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Shafeka Hashash | The Commander

Posted on December 12, 2013 | by Josy Jablons

There is no such thing as a casual chat with Shafeka Hashash. The CAS junior is too intense for casual. Expect your conversation to last twice its allotted time. Expect to feel antsy. Expect to feel a heavy responsibility for aspects of the world that weren’t previously on your radar.

“There is the oppressor, and there is the oppressed,” Hashash said as we began our conversation about Palestine and Israel. “And I think that’s what almost all issues can be boiled down to.”

Hashash’s twin interests in politics and disability work are deeply rooted in her personal life. A Palestinian-American, Hashash currently serves as co-president of NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine. She has organized campaigns and events to promote the awareness of both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and international human rights.

Although she might have her critics, expect her to present a rebuttal with passion. It’s not necessarily an orderly passion, but a gut-wrenching, visceral kind of passion that overthrows thought. When Hashash speaks, her whole body speaks. She captures your interest not only with her words, but also with her demeanor.

“There are hundreds of people in Latin America who need the job building houses [there],” Hashash said as we veered toward social justice. “Not you, white kid from Long Island.”

Born blind, Hashash’s second interest is disability work. This past summer, she took advantage of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights to organize a seminar about the legal use of sub-minimum wages for workers with disabilities. The seminar enabled 20 college students to come together, learn about the issue and then organize campaigns on their own campuses.

As president of the New Jersey Association of Blind Students, Hashash acts as both a leader and a mentor to deaf and blind high school students.

“That’s my hometown project,” Hashash said. “So many kids are such regular kids, but their parents have never given them the ability to blossom socially. And that kills you in high school.”

While these two interests might effectively describe her ambitions, they fall short in describing her character. Hashash, above all else, is an intense academic. There is no end, her friends say, to what she wants to learn and to what can be learned from her. She provides insight and perspective to the simplest conversation.

“My favorite thing about Shafeka is that she does everything … all the way,” said Steinhardt junior Torrence Browne, a close friend of Hashash. “She puts 200 percent of herself into everything.”

Hashash is a talker. Her friends say she has been known to spend hours on the phone, offering her notoriously frank opinions. She vocalizes her thoughts the moment they occur, acting on instinct. A conversation that begins about the New York City subway system will quickly become a discussion of human rights in Palestine. A rant about construction on La Guardia Place will somehow end with a lesson in feminism.

“I get off track a lot, I’m sorry,” Hashash said, apologizing after breaking off on another tangent.

Those who seek out her guidance say her sarcasm is paired with patience, compassion, and a remarkable ability to listen. Nothing about Hashash is scripted, and it is this rare transparency that makes her so impactful as a leader of the SJP and NJABS.

“She is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Mark Colasurdo, a junior at Cornell University and one of her close friends. “I can rest assured knowing that she will always be there for me.”

But as with all blatant honesty, Hashash’s unwillingness to compromise is both appreciated and rebuffed. During a meeting of SJP, members criticized her leadership of the group. In an argument with Browne, who lived on the same floor in Goddard residence hall, Hashash poured spoiled milk across his bed sheets.

“She will let you know exactly what she thinks and won’t sugarcoat it,” Browne said.

To Hashash, uncensored honesty is the most effective approach to activism. She is not afraid to evaluate others, just as she is not afraid to criticize herself.

“Only when you critique your efforts over and over again can you be helping out the cause to the best of your abilities,” Hashash said.

She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in political science. In the near future, she hopes to attend law school and work for a human and constitutional rights organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union or Legal Aid Society. For her, there is no such thing as neutrality.

“Once you know things, you can’t un-know them,” Hashash said. “Whether that’s for the better, or for the worst.”

— Josephine Jablons

 

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Hashash was a leader of the NJADB rather than NJABS. WSN regrets this error.

Studio photography by Alexis Bynum, other images by Jonathan Tan/WSN

Comments

  • Arafat

    So the gist of this article is Hashash reacts instead of thinks and acts.

    This knee-jerk personality type uses emotions instead of logic and results in more harm to others than positive change. Typically representative of a black and white person where the gray that pervades all of life and all issues – the nuance, that is – is lost on them.

    I hope she matures with time and realizes that just because she feels something deeply does not mean it is necessarily right, or even close to being right.

