SJP holds protest to raise awareness about ongoing crisis in Gaza
In the wake of the worsening conflict in Israel and Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine gathered in front of M.D. Anderson Library Thursday afternoon for an event called Day of Resistance: Protest for Palestine.
The protest began with a group Duhr prayer to express the student’s solidarity. With signs and flags raised, students began the protest by declaring that the attacks on Gaza were genocide.
Students chanted various statements including: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “we want justice, you say how, end the ethnic cleansing now,” and “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, we will never let you die.”
Protestors urged students to base their opinions not just off of recent events but to research the history of the conflict and to speak up in opposition to the killing of civilians.
“For the past 75 years, Israel has been occupying Palestinian land,” said finance senior Omar Kanaan, and the protest’s spokesperson. “Both sides have had deaths, but at the same time, the Palestinians’ deaths have been happening for the past 75 years, and it seems like no one wants to talk about it.”
Typically, it’s taboo to talk about this subject and people complain that the topic is too complex, Kanaan said. But he urged students to research the history and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Seeing as most UH students are limited in their ability to assist Palestinians directly, raising awareness felt like the least they could do. Some students, like psychology junior Rabeeya Khan, said remaining silent amounted to an implicit endorsement of oppression.
For many students, since fighting on the front lines isn’t an option, showing support was the least thing they could do.
“Being silent is being with the oppressor,” Khan said. “I decided to come out today because we literally have been seeing a genocide since the Nakba happened, and enough is enough.”
The Nakba, meaning catastrophe in Arabic, refers to the mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. There are now more than five million Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
“Rebellion and retaliation are human rights,” Khan said. “I cannot believe that our government is endorsing these crimes when Israel has been murdering children, and women indiscriminately. They have cut off water to Gaza, and we must do something.”
Protest organizers said that, for them, this was and will never be a religious issue. They see the current conflict as a continuation of almost 100 years of colonial rule. From the point of view of many of the protesters, Israel’s actions amount to ethnic cleansing.
“The occupation of Israel is wrong,” said management information systems junior Sarina Momin. “Right now there’s going to be a genocide if they keep going at the rate they’re going. And this must end or otherwise, two million lives — half of which are children — are going to be slaughtered in the next coming days.”
Momin and many others said that the situation in Palestine amounts to nothing less than modern day apartheid. Now, with Israel preparing for a ground assault of the Gaza Strip, protesters worry that the loss of water, fuel and electricity will only exacerbate an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
“The subjugation of the Zionist regime of Israel has caused so much divide and anger and loss of life for Palestinian people,” Momin said.
Students also pointed out what they saw as the irony of the situation. They said that the subjugation of Palestinians has been ongoing for nearly a century with a lack of media coverage, yet any retaliation is heavily criticized.
“For the past 75 years Palestinians have faced nothing but torment from the Israeli military and now suddenly as they decide to retaliate, it’s seen as an act of terrorism,” said psychology freshman Sara Khokhar. “We don’t think that’s right or fair, and we think that harm is being done to Palestinians and we would like that to be resolved.”
The protest garnered the attention of not just students but other residents who decided to visit the University to participate.
Overall, most protestors had one common goal: Educating and bringing light to the suffering of Palestinians.
“I think that educating people is the most important thing because, without education, we’re all animals,” Kanaan said. “Us being out here if it just drives five people, let’s say, to learn more about Palestine and the Palestinian occupation that’s been happening for the past 75 years, I think that’s a goal won.”
The protest was brought to an end with the following sentiment: “I believe that we will win.”
“This isn’t something new but it’s time to spread awareness because sometimes it takes a little bit of media in order for us to come out here and protest and show our solidarity with Palestinians and try to spread a message,” Kanaan said.