Students Rally Against Israeli Military Actions in Palestine

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Pro-Palestine students staged a protest Wednesday on the steps of Upper Sproul Plaza condemning Israeli actions while Israeli supporters countered with a silent demonstration.

The protest, held by Students for Justice in Palestine, focused on alleged injustices committed by the Israeli government and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"For there to be peace, there has to be an end to the violent Israeli apartheid," said Will Youmans, a student at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law and a member of the organization. "Israeli policy is antithetical to any idea of peace."

Demonstrators staged a skit of what they called Israeli aggression.

Abdul Zahzah, a second-year graduate student, held a picture of Sharon in front of his face and walked across the Sproul steps, crushing cardboard models of Palestinian homes and pretending to attack group members.

Youmans and Snehal Shingavi, a fifth-year graduate student, accused Israel of being an apartheid state, and Sharon of being a war criminal.

The Israel Action Committee held Israeli flags, signs and a large banner that read "Israel Wants Peace. We Have No Partner."

"Berkeley is a place that cares for human rights and democracy, and it's unfortunate that these people rally around a cause that supports terrorism and violence," said freshman Micki Weinberg, an executive member of the committee.

However, David Demko, a fifth-year graduate student, said the protest's elements were believable.

"What they're showing is realistic. It's well-documented how many olive trees have been destroyed and how Palestinians are second-class," Demko said.

The committee's counter-protest was held to support Israel in what it said is a biased and, in some cases, "anti-Semitic" climate. Weinberg said he believes Berkeley students are misguided in their support for Palestine's cause. He said many deny Israel's right to exist.

Weinberg also said the violence he says has been committed by certain Palestinian groups shows an opposition to peace on the Palestinian side.

"The intifada is pure terrorism," said Weinberg. "Where both sides are suffering, there is no excuse for terror."

During the protest, Youmans questioned the validity of Israel's claims for desiring peace, arguing that Israel elected a war criminal to be prime minister.

Shingavi challenged the committee's claim that Israel is suffering. He said Israel uses its military might to attack Palestinians, who he said live in poverty while Israelis enjoy a strong economy because of U.S. aid.

"The entire mythology of Israeli victimhood needs to be shattered," Shingavi said.

Some students watching the protest said they did not believe the protesters' message for peace.

"You can holler all day long, but at the end of the day you see the suicide bombings and it's hard to believe the Palestinians want peace," said Alex Johnston, a fifth-year international relations major who watched the demonstration.

The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations held by the Students for Justice in Palestine. They have been staging demonstrations for a year-and-a-half in support of the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000.


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