Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

A Walk through the Tunnel of Oppression

Posted by lchaimlover on April 11, 2007

SJSU Wall Oppression

Click Here to See More Picture of the Tunnel of Oppression

The Oppression of Women by Society. Gay Rights. Immigration Issues. These are just a few of the topics covered by San Jose State’s 2007 Tunnel of Oppression. But let’s be honest, Oy Bay readers know that I was there to see one section, “The Occupation of Palestine.” This room and the room dedicated to Gay Rights Issues were the two best rooms in the tunnel. They both were provacitively put together and made clear cases for their issues. Now here was what was wrong. I had a few main issues with the “Occupation of Palestine”:

1) The word Israeli and Jew were alternately used

2) The statistics presented dated back to 2004

3) There was no mention of suicide bombing

4) The Security Fence was labeled the “Apartheid Wall” in two different places

5) There was no mention of the disengagement of the Gaza Strip

6) There was no clear history of the story of Palestine

7) No mention of the corruption/responsibility of PLO and Hamas government

These are not just casual oversights, there were deliberate attempts to create a case that was biased and unfair.

The room was covered in pictures depicting the alleged abuse of Palenstinian citizens by Israeli soldiers and citizens. My favorite picture, and really thank you for this, was of a young boy in a yarmulke apparently kicking a Muslim woman. There was no caption for the picture. As my boyfriend, wearing a yarmulke and tzitzi stood in front of the picture, I assure you he got more than one dirty look. The comments I heard made about this picture ranged from “That’s sick,” to “Stupid Jews.” Yes you read right, Jews not Israelis. Not that either one is appropriate but you can see my concern.

This room was right next door to the Oppression of Women so it was quite appropriate that there was a puppet of a Muslim woman in a birka behind bars.

As I left the room I felt confused and concerned. The room’s purpose was clear but it’s affects I had not anticipated and I can only hope the creators had not anticipated: anger at Jews. People can not associate Israeli with any people except Jews, and so when these people need to vent their frustration about what they saw there, they say “Stupid Jews.”

Out side of the tunnel was a series of tables set up with more information about the rooms in the tunnel. I joined many other students milling around the tables, who were looking for more ways to learn and get involved in these issues. I was shocked to find that out of 40 pamphlets and books, only 4 concerned the Israeli-Arab Conflict, and two of those had been placed there by SJSU Jewish Student Union. That means the creators of the Room left 2 pamphlets about the issue of Israel/Palestine. 2 out of 40. The room constituted 20% of the Tunnel and they could only manage to come up with that? I was appalled. So was another young man I spoke to. Jeremy, a SJSU student said, “I was hoping to find more information about Palestine, I mean I’ve never heard of this issue before, and this really opened my eyes, but there’s like nothing here.” So I directed him to students of the Jewish Student Union who had more information ready for students looking for the same thing.

Looks like those pesky Jews are at it again, cleaning up the mess someone else made. Thanks Students For Change, The Jewish Conspiracy Council was bored this week anyway.


18 Responses to “A Walk through the Tunnel of Oppression”

  1. Archangel said

    Way too often, displays about oppression are less about empowering the oppressed and more about inspiring resentment for a perceived oppressor. The really sad part is how the poor and downtrodden are manipulated and abused in order to serve someone else’s political agenda.

  2. jlifer fo' sho' said


    Thank you for the description of the Tunnel, as I’m unable to attend myself because I’m in Israel. I think the Students for Change assume the average viewer is going to take their word for it at face value, which is why they don’t bother with any follow-up. Clearly, the viewer wants more info, so here’s some straight from the source:
    Last month I traveled through this “Apartheid Wall” from Jerusalem into the West Bank and I was offended on behalf of all black South Africans who suffered under apartheid rule. Now their suffering is being carelessly flung around so some disillusioned students can evoke emotion from impressionable college students.

    I crossed from southern Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It was easy going both ways, and not just for me (a blonde Jewish American gal) but for everyone. I also entered the West Bank a while back without witnessing anything irregular or improper. I’ll keep my eye out, but just like the Tunnel visitors, I’d rather check my facts than stupidly believe a half-assed display with a heavy motive.

