Monday, August 11, 2014

Rallies oppose recent violence in Gaza

Demonstrators from different backgrounds came out to show their support for the Palestinian people.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Protesters gathered on the University of Iowa Pentacrest on July 24 and 31 in a rallies pushing for an end to the conflict in Gaza.

The crowds chanted, advocating for an end to the bombing and killing of civilians. Signs pleaded with Israel to end the ongoing occupation.

The rally brought people of all ages and backgrounds together. Among them were Palestinians, Egyptians, Quakers affiliated with the Scattergood School near West Branch, and other peace advocates.

Deborah Fink and Jeff Kislint attended the rally during their visit to the nearby Scattergood School. They supported withdrawing U.S. support of Israel’s recent actions and ending the occupation of Palestine. Kislint made a point to say that “I don’t believe in killing in any way shape or form.”

Amal Aljurf also attended the rally and made a speech on behalf of the Johnson County Democratic Party. He stated that the Johnson County Democrats support a two-state solution, and the right of Palestinians to return to their homes.

Calling the recent conflict “a massacre,” Aljurf asked people at the rally to raise awareness and bring conflict in Israel and Palestine to the front lines during elections. Referring to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, he said, “You put [politicians] on the spot, and don’t tell them this is my position, but tell them this is the position of Iowa. This is the position of what we stand for in this state.”

Protesters gather to demand Israel withdraw troops from Gaza.                                              (Nick Harder/Iowa Peace Network)
However, not everyone agrees with the two-state solution. One such individual is Mahmoud Metwali, an Egyptian born is Iowa City. He is a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa.

“Honestly, I don’t think that the two-state solution would ever work,” Metwali said. “I think that the two-state solution is just a label that [Israelis] would always use ... They would always use that label, but they can always keep invading and keep taking and expanding more of their territory.”     

Lately, there have been some signs that the conflict may be deescalating.

A 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire took effect Tuesday, Aug. 5 between Israel and Hamas, the political organization controlling the Gaza Strip, which has been labeled as a terrorist organization by many in the West including Israel, the United States, the European Union, and others.

After briefly descending into violence after the initial ceasefire, Hamas and Israel agreed to another ceasefire on the evening of Sunday, Aug. 10. If it holds, each side plans to begin negotiating a long-term truce.

These ceasefires came after almost a month of Israeli airstrikes and a 10-day ground invasion that started on July 17 and killed around 1,900 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, the New York Times reported. Israeli has suffered around 70 casualties, of whom only three were not soldiers.

The most recent round of violence has sparked demonstrations around the world both among people sympathetic to Israel and those who support the Palestinians.  

At the Iowa City rally, many Iowa-born Arabs whose families originate from Palestine and surrounding Arab nations generally wished for the safety of friends and family in the conflict and grieved for people that had died.

Marv Hain, an Iowa City resident felt that the United States is effectively helping Israel oppress the Palestinians.

“It is as if Israel has turned from the victim, as they were in the Holocaust, to now the victimizer.”

Nick Harder is a contributing writer for Iowa Peace Network and an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, studying Political Science and Sociology. He is also a research assistant in the Center for the Study of Group Processes.

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