TUCSON AZ (USA) – Students from the Arizona chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Arizona (UA) collaborated with partners in the UA migrant rights group No Más Muertes/No More Deaths (NMM) to erect the largest mock border wall in the country currently dividing the UA campus in Tucson.They aim to spotlight the lethal effects of U.S. militarization, immigration and border enforcement policies in Arizona, the U.S., and Israeli-occupied Palestine.
Equipped with barbed-wire and stretching nearly four football fields’ length, the mock wall, entitled “Wall to Wall - Concrete Connections/Conexiones Concretas,” will stand for more than a week across the main traffic center of the more-than-50,000-person University of Arizona campus. Endorsed by numerous academic departments, as well as student and community groups, the JVP and NMM worked for nearly 8 months to bring the project to fruition.
Packed into a 387-acre area of central Tucson, the University of Arizona schools and employs more than 50,000 students, faculty and staff, outnumbering the State of Arizona as the largest public employer in Southern Arizona – and therefore a proper target for mass disruption, the students say. “We won’t let daily life continue while people are dying and suffering from abominable policies being funded with U.S. tax dollars,” remarked JVP coordinator, Chicano-Jewish student and native Tucsonan, Gabriel Matthew Schivone: “We aim to disturb, to trouble our peers with the knowledge – and less than one tenth of a simulated experience – of our fellow neighbors and communities’ miserable conditions to which our privilege renders many of us to be immune, and renders the conditions themselves to be invisible. We hope to quicken the conscience of our community and shake them into action to end these abuses.”
The mock wall, in part, represents the harmful effects of Israel’s apartheid wall that punctuates and snakes throughout the Palestinian West Bank. An outgrowth of a 44-year military occupation, paid for by $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, and built on occupied Palestinian territory, the wall was deemed illegal by the United Nations International Court of Justice in July 2004. JVP co-coordinator and Anthropology and Linguistics graduate student, Bryan James Gordon, stated: “The U.S. and Israeli governments should realize that walls and guns do not stop peaceful, hardworking people from seeking a future, and they do not make national economies any stronger, fairer or more independent. They only cause violence, and trick one exploited class into fearing and attacking another exploited class instead of the elites that are exploiting them both." The students say they are also alarmed by increasing anti-immigrant legislation and sentiment throughout Arizona and the country, and by ongoing repression of migrants, indigenous peoples and communities of color by U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forces. The students also point to more than 6000 human remains recovered from the U.S./Mexico desert borderlands since the early 1990’s, when the U.S. instituted harsh “deterrence” strategies targeting migrants crossing into the U.S. The students’ statement of purpose reads, “By voluntarily giving up the unjust privileges that we enjoy -- and symbolically taking those privileges away from you, our fellow students, faculty, administration and staff -- we aim to create an unavoidable crisis on campus to expose the larger human catastrophe which our community, by and large, continually fails to see...”
In a joint JVP-NMM op-ed published today (March 23) in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the official newspaper of the University of Arizona, both groups stated: “We will not stand idly by nor stay silent regarding the enormous suffering being inflicted either in our local deserts and cities, or 10,000 miles away in Israeli-occupied Palestine.…[Our wall] symbolized our collective will to end global apartheid and work toward a world that truly offers justice for all.”
SJP believes that while the Palestinian people must ultimately be able to decide their future in Palestine, certain key principles, grounded in international law, human rights, and basic standards of justice, are fundamental to a just resolution of the plight of the Palestinians. These include the full decolonization of all illegally held Palestinian lands, the end of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Furthermore, we believe in a just and fair resolution to the Palestinian right of return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees, as well as an end to the Israeli system of discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian population.
Just as SJP condemns the discrimination underlying the policies and laws of the state of Israel, SJP rejects and condemns any form of hatred or discrimination against any religious, racial, or ethnic group. SJP is committed to overcoming anti-Semitic sentiments towards both Arabs and Jews in the Boston community. Rooting its strength in the diversity of its membership, SJP welcomes individuals of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to join in solidarity with the struggle for justice in Palestine.