In light of recent events in the Middle East that have taken the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, students led on-campus demonstrations Friday. The two movements took place concurrently on Trousdale Parkway.
Last week, more than 400 rockets were fired at Israel with many hitting targets in the country and killing civilians. Israel has responded with attacks on Gaza, which have killed many Palestinian civilians. The escalated violence came after Israel killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday in a precision airstrike. On Friday, President Barack Obama spoke to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reiterating the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The protests were organized by students on Thursday and advertised to the student body on social networking sites, such as Facebook. Though not affiliated with any student organization on campus, the demonstrations included more than 20 people in support of each cause. Several more students passing by the center of campus offered their support for the demonstrators on either side. Demonstrators held flags and signs representing support for Israelis or Palestinians.
Student demonstrator Linda Fawaz, a senior majoring in international relations global business and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, was among demonstrators trying to highlight the violence against Palestinian civilians.
“We felt like we needed to bear our signs,” Fawaz said. “This demonstration came out of necessity. We need to do something.”
Several demonstrators supported the idea of a cease-fire in the conflict. Fawaz said students involved in the demonstration also took part in a nonviolent protest at the Los Angeles Consulate on Thursday, an event that inspired students to hold a protest on campus.
“I don’t think a lot of [students] pay attention to world events, so by having this silent solidarity for the victims of Gaza who have been suffering for half a century it might prompt the international community to actually act,” Fawaz said.
Students who stood with Israel also held a peaceful demonstration near Tommy Trojan on Trousdale Parkway. On Friday morning, organizers released 500 balloons, which represented rockets fired toward Israel in the past year. The demonstrators hoped that their gathering could be used to inform the student body of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
Sarah Sax, a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and president of Trojans for Israel, has been following the conflict closely. The past week’s increased attack has led her and other supporters of Israel to react more vocally on this particular issue.
“For years Israel has just been taking it,” Sax said. “We’ve come to a point where we’re not taking it anymore.”
Sax believes demonstrating is a means to drawing attention on the long-lasting conflict. The objective of the event was to educate and raise awareness of the necessity to support Israel and the people being victimized, according to Sax.
“All of this is happening and we just need to react,” Sax said. “We want people to recognize and understand the gravity of this situation and we want people to ask questions, be informed and continue dialogue.”
Another group of students responded to the tension in the demonstrations by sitting in the middle of Trousdale and playing “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”
All demonstrations stressed that they were not trying to conflict with the other one.
“I hope people are just aware,” Sax said. “If we engage students in educated dialogue I believe there will be some change.”