Two ULV student debaters and two special guests from Palestine debated the actions of Ahed Tamimi, a teenage girl who rose to international prominence in 2017 after she was captured on a Facebook video kicking, punching and shoving a heavily armed Israeli soldier who was trying to enter her family home in West Bank, Palestine.
Robert Ruiz, chairman of the speech communications department, hosted the event Tuesday in La Fetra Lecture Hall in honor of Women’s History Month.
Tamimi was arrested shortly after the altercation and received mixed reactions; opinions were split between thinking her actions were productive and thinking her actions hurt the Palestinian cause.
Decades of animosity and violence to stop the Israeli occupation, land seizures and an adjacent settlement that has taken control of the city has plagued and fostered extreme violence between Israel and Palestine.
Debaters Layan Malhees and Nura Qasrawi, members of the An-Najah University Debate Society, both flew in from the West Bank to participate in the event.
The debaters were split into two teams, with Malhees paired with freshman philosophy major Noor Tabba, and Qasrawi paired with junior biology major Hanien Samara.
Malhees and Tabba said that the media attention that she received helped bring light and show the strength of other female activists in the fight against the Israeli occupation in Palestine.
Samara and Qasrawi argued that because the media solely focused on her actions, other activists could not garner the attention needed to further their cause.
Ruiz chose which guest debaters to invite and determined which positions the teams would argue.
“I obviously wanted all women for Women’s History Month to debate it and the two girls from Palestine agreed to do it,” Ruiz said.
“I thought it would be perfect to put the four of them together. All four of them spoke Arabic to each other, so it was nice for them to just relax and communicate with each other in their native language,” he said.
Samara said the overall experience helped her become educated on both sides of the issue and set aside personal biases.
Each debater said they had their own opinions on Tamimi’s activism and how they personally related to what was discussed.
Tabba said she enjoyed talking about Middle Eastern issues with the Palestinian debaters.
“I relate to that struggle and I relate to what it feels like to be an Arab, especially in America,” Tabba said.
Qasrawi has participated in debate tournaments abroad before, but this was her first time in the United States.
“It’s amazing here and it is really good to have the chance to talk about Palestine and the real conflict,” Qasrawi said. “People around here probably don’t know a lot about it and it was pretty interesting to hear what they had to say and their opinions on this matter.”
Ruiz said he wanted this opportunity to broaden students’ knowledge and understanding of issues that are otherwise distant from their lives.
“Research more about it and learn the history,” Ruiz said. “Once they get that breadth of knowledge, maybe it’ll focus them to be an activist that can be important to our history.”
Stephanie Joseph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.