Wheeler 1, Protesters 0

Paul is upset no one occupied Dwinelle during French. Console him at [email protected]





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Two of the most annoying yet famous UC Berkeley novelties were out in full force yesterday.

With the first day of ASUC voting comes the beginning of the final campaign push, which translates for us into more fliers, more pickets and more campaigners wanting to walk us to class.

Yet an alternative attention-grabber overshadowed the ASUC campaigning, which typically should be a favorable situation for UC Berkeley students. Not this time. Instead, the unofficial Berkeley institution of the protest managed to serve as the greater nuisance, something quite difficult to accomplish when ASUC campaigning is in full force.

The demonstration by the Students for Justice in Palestine yesterday in itself should've been sufficient to disrupt UC Berkeley students' daily routines-the protest provided enough of a distraction to indirectly affect the productivity of my French class, making it nearly impossible to differentiate between what sounded like gibberish coming from the protesters and the foreign language being spoken in class.

The protest was compounded by a funny and insignificant police presence from both the Berkeley and the UC police departments. Both must have the unfounded idea that shutting things down will act as a deterrent to criminal activity. Berkeley police shut down one block of Telegraph Avenue, and UC police barred students from entering Moffitt Library.

Now if the Students for Justice in Palestine sought to shut down Wheeler Hall, then wouldn't the two police departments shutting down Telegraph and Moffitt compound such a problem and only satisfy the protesters' intention of making students' lives a bit more strenuous? It felt as if the police were conducting a quiet, yet effective, counterprotest of their own.

Past protest stars had cameos in this demonstration. A handful of anti-war banners peered from the crowd along with the few quintessential "Free (insert pseudo-political prisoner's name here) now!"

While the annoyance factor was an issue, credence must be granted to the greater issues: the protest itself and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Several students, when learning of the Students for Justice in Palestine demonstration, argued that the timing of such an event made it distasteful, as yesterday was a day of remembrance of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The protesters point out that April 9 was also the day of remembrance of the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin, in which 100 Palestinians were murdered at the hands of Israeli militants.

While using this as a reason to support the timing of the demonstration, some protesters were holding signs that criticized the Israelis for using the Holocaust to justify its presence in Palestine. Now, if the Israelis are to be criticized for using the murder of six million of their own to justify their cause, then what makes the demonstrators justified in using the massacre of 100 of their own to support the timing of their own demonstration?

While the demonstration and attempted takeover of Wheeler Hall were flawed in themselves, neither side of the conflict can claim the moral or logical high ground of the issue. The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw its forces from the West Bank, yet an unprecedented number of radical suicide bombers kill Israeli civilians each week.

On the other side, Ariel Sharon demands that Yasser Arafat do more to quell and arrest the radical suicide bombers. How can that be expected considering Arafat's confinement to a few rooms and the destruction of Palestinian jails, making any arresting of terrorists ineffective? Both sides have ethical issues to work out before they can seek the sympathy of any outside observer.

But the immediate issue on campus is the attention yesterday's demonstration is attracting. Local news broadcasters seemed to have more of an interest in the protest than the campus's own students, which raises the question of whether or not the demonstration was successful in garnering sympathy for the Palestinians' cause.

Hey, at least we all got a little break from ASUC campaigning.

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