As Slugs for Israel (SFI) members tabled in Quarry Plaza last Friday afternoon to stand in solidarity with Israel after several attacks against Israelis, about 10 students dressed in all-black and lay motionless on the ground next to them representing the Palestinians killed in Israel in October.
About 15 minutes after SFI set up in front of the Express Store, student demonstrators filed in and lay down in front of the table, announcing names of Palestinians killed in Israel over the last month. Students playing the role of the deceased rested cardboard signs against their bodies that read “Why Can’t Israel Colonize Palestine in Peace?” and “Resistance is Not Terrorism.”
SFI President and Co-founder Anise Goldfarb looked visibly upset as she stood in front of the table, where members created signs that read “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” to display a different perspective to the one demonstrated on the ground in front of them.
“We’re a pro-Israel group on campus and we’re also for peace,” Goldfarb said. “A lot of us have family [in Israel], a lot of us have connections to the country, so we felt that we really needed to come together and show support… I have family there — I have a lot of friends who live there and I’m concerned about their wellbeing.”
SFI encouraged students to stand in solidarity with Israel, asking people in the Quarry to participate in peaceful, pro-Israel actions like writing on a white board why the support Israel under the hashtag #ItCouldBeMe.
While the ensuing violence remains over 6,500 miles away from the United States, one of the demonstrators and UCSC graduate student Boian Boianov felt it was important to include everyone in the conversation, and bring it closer to home.
“We’re trying to go against the narrative that Palestinians don’t want peace and that the Israeli government does want peace,” Boianov said. “We’re trying to show the Israeli government does want peace, but it’s the peace of a graveyard. It wants to dispossess Palestinians to the point where they voluntarily leave the land that Israel wants to colonize, so we’re here to show the human cost of that.”
The Quarry was unusually empty for a Friday afternoon with only about 25 people, including demonstrators, lingering between the ATM machines and the Express Store. But slowly, more people joined SFI, who had asked more members to come to the Quarry in support of Israel.
While the die-in took place, demonstrators out fliers connecting the University of California to the violence overseas.
“The University of California actually invests in companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Caterpillar and some other military companies as well, and actually sell that military hardware to the state of Israel,” Boianov said. “So, the University of California is actually financially profiting from the violence that’s being done to Palestinians. So, we want to remind students that this conflict is actually felt by people here.”
The UC’s investments were discussed in a Student Union Assembly (SUA) meeting in 2014 where a majority of the assembly voted in favor of a divestment bill that would require the UC to retract its funds from companies like HP and Caterpillar. However, the bill failed due to a voting technicality. At the meeting, which went on until the early hours of the next morning, student organizers passionately voiced concerns on both sides of the resolution.
While opposing narratives created tension in the Quarry, SFI member and third-year Roy Petito had a peaceful outlook.
“Peace looks like Israelis and Palestinians living under two states together — making sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly,” Petito said. “Everyone needs to come together at the end of the day.”