    The wall, similar to the one proposed (and partially constructed?) between Mexico and the U.S., is set up for security purposes, and it works! Here’s an article from UPI– a reputable global wire service for more info on the U.S.-Mexico wall (set to be 700 miles long!) and the Israeli security fence.

  3. lchaimlover said

    To Billal:

    I believe my positive feedback was:

    “This room and the room dedicated to Gay Rights Issues were the two best rooms in the tunnel. They both were provacitively put together and made clear cases for their issues.”

  4. Benny Blanco said

    It is indeed lazy and irresponsible on the part of Students for Change to use the words Israeli and Jew interchangeably.

    However, I query why this bothers Jews to the extent that it does. If you are trying to stress that Israel is a multi-ethnic democracy, and that all Israelis — not only Jewish Israelis — are protected by the security barrier, great. I think that’s an important point to make. It’s also important to make this distinction when haters refer to so-called “Jew-only roads” in the West Bank, when, in fact, roads in the W. Bank are often separated into Israeli and non-Israeli roads for security purposes. This is based on citizenship and not race/religion.

    However, if your aim in drawing the Jewish/Israeli distinction is to put distance between Israelis and other Jews with regards to Israel’s policies, then I am a little less comfortable making the distinction.

    How can we stress the centrality of Israel to global Jewish peoplehood, and at the same time (when Israel’s policies are questionable) claim that the two are distinct and different? I, for one, am proud to identify with the State of Israel and most of its actions/policies. To the extent that I disagree with one policy or the other, fine. After all, plenty of Americans disagree with their govt’s actions, and plenty of Israelis disagree with the actions of theirs.

    If someone doesn’t understand that not every Jew or Israeli agrees with every one of Israel’s actions, that’s their problem. But I don’t see it as a reason/opportunity to stress an Israel/Jew divide. After all, we need to work to CLOSE the Israel/Jew divide.

  5. Oyster said

    Wow Ben, that’s an excellent point that you raise.

    This is merely a matter of the various labels being associated with various identities. And it’s my understanding that LchaimLover was taking SFC to task for using the two interchangeably when convenient for rhetorical purposes.

    We shouldn’t shy away from saying that Israel is a Jewish state. And the same way that most people generalize Arab countries to be only Arab & Muslim (they’re not; they have minorities too), people generalize Israel to consist of Jewish citizens. Yes, there’s nuance, but it would be tedious to specify the exact make-up of every country if we broke each one down to their sub-groups. For example, I know that the USA is not a Christian nation, but I do acknowledge that it is a nation of Christians.

    And I completely agree with your last statement. It is vitally important that we find bridges between Israel and the Diaspora. In my view of Zionism, both need each other.

  6. JB said


    I think the issue lies not in our distancing ourselves from Israel as a Jewish state, though that is a great point you made. The issue, as I see it, is in non-Jews using the term Jew and Israeli interchangeably. If that happens, anti-Israel sentiment becomes anti-Jewish sentiment. This is where anger at specific Israeli policy becomes outright anti-Semitism.

  7. rachel said

    i just saw this entry today and found it very interesting…my only comment really is on the guy who said he had never heard of the israeli/palestinian issue. i find it incredibly hard to believe that a student at a major university in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country – a very well-educated, highly politically charged area, would NEVER have heard about the mideast conflict. has he been living under a rock? i really hope he was joking because otherwise i worry about him.

  8. lchaimlover said

    actually there were several people there who mentioned never hearing about the conflict and more claiming to know nothing about it. They even wrote it on the comment wall.
    So sad…

  9. Oyster said


    Hehe, David Olesker (pro-Israel hasbarah trainer extraordinaire) called that the “Zimbabwe Effect”. We’re obsessed with Israel. The average person knows or cares about what’s going on in Israel as much as with Zimbabwe and its political turmoil.

