From the 12th to the 15th of March, students at the American University of Beirut (AUB) organized a three day campaign to make the Apartheid Wall, its reality, political meaning and effects on the ground better known on their campus.
A mock wall, a photo exhibit, film screenings, a panel discussion and circulation of a petition have helped to draw attention to the crimes of the Israeli state across the border and to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
Twelve university clubs partnered with the Palestinian Culture Club to create the event. Students from the Art Club worked for days to create a 10 meter large mock wall that ran across the campus. The wall is adorned with graffiti – “tear down the wall,” a painted Palestinian flag and Naji al-Ali’s celebrated icon, Handala.
“We wanted to block the path,” explains Samar Shaltaf, a member of the Palestinian Cultural Club. “We wanted people to feel bothered but the administration didn’t want to disturb things.”
The response on campus was strong. At the end of the first day of campaigning, the petition against the wall received over 1,200 signatures. The group hopes to collect at least 5,000 signatures and send it to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Beyond the wall and the photo exhibit hosted on the campus grounds, AUB professors and students will come together in a panel discussion to analyze the Wall and its political context.
“If we ask them, maybe they’ll sign a petition but if we explain to them, maybe they’ll get more interested,” says al-Kayyali.
This event illustrates the need for students and the larger community in the Arab countries to educate themselves on the catastrophe taking place across their borders, and demonstrates the power of art-based communication to bring home to people what may be happening just out of their line of sight, behind this or any other wall.