On April 24, 2018, the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) held IsraelFest, a 70th birthday party for the state of Israel, on the second floor of the student center.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), who sported shemagh scarfs to conceal their identities, held a silent protest across from the two tables reserved by SSI. SSI celebrated by waving Israeli flags, playing music, singing, decorating themselves with henna tattoos, and serving traditional foods.
SJP members carried a Palestinian flag and signs with messages like, “Israel is an illegitimate state,” “Stop white washing warcrimes,” and “Independence 4 Settlers, Exile 4 Palestinians.”
Amanda Michalak, Students for Justice in Palestine member and Kent State alumna, spoke on behalf of SJP and said, “We are raising awareness for the events that took place between 1947 and 1949 that contributed to the formation of the state of Israel.”
Michalak added that, “I think it’s important to take two narratives into consideration…and that’s our job to do, is to spread the other narrative.”
Paul Weinper, member of Students Supporting Israel, was in attendance of IsraelFest. Weinper said, “We were setup for a good two hours before they showed up.” When asked whether SJP frequently protests their events, he stated, “This is the first time I’ve really seen them come out in a mass number to protest our event.”
Weinpar added, “I believe they are welcome to their protest as it is freedom of speech, and protected by the Constitution, but I do disagree with what they are protesting about.”
SSI President Ezra Katz relayed to the Kent Conservative that he spoke with the Assistant Dean of the Center for Student Involvement, Rick Danals, who confirmed that SJP had not registered the protest in the student center, and had only been approved for space in Bowman Hall.
Following the conclusion of IsraelFest, SJP members hung a Palestinian flag on the wall behind where the event had taken place.