  10. […] last week, my favorite group at SJSU, Students for Change, decided to sponsor Israeli Style Checkpoints on Campus. So my boyfriend donned a shirt that said […]

  11. Victor Ly said

    To All Those Who Are Reading This:
    I hope you are doing well. I apologize that this issue has risen and that the Occupation of Palestine room was indeed biased in several senses. From this, however, I hope that more students will see the other sides of the issue as well, and perhaps those who were misrepresented by this room will be able to use this time to bring up their sides of the story.

    I’m Victor Ly, the designer and the person in charge of the Gay & Lesbian room of 2007’s Tunnel of Oppression (thanks for pointing out that you thought the Gay & Lesbian room was one of the two best rooms). I am a human rights activist, and as one, I advocate for various forms of human rights, including the room I represented, those who live in poverty and are homeless (I am the vice president of Student Homeless Alliance and helped start the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project), and women’s rights (I help with events put on by the Women’s Resource Center). I am glad to see this entry presented here, with strong points and clear explanations so that those who are not as knowledgable in this area, such as myself, will hear a different side of the issue.

    Thank you,
    Victor Ly

  12. Oyster said


    Thanks for your comment. Oy Bay is definitely intended to be a means for expressing the Jewish side of the story. I’m glad that our posts on this issue were informative. You’re welcome to write any comments or questions you have regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  13. Billal Asghar said

    hahha wow you guys really think there is a hidden political agenda behind what we do. We are no different from many student groups against the Israeli policies, in many many universities all over the US and else where.
    I’m sorry if our actions have offendd any students dirrectly, our intentions were only to show that Palestinians are suffering and Israeli pollicies are inhumane and unjust to Palestinians. People shouldn’t being offended when people talk about Palestinians who are suffering, and how the check points, the barriers affect many people in bad ways. Saying ohhh people in Israel suffer also, does not justify anything. Any kiling of the innocent is horribe Thats just missing the point completely and is a weak arguement.
    If u want to go that route then One can also say that multiple more times innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli soldier and weapons, and the living conditions of the Palestinians are a lot worse off now. You simply cannot compair Israel with Palestine, and anyone whose been there knows that. One is clearly oppressed and the other is not. You want both sides go look for your self go look up pictures, if you can’t go there. They just opened a freaking hooters in Israel(I was watching CNN the other day) While in Palestine I hear for some its even hard to get water, let alone cean water.
    Um yes we were one sided for the display for the room on the Oppression of the “Palestinians”, and we were also one sided in the “Palestinian Awareness Week”. We choose to do so because, Palestinians are suffering, yet still the Palestinian side is rarely heard in the US corporate media. While even if a soldier dies on the Israeli side we hear it on CNN. I havent heard some think in a very long time ohhh it must be the Apartheid wall.

    Apartheid(A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups)

  14. Oyster said

    Apartheid(A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups)

    Billal, your definition of ‘Apartheid’ is neither accurate nor sufficient. According to this definition, gender-segregated bathrooms in Mongolia are just as equally ‘Apartheid’ as is race-based minority rule and majority oppression as witnessed in pre-Reconciliation South Africa.

    Try again.

    If you’re not just using the word ‘Apartheid’ for rhetoical impact, perhaps you can find an example of the popular use of ‘Apartheid’ when not applied to South Africa?

    Also, your knee-jerk pulling of the race card isn’t going to work. There are thousands of black Jews living in pre-1967 Israel. There aren’t any black people living in the Palestinian territories (save a handful of foreign reporters & socialist activists). My, my, my, the Palestians need to work on their diversity. Perhaps they need a policy of equal opportunity, regardless of race or religion? Or sexual orientation? Or…

  15. Jeff said

    As a gentile man, I am constantly reminded that if it were not for Jewish Americans, the lives of gays would be much worse off. For that I thank the Jewish people from the bottom of my heart.

  16. Jeff said

    As a gay gentile man, I am constantly reminded that if it were not for Jewish Americans, the lives of gays would be much worse off. For that I thank the Jewish people from the bottom of my heart.

  17. Oyster said

    Thanks for your note, Jeff.

    I think that the Jewish ethos of always fighting for the underdog has helped many a minority in this country.

  18. פשוט מהמם
    אין לי מילים
    ממש מרתק קולע וקולח

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