    • Fanon

      Don’t you comment on anything else but things pertaining to you spreading your reactionary view on the plight of the Palestinians? Your racist comments in the past have gotten old/ seriously grow up. Your views are laughable internationally, and juvenile towards those involved. “Grey Area” is what mass murdering wack jobs like orchestrators like the one that finally kicked the can this weak advocated for. Shafeeka has been probably one of the most prominent fighters on this campus, and can easily say that she has strengthened the liberation of her people and the Israeli’s from the nasty settler colonialism that entices and entrenches both to exist in an oppressive and hateful system. So get you head out of your ass and quit it with the point scoring comments. Join us in the real world and fight settler colonialism.

      • Arafat

        Fanon,

        Islam is a young religion when compared to all other major religions.

        Islam is the settler colonialist wherever it exists. Before Mohammed took over Medina and Mecca those cities were home to Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and others. Now it is illegal to be a non-Muslim citizen in Saudi Arabia.

        It is said Muslim jihadists murdered upwards of 80 million Hindus in their conquest of south Asia. Now Muslims are the settler colonialists of most of that vast land mass.

        In fact the list of Muslim genocides is legion (and this includes Muslim genocides against one-another). The recent Iran/Iraq War left one million dead. The Muslim genocide of Armenians one hundred years ago left over one million dead. The Sudan genocide left one million dead. Now Sudan is colonized by Muslims, eh?

        Now Turkey – once home to Christianity’s second-most important capital (Constantinople) is 99% Muslim. Which is to say Muslims are the settler colonialists of that region too.

        Yet in Israel Jews pre-date Muslims by 1,500 years but you tell us they are the settler colonialists.

        Are you bright enough and/or open-minded enough to understand what a complete hypocrite you are?

        • Fanon

          Yet Palestinian Jews and Muslims lived together under the Ottoman Empire, until white European Jews came to Palestine and began a colonial settler project without the consent of those who have lived on the land for a Millennia. What it really appears that you have is that you try to excuse the explicit War Crimes and Colonization of Palestine by European Jews in light of sins of past empires, which the Jews have as well participated in their fare share of ancient bloodshed. I am bright enough to understand in this set situation, I side, as well as Shafeeka, with the oppressed. Those who have no material support and engage in visceral racism against those who reside in the so called state of Israel, which is not just reserved for the Palestinians (whom bar in mind are not all Muslim, but there are Palestinian Christians and Jews whom have faced these crimes) as well as the African Migrants of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPxv4Aff3IA ). You appear to dense to digest the fact that Israel smashes any opposition to its well documented war crimes and colonization, and appear to focus purely on putting the sins of others past onto the Palestinians under the guise that all Muslims have inherited these sins. Just as not all Jews are settler colonialists, only specific Europeans participated in this project, and appear to still be granting privileges to only those in the so-called state of Israel. So instead of trying to re-appropriate the language of human rights for your own apologist creed and avoid the subject of ISRAEL, you prefer to talk about other projects. This is the method of arguing by those on the right, to change the subject just as quickly as possible and make it about religion, when it is much more complex than just that. It is, and still is a settler colonial project, and must be opposed as such by any who support the right to live freely from military occupation. So it appears really that you are quite dense, and still remain both racist for pinning these upon the Palestinians (because all Arabs appear to be Muslim in your narrative) and apologist for war crimes. Talk about open minded right? Get back to the history books and do some research on the Unit 101, or Haganah, they really do appreciate putting freedom forward under crushing of babies skulls.

  • Mamamia

    “There is the oppressor, and there is the oppressed,”
    Yes, the world is black and white…

    Most influential student you said?…

    • Fanon

      Well seeing as she is fighting against settler colonialism, the nastiest form of exploitation that humanity has engaged in, I find it hard to think of her as anything less.

  • Mark Colasurdo

    As somebody that knows Shafeka very well, I believe this article greatly misrepresents her personality. She is not a “knee-jerking … type” (Arafat) and is actually quite personable when speaking about social justice issues, especially those pertaining to Palestine. While she is deeply passionate about Palestine, her views are rigorously reasoned and based on academic sources – they are not simply emotional reactions that intimidate those into following her. She is not “The Commander,” but the leader. Her passion for justice and equality is what inspires others to follow her.

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