More than 100 activists carried Palestinian flags and signs calling for justice and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a protest yesterday throughout campus.
The event, which traveled from the steps of the Michigan Union to the Diag, began with a memorial and reading of the names of the people killed in the Middle East conflict since last Thursday.
Event organizer Fadi Kiblawi, a member of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, cited the loss of life on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides that took place over the University’s Spring Break and said the protest was intended to send the message that “enough is enough.”
“It’s very easy to repeat the calls for a halt to the cycle of violence, but if the past 17 months have taught us anything, it has taught us that words won’t do it,” he said. “The root of the cycle needs to be pulled, and that would be the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the continued denial of basic human rights of the Palestinian people.”
Kiblawi said the protesters were calling for peace and an end to bloodshed.
Community member Odine Haber said she was marching because more people are being killed and she feels the violence is mounting.
“There could be negotiation. There must be negotiation,” Haber said. “It’s otherwise going to be destruction on both sides or peace, there are not that many choices.”
Ann Arbor resident Monica Weinheimer said she sees the U.S. as supporting an oppressive occupation, adding that U.S. aid to Israel seems to be exacerbating problems in the Middle East, leading to more violence.
“I support a peaceful resolution but current U.S. policies are not heading in that direction,” she said.
Detroit resident Brad Duncan said he drove in for the event because he feels Palestinians need support from people around the world and that it is important for people to see another message than the one they get from news channels.
“We’re saying there can’t be peace until there’s justice. Justice would be an end to the occupation, the right of return, clearing up the (Israeli) settlements and national self-determination for Palestinians,” Duncan said.
LSA junior Hafsa Hussain said the group’s message was meant to be heard beyond campus.
“People aren’t aware of the plight of the Palestinian people,” she said.
University alum Henry Herskovitz said American Jews need to take the initiative and convince the American government to stop funding Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
“I am a Jew,” he said. “I would like to see the American Jewish community understand the situation and understand that the occupation which is funded by American taxpayers is killing both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.”
School of Art and Design senior Jason Allen, who stopped on the Diag to watch the protest as it was taking place, said he was glad to see a wide variety of students exercising their rights to free speech and getting their message across.
“Living in America you don’t really hear about the stuff Israel does to Palestine, you hear more about what Palestine is doing to Israel,” he said.
He said he enjoys knowing people still care about global events and causes and that they can move beyond just being interested in themselves to support causes they feel are important.