Students gathered together in the Old University Union Thursday evening to hear Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi speak on the Palestinian fight for freedom.
The event, hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), was the final event in a week commemorating Nakba. Nakba, which translates to “catastrophe,” refers to the dispossession and displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from 1947 until 1948.
Kanazi performed the various poems he had written and interacted with the 60 people in attendance. The event was followed by a question-and-answer session between Kanazi and the students.
Kanazi’s poems focused on political issues, his family’s experiences being forced out of Palestine and his own life experiences. He described his grandparents leaving Palestine and dealing with personal critics. His performance and speech highlighted Palestinian causes and organizations.
“Palestine activism can’t happen in a room,” Kanazi said. “Things will never be perfect, but they sure as hell can be better than they are right now.”
Students asked Kanazi his opinion of U.S. foreign policy, his feelings about Zionism and what he believed should be done to support Palestinian rights.
Tyler Albertario, president of SJP and a senior majoring in political science, said the event went well.
“I thought that he really opened minds of a lot of people that were in attendance,” Albertario said. “More events like this can work towards a more positive campus climate for justice for Palestine.”
Joshua Seed, the educational vice president of the Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) and a sophomore majoring in geography, questioned the choice of speaker for the event. During the Q&A, he pressed Kanazi to answer whether or not he condemns Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist organization that has used violent tactics to further its political goals in the past.
“The speaker that they brought in is problematic,” Seed said. “That’s the person that we saw here tonight, somebody who won’t condemn an organization like that.”
Kanazi disagreed with Seed’s assessment, saying that focusing on violent aspects obscured the larger picture.
“We have to recognize who the victim is, and that it is a reaction to a system of oppression,” Kanazi said. “That doesn’t mean that every reaction is morally legitimate, but they are reactions nonetheless, and they are also a manifestation of the reality, so the root of the problem isn’t violence, the root of the problem is subjugation. The root of the problem is privileging one people over another.”
Julie Quinn, a senior majoring in history and a member of SJP, attended the event and said that hosting such speakers is essential.
“It’s important that we have voices like this here on this campus,” Quinn said. “There has by and large been an ignoring of human rights violations going on in Palestine, I hope that we can mobilize student support on this campus.”
Other students in the audience like Dylan Furcall, a sophomore majoring in English, said they thought the event was informative.
“I thought it was a good thing for people who have Zionist leanings to see another perspective,” Furcall said. “There’s a potential for them to learn something, and I think that some people might have been clarified on certain facts that they had misconceptions about.”
Kanazi stressed the importance of events like this.
“You don’t just want to go to New York City and L.A. and Chicago,” Kanazi said. “If you’re going to be effective in the United States you can’t only show love to the big cities, you also have to work with the local coalitions, and I couldn’t be any more happy or proud of how tonight went and I’m really excited and honored by the brilliant work of SJP at Binghamton.”