Protestors condemn Israel for West Bank violence

by Mike Wereschagin

Next Monday is the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It is a day where, after adequate reflection, practicing Jews atone for their transgressions, both minor and significant.
Wednesday, nearly 100 people gathered on Northrop Mall and demanded Israel move that schedule forward a few days.
Fueled by the blood spilled around Jerusalem this past week in the latest clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, University students, faculty and Twin Cities community members called for an end to Israeli aggression in the area.
The battles, which have left almost 70 people dead as of Tuesday night, began when right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon made an appearance on Haram al Sharif.
Known to Jews as Temple Mount, Haram al Sharif has historically been one of the most bitterly disputed areas in the Holy Land.
And Ariel Sharon has historically been one of the most volatile public figures in Israeli-Arab conflicts.
Sharon, who orchestrated the 1982 massacres of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon, arrived at Temple Mount with about 1,000 armed police officers, anti-terrorism squads and a hovering police helicopter.
Palestinians began to riot soon after Sharon’s visit, hurling rocks at Israeli police and military personnel.
Israel’s response has come under fire for being too severe and has inflamed groups of Arabs worldwide. Specifically, Israel’s use of live ammunition and an instance where they reportedly fired anti-tank missiles at Palestinians have caused many to question Israel’s tactics.
The catalyst for the growing unrest came on Sept. 30th in the form of 12-year-old Mohammed Aldura. Aldura and his father, Jamal, were gunned down by Israeli police after being pinned beneath a metal obstruction, according to The Associated Press. Jamal was hospitalized with five bullet wounds. Mohammed was killed.
In fact, of the 66 killed in the conflicts, 33 were younger than 18 years old, said Ayman Balshe, political chair of the University’s Arab Student Association.
Only a matter of time
Because of Israeli oppression of Palestinian citizens, the recent clashes have been a long time coming, Balshe added.
“People started to lose hope,” he said. “It wasn’t a question of ‘Was it going to happen?’ It was a question of ‘When was it going to happen?’ And so came Ariel Sharon. He was the spark that ignited everything.”
“The Jewish community is admitting the Sharon move was in bad taste,” said Shep Harris, director of public affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “It definitely was not the right time to do this.”
But the violence with which Palestinians responded is completely uncalled for, Harris added.
“It was completely lawful for (Sharon) to go to Temple Mount,” he said. “But (the Palestinians’) violence is not.”
And though Sharon was the spark, Harris said the “gasoline had already been laid by (Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yassir) Arafat.
“People are getting impatient,” he said. “They were looking for an excuse to vent their frustration.
“I definitely question (Sharon’s) motives of going up (onto Temple Mount) at this time. But the way we see it, Israel has bent over backwards to maintain stability and come up with some sort of long lasting peace agreement.”
The 100 people on Northrop Mall, however, saw things differently.
Protesters accused Israel of being an apartheid state, violating Palestinians’ human rights and creating a culture of oppression.
Holding up signs with messages like “Killing children is not peace,” “Israel: Stop doing what Hitler did to the Jews,” and an Israeli flag stained with red hand prints, they called for an immediate cessation of United States funding to Israel.
“The Israeli state is built on the backs of the Palestinian people,” said August Nimtz, University political science professor. “And Washington is culpable.”
Nimtz added that American dollars pay for the bullets and rockets that are killing Palestinians.
“It’s unreal,” Nimtz said. “It makes no difference who’s negotiating these peace accords. You can’t have peace when one layer of humanity has its foot on another layer of humanity.”
But violence and provocation has not solely come from the Israelis, Harris said.
“I didn’t hear these people when the buses were being bombed back in 1995 expressing their disgust over the victimization of Israelis,” he said.
Amy Olsen, who works in the Hillel Jewish Community Center, said blaming either party is not a productive way of dealing with the violence.
“Both sides are going to have to give something up,” Olsen said, as protesters circled the mall behind her chanting “Long live Palestine!”
“There needs to be a serious cease-fire,” she said. “People cannot progress if there is violence.”
Adam Dobberfuhl, a biology junior, said he fully supports the protesters. He is also Jewish.
“As a Jew, I am deeply outraged at these killings,” Dobberfuhl said. “All U.S. aid to Israel (totalling nearly $3 billion annually) should be cut off immediately. It is the only pressure Israel will respond to.”
Polly Mann, a founder of Women Against Military Madness, said the United States is unfairly partial to Israelis.
“We have invested so much in them, we can’t be unbiased,” Mann said. “Another part of the problem is probably racial. Arabs are stereotyped as being violent or terrorists and that simply is not fair.
“There is good and bad in all of us.”

Mike Wereschagin can be reached at [email protected]