. Sticking to the University’s guidelines for reserving space on campus is one positive action groups on both sides have taken. Although predicting all potential incidents stemming from protests on campus is impossible, students following rules by requesting space give the University Police Department warning of possible trouble coming its way.
Checkpoint demonstrations, in which protesters emulate Israeli checkpoints to demonstrate the inconveniences and harassment Palestinians face, have disrupted students on campus throughout the country. These types of demonstrations are useful as long as they respect a person’s right to walk unobstructed to wherever he or she is going. Danielle Liko, assistant director of Conferences, Events and Student Programs says any outdoor space on campus property is public domain space and cannot be subjected to a checkpoint demonstration, but said there could be some compromise. Realizing that respecting the rights of bystanders weakens the intended message of a checkpoint demonstration, there is still no need to bring all of the precarious elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict home to GW. One way of avoiding this is to have participants demonstrate the mock Israeli checkpoint instead.
At Georgetown University on Nov. 16, 2001, the Department of Public Safety was dispatched to stop a checkpoint demonstration held by GU’s Young Arab Leadership Alliance because it curtailed the right to move freely.
Let’s support an open dialogue on the embroiling war in the Mideast, but let’s do it sensibly and with cool heads.