Students protest violence toward civilians in Gaza Strip

Students for Justice in Palestine held a silent protest on the Quad on Tuesday in opposition of what the group’s president called a “disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate fire” by Israel.

The organization was protesting to raise awareness among college students about the conflict in Gaza, said Tariq Shihadah, president of SJP and sophomore in DGS. About 24 people attended the protest, he said.

“We’re just trying to present objective information as well as an often-forgotten perspective,” he said. “We’re trying to expose the seriousness of the injustice that’s been happening in Gaza and Palestine at large.”

Shihadah said the majority of the estimated casualties in Gaza were civilians and many were minors, while Israel had substantially fewer casualties.

The demonstration involved members of SJP and of several different organizations. It also had the support of some professors, including Farhad Malekafzali, political science lecturer.

The recent airstrikes the Israeli Defense Forces carried out against the Gaza Strip began Nov. 14 when Israel killed the Hamas military leader, Malekafzali said.

“That resulted in Hamas firing missiles, which Israel used as a pretext to launch its own massive bombardment,” Malekafzali said.

Both factions agreed to a cease-fire after eight days of fighting.

Tali Segev, member and former president of Israel Illini and senior in LAS, said the protestors were right to speak out about the deaths but were placing too much blame on the IDF and ignored a significant contributor to the civilian death toll — Hamas.

“I understand where the protest was coming from, but the operation wasn’t unprovoked,” Segev said. “It (the protest) should have recognized the role that Hamas is playing in endangering Palestinian lives.”

Segev said the IDF made efforts to “minimize civilian causalities,” and the deaths resulted largely because Hamas used Palestinians as shields by firing missiles into Israel from civilian-based locations.

Segev also said Israel had a right to retaliate against Hamas to protect its civilians.

“No state would acquiesce to live in a reality in which its civilians are continuously attacked,” Segev said. “The state of Israel has the legal right and the moral obligation to protect its citizens.”

The University’s Diversity and Social Justice Education as well as Illini Hillel, Interfaith in Action, Israel Illini, Students for Justice in Palestine and the University YMCA are sponsoring a “Candlelight Vigil for Peace in Israel and Palestine” on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Alma Mater.

“This event is not about advocating a perspective or goal, but to come together in a shared hope for better times,” said Ross Wantland, assistant director of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, in a news release.

Austin can be reached at akkeati2@dailyillini.com.