Arab and Muslim student organizations sponsored a rally on Wednesday on Hayden Lawn to promote awareness and call for an end to what they called Israeli aggression toward Gaza.
Students on both sides of the issue came out to voice their opinions and show their support for Israel, Gaza or simply peace with no political leaning in either direction.
Amirah Ismail, president of the Arab Student Association, which co-sponsored the event, said it provided a forum for students to talk about the conflict between Gaza and Israel.
“We hope to reach out to the hundreds of students who pass by Hayden Lawn,” Ismail said.
She added her organization’s desire was not to flare up political tempers.
“The purpose of our event at ASU is to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, not to provoke fights about political issues,” she said.
Hundreds of students stopped to pick up fliers, read signs and ask questions.
Among the tables and mock tombstones that represented the lives lost in the past three weeks, participants and observers could be seen discussing the differences between Palestinians and Israelis.
Leaders from Jewish campus organizations countered the event, with some students holding an Israeli flag next to a U.S. one.
Rose M., an engineering sophomore (who declined to give her last name because of the sensitivity of the issue), said she was upset that some students compared the Palestinian deaths to the Holocaust.
“Eight years of Hassam rockets from Gaza finally provoked a response,” Rose said. “We’re trying to make them understand our side and they’re not, so all I can do is support my side.”
Erin Searle, director of programming and outreach for Hillel at ASU, said she shared Rose’s sentiment.
“They were looking at it from one side,” Searle said. “It was more of a shock and awe presentation [than an educational one].”
Searle said she thought Wednesday’s events could have been more educational and less political, something contrary to the Arab Student Association’s goal.
Ismail said the purpose of the event was not to provoke fights about political issues.
But Searle said some participants incited conflict among students with opposing views.
“It was unfortunate that some of the students participating in the event ganged up on students distributing alternative information,” Searle said.
Those students were with Sun Devils for Israel, a pro-Israel student organization.
Searle said they handed out more 600 fliers that included information about the conflict and the violence and a timeline.
Chris Ferguson, an anthropology sophomore who stopped to listen, said he was not very familiar with the details about the conflict and wanted to learn about how it began.
“Both sides fired rockets, I’m trying to figure out why the first rocket was fired,” Ferguson said.
Denisse Roca, a justice studies doctoral candidate and member of Local-to-Local Justice, a secular organization that promotes global peace, said politics should be set aside for the common good of everyone affected on both sides.
“There is not a winner or a loser,” Roca said. “Everyone [loses] in this conflict.”
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