Conflict subdued at Israeli rally
Palestinian group hold silent protest during Israeli Independence Day
May 8, 2008 5:36 PM
More than 150 people gathered at the quad Thursday to participate in the celebration of Israeli Independence Day.
Members of the Jewish organization, Hillel, and the Israel Coalition planned the event with the intent of keeping a celebratory theme—and to stay away from politics.
Two bands played including Eggroll, an Israeli rock band, and another group named Invisible Arms. Around 30-40 people showed up to support a Palestinian counter-demonstration, which was held as a silent protest with participants wearing white masks, holding signs and Palestinian flags.
“We had planned to use a bigger area of the quad instead of just the area in front of the stage,” said Dona Standel, 20, a junior majoring in communications and a member of Hillel. “When we heard that there was going to be a Palestinian presence, we decided to limit ourselves to the stage area.”
Both groups said they expected the day to remain peaceful and neither wanted to engage in political dialogue during the two-hour long event. The peaceful tone of Thursday’s rally was a sharp departure from the past, when Jewish organizations and pro-Palestinian groups often engaged in heated, contentious confrontations stemming from the palpable tensions between two countries, and the United States’ continued support of Israel. The pro-Palestinian group, General Union of Palestinian Students, organized the demonstration and wanted to send out its message, but keep it peaceful.
“We want to keep it low-key and go out with signs and masks,” said Ramsey El-Qare, 27, a senior majoring in political science. “We’re wearing the masks as a symbol of [the Israelis] denying our existence.”
The Jewish organization, Hillel, which is not officially affiliated with Israel, advertised the event to most of the pro-Israeli community in San Francisco. The group, together with the Israel Coalition and other participants, wore blue t-shirts with the word peace in English, Arabic and Hebrew, printed in white on the front. Around the stage hung Israeli flags and the area was decorated in Israeli colors.
Most of the people participating in the Palestinian counter demonstration wore hattas, a shawl with a fence-looking pattern, which has become a cultural symbol for Palestinians, and waved Palestinian flags. Though the event was peaceful, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians boasted strong opinions at the event.
“Most important is human rights for everyone,” said Hassan Aburish, 22, a senior majoring in international relations and a participant in the Palestinian demonstration. “[The Israelis’] freedoms come to the expense of Palestinian human rights.”
Overall, both groups respected each other’s presence on the quad during the event. Onlooker Daniel Barreiro, 22, a major in cinema studies, noted the respectful atmosphere. He came out to watch the event as the fire alarm went off inside the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
“You have to give respect for people to live in peace,” he said.
Still, the conflict is currently affecting students, according to GUPS member Brian Gallagher, 25, a double major in political science and history. He said GUPS only has two official members because many pro-Palestinian students are afraid to openly join organization in fear of being identified.
The issue is infected for pro-Israeli students as well.
“I’ve been a part of political dialogues with pro-Palestinians in the past,” said Dona Standel. “But I’m not anymore because it’s such a sensitive subject that I become too emotional to do it.”
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