An Israeli flag and a Palestinian flag, both hung in Red Square as part of pro-Palestine group Students for Justice in Palestine’s Israel Apartheid Week, were removed multiple times between April 3 and April 8, culminating in the Georgetown University Police Department apprehending one of the perpetrators who stole the Israeli flag.

GUPD concluded their investigation of the incidents, according to Matt Hill, the university’s media relations manager.

“GUPD has concluded investigations of all incidents reported to GUPD and made appropriate referrals to Student Conduct. The university also received bias-related incident reports which are being reviewed by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action accordingly. We encourage anyone with information about these incidents to contact GUPD at 202-687-4343 or via LiveSafe. GUPD will increase foot patrol and surveillance in areas with planned activity,”” Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Israel Apartheid Week is an annual protest on college campuses that aims to raise awareness of the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Palestinian flag, hung in Red Square on April 1, was taken down once on April 3 and again on April 6 by unknown individuals, resulting in SJP filing two bias-related incident reports with the university. Members of both SJP and the Georgetown Israel Alliance have called on the university to take a stronger stance on incidents that infringe on the rights of student groups to demonstrate in Red Square.

GIA has filed five incident reports with GUPD regarding the theft of the Israeli flag. GIA President Tanner Larkin (SFS ’20), who is also a member of The Hoya’s editorial board, said the Israeli flag was taken down on five separate occasions on April 3, April 4, April 6 and twice on April 8.

GIA Cultural Chair Andrew Boas (SFS ’20), who witnessed the most recent theft of the Israeli flag, said GUPD may classify the thefts as bias-related incidents through the Division of Student Affairs as GUPD pushes for punishment for the suspect.

GUPD has not identified a suspect for the theft of the Palestinian flag, according to SJP Treasurer Olivia Vita (COL ’19).

GUPD did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment on Boas’ and Vita’s statements as of 1:30 a.m.

SJP President Ahmad Al-Husseini (NHS ’20) and Vita both said the Georgetown Program Board removed both flags to post their flyers for its April 6 spring concert, featuring rapper Waka Flocka Flame.

HANNAH LEVINE/THE HOYA GIA has filed five incident reports with GUPD regarding the theft of the Israeli flag. GIA President Tanner Larkin (SFS ’20), who is also a member of The Hoya’s editorial board, said the Israeli flag was taken down on five separate occasions on April 3, April 4, April 6 and twice on April 8.

After the Palestinian flag was hung once more in another location in Red Square, it was torn down along with Israel Apartheid Week fact sheets, according to Al-Husseini.

Al-Husseini said SJP chose to hang the Palestinian flag in a display of solidarity with those injured and killed in recent protests on Gaza’s border with Israel and as part of SJP’s Israel Apartheid Week, which is organized to draw attention to the 70 years of Palestinian popular resistance against the continued conflict in the Israel-Palestine region since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

“We hung the Palestinian flag on Sunday out of solidarity and support for that weekend’s events in Gaza,” Al-Husseini wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza Strip on March 30 against Israel’s and Egypt’s continued blockade of Gaza since 2007, according to the New York Times.

The protests, which involved around 30,000 people, aimed to stage a peaceful sit-in for six weeks before protesters were met with Israeli military force. Health ministry officials from Gaza said 34 Palestinians had been killed in an escalation of violence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protestors, with thousands more wounded, including 293 by live fire, according to Al-Jazeera.

The United Nations Human Rights Council said it has evidence that Israeli forces used “excessive force” during last week’s crackdown, according to The Independent.

Anti-Palestinian sentiments were posted on the wall near the Palestinian flag and on social media shortly after the Palestinian flag went up, Al-Husseini said.

“Less than two hours later, the GIA put up an Israel flag right next to it with individuals responsible for this writing captions such as ‘clap back season’ and other disrespectful captions on social media,” Al-Husseini wrote.

The Georgetown Israel Alliance hung the Israeli flag beside the Palestinian flag to protest the Israel Apartheid Week, according to Boas.

“GIA put up the Israeli flag in response to Israel Apartheid Week, a week-long series of events planned by SJP with the purpose of denying Israel’s right to exist,” Boas wrote. “We feel that the Israeli flag, along with our banner advocating for two-sided dialogue, was a good way to remind Georgetown that we too are on campus and are always willing to dialogue.”

GIA is a pro-Israel group that supports bilateral dialogue and believes in Israel’s right to exist. Boas said that Israel Apartheid Week is a clear denial of Israel’s right to exist.

“The issue with Israel Apartheid Week is that it’s an absolute one-sided denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Boas wrote. “Students For Justice in Palestine goes to great lengths to explain that it is actually about Palestine and not Israel. It’s not an attack on Israel; it’s a protection of Palestine, when in reality we can tell, even by the name of the event Israel Apartheid Week, that it’s an attack on Israel that has no basis on history or reality.”

Vita said there are instances of personal harassment and other anti-Palestinian acts such as theft of Palestinian flags every year.

Boas said GIA has also faced harassment in the past. Boas referenced an incident in March last year when signs with American support for the existence of Israel were defaced.

“They were just pro-Israel messages of peace and coexistence. They were flyers that had been distributed and torn down and also things were written on them that were offensive,” Boas said.

Al-Husseini called on the university to take a stronger stance against the thefts of the Israeli and Palestinian flags, asking them to release a statement condemning the actions.

“These events have become far too common place and do not attract enough attention, as it goes directly against Georgetown’s free speech rights,” Al-Husseini wrote. “Red Square is such a cherished space because it is central to our campus’s idea of promoting free speech and I hate to see these type of vandalism on all sides, so I hope to see the campus issue a formal response to these far too common-place incidents.”

Boas also called for a statement from the university in response to the thefts.

“The university absolutely should issue a statement saying that discrimination or crimes on the basis of national identity, in this case Israeli identity, are obviously condemned by the university and unacceptable in much the same way that they did a statement when swastikas were drawn in LXR,” Boas said.

Hill said Georgetown remains committed to tolerance and the administration supports free speech on campus.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown is an inclusive community that supports the free and open exchange of ideas and welcomes people of all faiths and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Georgetown does not tolerate actions, including theft or vandalism, that attempt to silence the speech of our community,” Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya.

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One Comment

  1. Two sides, one state and no justice says:

    It seems a bit odd for this news story to allow anyone from SJP to comment on GIA’s assertion that Georgetown SJP doesn’t accept Israel’s right to exist. GIA would have us believe that criticizing Israeli policy is ultimately about denying the right of Israel to exist full stop. If Al-Husseini or Vita actually believe that, let’s hear it. A return to 1967 lines is not denying Israel’s right to exist. Demanding political and economic freedom for Palestinians is not demanding that Israel be pushed into the sea.

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