Ethnic Studies activists compare their struggle to Palestinians'
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Middle East is a long way from Tucson. But is there a parallel between the struggles of people there and Ethnic Studies students in Tucson? A presentation at the U of A Thursday night says, 'yes'; at least where Palestinians are concerned. The student presentation brought Palestinian students to compare their experiences fighting for education that reflects their culture.
Former Arizona School Superintendent, now Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, has long claimed that TUSD's Mexican American studies program teaches racism and radicalizes students. State legislators passed a bill he designed to stop Ethnic Studies. Students and program supporters say the law attacks Hispanics as a people and tries to prevent efforts to teach their history and build their pride. One of their protests led to arrests at the state office building in Tucson.
Things get a lot rougher between Palestinians and Israelis in a conflict that reaches back more than 60 years, but organizers of a special meeting at U of A said the two groups have a great deal in common.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith spoke with organizer Leilani Clark, about how some opponents of Ethnic Studies might balk at the comparison.
"There may be people who see this story, who are surprised or even a bit offended to see a parallel drawn between Arizona and what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians. What do you say to people like that?" Smith asked.
"I would say, I'm really sorry if it offends you but at the same time you cannot dismiss and you cannot downplay those parallels and similarities that are going on," Clark said. "There's very stark similarities; for instance, just the instance of the border completely slashing across our lands."
Visiting Palestinian students Mira Dabit and Hanna Qassis have been touring the U.S. talking about their experiences. Qassis says Palestinians aren't allowed to learn about what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe, when Palestinians were forced from their lands.
"So the Palestinians in the occupied 48 aren't even allowed to bring that part of their, of our history up because the Zionist occupations doesn't want people to know what truly happened," Qassis said.
"In the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip if we go back to 1987, education was made illegal by the Israeli occupation up until 1993 when the Palestinian Authority came," Dabit added.
KGUN9 News left a message asking Tom Horne to comment on the idea his complaints about ethnic studies parallel the Palestinian experience. By deadline he had not called back.