Members of the UConn group Students for Justice in Palestine put on their first Dabke Night to raise awareness of human rights violations in Palestine. Photo by Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus
Last night, UConn Students for Justice in Palestine put on “Dabke Night,” a celebration of Palestinian culture and an opportunity for the UConn community to further enrich themselves on the ongoing Palestinain crisis. Taking place in the Student Union Ballroom, the night lasted a full two-and-a-half hours.
The night began with a brief introduction by the board of the club, immediately followed by a lecture by Tree of Life Educational Fund Vice President John T. Fussell. Fussell, a graduate of UConn Law School and one of Connecticut’s leading Palestinian rights activists, gave a slideshow-aided talk about the gravity of the Palestinian crisis in both the West Bank and Gaza, highlighting the historical human rights offenses perpetrated by Israel and the political forces behind it. “On one of the Witness Trips that we went on, I remember going past an Israeli settlement which had a big banner out saying ‘Palestine does not exist and never will,’” he shared. “That gives you the mindset of the religious right-wing nationalist settler movement that is driving the policies of the state of Israel. The more liberal and progressive elements within Israel just don’t have the power at this point, so Israel continues on this process of displacement and annexation.”
An intermission proceeded Fussell’s powerful talk, featuring Palestinian delicacies like hummus and baklava. A silent auction of various Palestiniain items like a flag and a silver necklace mirrored the food setup, with proceeds going to a pro-Palestinian rights organization.
Not long after, a dabke group entered the Student Union Ballroom uproariously, drumming and dancing to blaring music. Dabke, a native Levantine folk dance, brought the crowd to its feet and many ran to the center to join in on the fun. After four classes and having finally reached Thanksgiving break, I decided to stay seated. I wasn’t dancing, but my heart was as I saw members of the club and attendees twirling in circles for over an hour to the bouncing tunes.
By the end of the night, everyone was tired but further educated on an issue more people need to know about. SJP club leaders were proud of the night’s success in bringing light to the issue. “It was an honor to be able to showcase our culture, spread awareness about Resolution H.R.2407 and inform the UConn populace about the Palestinian crisis,” said Haya Jarad, a fifth-semester biomedical engineering major and President of the club. “Our plan for tonight was to talk about what’s going on in Gaza, as well as showcase the Palestinian traditional dance, which is the Dabke. We were really successful in doing that, and it was nice to be able to show our culture with the community.”
“Students for Justice in Palestine is here to bring awareness to the Palestinian cause and crisis because it is so evident in this time,” said Hala Aryan, a fifth-semester communications major and Vice President. “Things with Gaza, Jerusalem and the occupation appear in the news, so we’re really here to educate people about that because many don’t know much about it. We’re trying to bring awarness, but also educate people on our culture because that is one of the things that the Palestinian people have held onto for so long.
Aryan was passionate when asked if she had one message to share to all UConn students. “Right now, there are seven million Palestinian refugees that have fled the country because their homes were taken or attacked,” she said. “I would really like people to educate themselves or come to an SJP event because we really put a lot of effort into educating people on this crucial topic.”
UConn Students for Justice in Palestine laid the blueprint to what a collegiate educational event should be last night. Crucial learning, delicious food and uproarious fun. The music will fade and the food will be eaten, but the knowledge learned and reinforced last night will stick with its attendees for a lifetime.
Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.