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Dual commemorations lead to strife

Current events sparked strife between Palestinian and Jewish students Tuesday, a day meant to commemorate historical significance in both cultures.

Approximately 30 students gathered on Northrop Mall, arguing and pointing fingers at one another following a demonstration to raise awareness of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“This happens every time we try to hold an informational event,” said Ayman Balshe, Arab Student Association president.

Balshe said the ASA, along with three other student groups, organized the demonstration to commemorate the 1948 Deiryassin Massacre of more than 300 Palestinians.

“Every year we do something to call attention to the massacre,” Balshe said.

Approximately 70 demonstrators marched from Northrop Mall to the West Bank and back while holding signs and calling for the end of the occupation.

“Today around the world this day has been declared a day of solidarity for the Palestinian people,” Balshe said.

Less than 100 yards away, on the plaza in front of Williamson Hall, approximately 40 people attended a Hillel celebration of Yom Hashoah. Participants commemorated the Holocaust with songs, poems and a speech by Sabina Zimering, a Holocaust survivor and former Medical School professor.

“(Yom Hashoah) is supposed to be a day of freedom and peace,” said Robyn Miller, a political science and Jewish studies major attending the ceremony. “It’s sort of out of taste for them to hold their rally today.”

Amy Olson, Hillel’s director, said the students have a right to protest and did not know if the demonstration was intentional, given the significance of the day for the Jewish culture.

Following the ceremony, students from the Yom Hashoah celebration moved to the mall to light candles. That is when the two sides started arguing.

Koby Nahmias, Friends of Israel president, said the Palestinian supporters started shouting when Jewish students confronted them about their comparison of the Israeli occupation to the Holocaust.

“You can’t compare (the occupation) to the Holocaust when a war is going on,” Nahmias said.

Mazher Alzoby, a cultural studies graduate student, said Israel is trying to eliminate the Palestinian population in the same way the Nazis attempted to destroy the Jewish population during World War II.

Olson said she thought the current suicide bombings and terrorist acts in the Middle East were despicable and said she hopes there is a way for Israel and the Palestinians to come to a peaceful settlement.

She said the purpose of Israel trying to eliminate terrorism is not to further oppress the Palestinians.

Balshe said even with the confrontation, the demonstration was a success.

Hopefully the two groups can get together to discuss their differences and prove they can move beyond shouting, Balshe said.

“We’ve got to show the public we can sit down and talk without calling each other names,” Balshe said.

Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected]

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