U.S. Campuses See Mideast Protests
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Students who sympathize with Palestinians under siege from Israel rallied, marched and handed out fliers Tuesday on some of the nation’s campuses.
While most events on the loosely organized day of student protest were modest and peaceful, some demonstrators were heckled.
A rally for the Palestinian cause drew about 1,000 supporters and spectators at the University of California, Berkeley, including pro-Israel demonstrators who shouted their disapproval while police kept watch.
After the rally, campus police arrested 79 pro-Palestinian protesters who stormed into a classroom building. Some students hung a Palestinian flag from a third-story window, while others marched in the hallways of the building, which houses classrooms for Middle Eastern studies.
Students for Justice in Palestine likened the current Mideast violence to the Holocaust _ only with the Palestinians as the victims. They also called for the university to divest any Israel-related investments.
``This really should be Holocaust prevention day,″ said Sarah Weir, a 23-year-old cognitive science major.
As speakers made their case during the rally, counter-demonstrators tried to drown them out crying ``Stop the suicide bombings!″ They also booed, cursed and chanted ``Shame!″
At the same time, a small knot of people in a tent nearby read aloud the names of people killed by the Nazis, part of a 24-hour vigil for Yom Hashoah, the Jewish Holocaust remembrance day.
``They are trying to subvert language used in the Holocaust,″ said Eddan Katz, 26, a third-year law student and Israeli-American. ``I hear no one in Israel politics today talking about the eradication of all Palestinians.″
At the University of Michigan, about 50 protesters, some with arms tied and mouths gagged, paraded mutely through the Ann Arbor campus.
A group called Students Allied for Freedom and Equality said in a statement their demonstration was ``to draw attention to the brutal tactics used by the state of Israel in its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.″
One young man, clad only in underwear, bore a sign saying he was representing the ``Palestinians who were asked to strip naked by the Israeli Army, lie on their stomachs and then taken on to an unknown location.″
At Ohio State University, about 60 protesters lined a campus sidewalk that faces a busy Columbus thoroughfare and chanted: ``Stop the hate. Stop the crime. Help save Palestine.″ Some also wore yellow armbands in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Ora Wise, 21, a junior and rally organizer, was born in Jerusalem and raised to support Israel by her American parents but decries Israel’s current policies, she said.
``I’ve always been taught my Jewish heritage is one of fighting for social justice,″ Wise said. ``It’s abhorrent to me, my people would be enacting such brutality, such atrocities, on the Palestinian people.″
At one point, a van passed and a young man leaned out a window to shout: ``Go, Israel! Go!″
At Columbia University in New York, several members of Students for Justice in Palestine manned a card table handing out informational fliers.
``The issue is enormously complex. It’s not an issue you can categorically oppose or support,″ said Nadim El Gabanni, a 21-year-old junior who holds dual citizenship in Egypt and Canada.
At the University of Minnesota, about 75 people turned out to demonstrate. One was Hussan Mahmoud, a 28-year-old graduate engineering student from Egypt.
``I just hope this makes a difference,″ Mahmoud said, ``but I don’t see how it will. You can have all your Bill of Rights and freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but it doesn’t make a difference if the leaders don’t want to make it happen.″