Heated Israel-Palestine exchange transpires at Georgia State SGA assembly

On Friday, Jan. 11, the Georgia State Student Government Association held a university-wide meeting on the Dunwoody campus, their first assembly of the spring semester.

During the meeting, deliberation on SGA’s no smoking initiative and a potential transition to a new parliamentary procedure was had among senate members. As the senators discussed, the back wall lined with students holding signs with phrases including, “Trips to stolen Palestinian land say OK to settler colonialism, apartheid and genocide.”

The trip in question was one taken by 24 Georgia State students over the winter break, including members of SGA, Spotlight, the College Republicans, the Catholic Student Association and The Signal’s editor-in-chief, Daniel Varitek.

SGA representatives President Franklin Patterson, Atlanta Executive Vice President Ayesha Iqbal and Senators Hamza Rahman and Jazmin Mejia were all present on the 10-day trip.

GSU Hillel, an on-campus Jewish organization, received funding to “take a group of non-Jewish students to Israel this winter on a Fact Finders tour, visiting Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious sites as well as political sites.”

The protesters brought their concerns and a list of demands to the SGA body and represented various campus organizations, including Panthers for Black Feminism and Faces of Feminism. Some other students attended independently.

Students, both former and current, protested SGA representatives’ attendance on a trip to Israel in December. Photo by Ada Wood | The Signal

Following the meeting’s adjournment, the group approached Patterson, Rahman and Iqbal in an adjacent hallway. They questioned the status of their demands, to which Patterson replied that a statement would be released by Wednesday of the following week.

The group then questioned Iqbal on her decision to wear a thobe while in Israel, a country they refer to as “stolen land,” according to Amna Ali, co-president of Faces of Feminism.

What followed was a heated altercation between Rahman and Rasha Allaf, who graduated the semester prior and came to the meeting to voice her concerns.

According to Rahman, Allaf said, “May s— be upon,” in Arabic, to which he replied, “May s— be upon you too, you child of a donkey.”

“As a leader I should have known better than to use language like that and I apologize for the use of this language,” Rahman said. “It is inappropriate to curse, even if you are being cursed at.”

Allaf said that Patterson was the most professional in the situation, while she believed Iqbal and Rahman showed the most disrespect.

“He started yelling out religious things, which we have mentioned multiple times that the situation has nothing to do with religion, it’s only politics,” Allaf said. “And that’s why I got heated in the situation; because he kept throwing religion in our faces for no reason.”

Full disclosure: The Signal’s editor-in-chief, Daniel Varitek, went on the trip mentioned above.

Update (1/14/18): A previous version of this article had Rasha Allaf quoted as having said, “May s— be upon.” The updated version has Allaf quoted as having said, “May s— be upon you.”


Video recorded by Ada Wood for The Signal