Palestinian supporters and other activists staged a “Rally for Palestinian Human Rights” yesterday on Ho Plaza before a crowd of over 100.
Organized by the Muslim Education and Cultural Association (MECA) and the Arab Club, “the point of this rally is not about our side versus their side, Israel versus Palestine. We want you to be educated,” explained Rebecca Abou-Chedid ’01, Arab Club co-chair, at the rally.
“It is an awful tragedy that 160 Palestine civilians have been killed, 54 percent of them under the age of 15. If we want peace, we need a generation to grow up without violence,” she added.
As the crowd gathered, organizers passed out flyers on the religious importance of Jerusalem and about other aspects of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Participants in the rally held up signs protesting alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian Arabs.
Arab Club Co-Chair Tareq Aryne ’01 challenged the audience to look beyond campus and study the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to understand how Palestinians are being violated.
He said, “Living in a liberal, academic environment we can take these rights for granted. We cannot forget about the Palestinians, we cannot forget about their human rights.”
He continued to explain, “I realize that violations exist on all sides of the conflict. Israelis and Palestinians have been violated in the past.”
Most of the speakers pressed the point that the rally was not intended to place blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
MECA President Omer Bajwas grad, spoke passionately on this issue. “Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you’re going to be a stupid racist on either side than that’s all you are — a stupid racist. I know there’s been blame on both sides but the whole point that you are [at the rally] is that you care about peace,” he said.
Asma Barlas, Chair of the Politics Department at Ithaca College and Ayca Cubukcu ’01, of Amnesty International Ithaca Chapter specifically addressed human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
Cubukcu blamed Israel for demolishing Palestinian homes, shooting civilians, shutting down the airport, and forming special forces.
Barlas voice flooded with emotion as she spoke of her own pain in reaction to the alleged abuses against Palestinians. “The stories you’ve been hearing about the barbarian Palestinian are not new — that myth has been used for centuries to oppress,” she said.
Pointing to the innocent casualties of the violence, Barlas added, “It is not just Israel versus Palestine. I want us to see it in the faces of the children.”
The issue of the human rights of Palestinian children was an important point for many at the rally. An advertisement for the rally read, “Brutal and overwhelming military force cannot be compared to the stones and slingshots of Palestinian youth.” Many of the participants held up posters with pictures of injured or dead Palestinian children. Aryne asked simply, “How can a child under 15 be a threat?”
Josh Gleis ’02, former president and active member of Cornell Israeli Political Action Committee (CIPAC) said he supports a pro-peace message, “There have been some flyers that I’ve seen where Israelis are said to be murdering children. It’s a much more complex situation than [simply that] Israelis are murdering children.”
Onlooker Christine Banks ’03 reacted to the posters of the children. She said, “It looks like they’re representing more Palestinian children that have been hurt rather than any Israeli children that have been hurt.”
Tensions heightened when some members of Israeli Student Association, CIPAC, Hillel, and the Center for Jewish Living passed out flyers declaring that “Palestinian leaders are exploiting children and risking their lives in a political fight.”
Dan Kassel, president of CIPAC explained, “There was a group of students who wanted to stand at the rally to show their solidarity for Israel. We did hand out flyers mostly before and after the rally to try and counter their one-sided signs and speeches.”
Abou-Chedid said she respected the pro-Israel groups’ right to attend the rally but claimed, “information on the flyers were factually incorrect. I think they should be more responsible. If they’re going to hand things out to the public they should do their homework.”
After the rally, the flyer exchange led to heated verbal exchanges among a few scattered groups of students. A Cornell University Police officer mediated an argument between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students who lingered after the rally.
Archived article by April Sommer