July 16, 2019 | 67° F

Students rally to draw light about Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Standing with their mouths taped shut and posters held high of Palestinians killed in Israel, the members of Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) carried out their protest, “Standing with the Fallen.”

SJP took a different approach than last year's protest, a loud and controversial mock "die-in" where SJP students were covered in fake blood lying on the floor, holding "Free Palestine" flags.

This year’s protest was intended to speak for itself, said Naiha Khan, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and vice president of SJP.

“We don’t want screaming and shouting back and forth,” she said. “We want to use silence to shed light on the injustices.”

She said the protest is intended to raise awareness as an organization of what is going on in Palestine.

Forty-two Palestinians have died in October alone, Khan said.

The protestors held posters of the Palestinians who have been killed. One sign read “Fadi Mustafa, shot to death by Israeli Police as a group of settlers screamed kill him."

Mustafa was shot with his knife in his hand after allegedly attempting to stab a 16-year-old Israeli boy, according to maannews.com.

“It’s so sad, no one ever talks about the Palestinians who have died,” Khan said.

The protest brought attention to pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students and organizations on campus because of the spree of attacks happening in Israel right now.

On Monday, there were four attacks where Israelis were stoned, run over by vehicles and stabbed, according to ynetnews.com.

“The incident was just the latest in a recent string of attacks across Israel and the West Bank, the last which occurred in Beer Sheva and resulted in the death of an Israeli soldier and Eritrean bystander,” according to the article.

In the midst of the attacks, four Palestinian were also killed, according to the article.

Khan said she could not make a comment about the situation in Israel now.

“I do not have an opinion because I am in not under occupation. I am here in commemoration and remembrance of the 42 Palestinians,” she said.

The 42 Palestinians were actual people, Khan said. She wants to let students know what is happening and where United States tax money is going.

“Our organization’s goal has always been to show everyone that we stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. That will always be our goal,” Khan said.

Going oversees during summer breaks not only gave her the perspective but also the inspiration to speak out about what she believes in, said Duaa Abdulla, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and protestor.

“Speaking out against inhumanity is the least I could do when we live in a so-called democracy,” she said.

A University is a setting where people come to learn intellectually, but also to learn about other cultures and beliefs outside their own bubble, Abdulla said.

“You don’t have to be Palestinian to support Palestinians, you just have to be human," she said.

While pro-Israel organizations have a lot of influence on campus, with donors and classes and more, all SJP has is the truth, Abdulla said.

She defined the truth as Palestinians being labeled the enemy when they are the victims. Regarding the recent attacks in Israel, Abdulla said it is a reaction to Palestinians being oppressed.

“I can’t say any innocent civilian should be killed, but if Israel does not obey to Palestinian demands and give them a life worth living, then things like (attacks) will keep happening,” she said.

Pro-Israel organizations like Rutgers Hillel and Rutgers Chabad stood just across the street with an Israeli flag, news articles, charity boxes and prayers.

“We are here to send a positive message, to do deeds of loving kindness, send blessings and pray for peace in the Middle East,” said Rabbi Baruch Goodman of Rutgers Chabad.

Goodman said he believes that each good deed reverberates, and he encourages people to do good deeds.

“We are sending a positive message to all people of Israel, Jews, Christians and Muslims who want to live in peace together and push away evil,” he said.

Rutgers Hillel wants to provide dialogue about what is happening in the Middle East, said Evan Gottesman, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Rutgers HiIlel board member.

“We are not looking to protest anything, we just want to allow people to freely discuss the issue,” he said.

The protest caught the attention of many students.

“There are casualties on both sides, innocent lives lost. They have the right to mourn those lives. It’s not like one life is more important than the other. They are both right,” said Aaron Kessler, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

Kessler, an observer who labels himself as pro-Palestine and pro-Israel and is in the midst of starting a pro-Palestine and pro-Israel club called J-Street at Rutgers, said he thinks both sides are attempting to influence student opinions rather than attempting to create peace with each other.

“No matter what organization we associate with, we are all Rutgers students and should be conversing openly about the issue and not competing with each other," he said.

Noa Halff

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