Close to 500 University students, professors, activists and other community members protested against Israel’s armed attacks on Gaza this week.
Princeton for Palestine members and other protestors marched down Nassau Street and gathered in front of the Wilson School, chanting and holding signs in support of Palestine to raise awareness and urge fellow citizens to contact their elected officials for further support.
Chants included slogans such as “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more for Israel’s crimes” and “Killing each other is a crime, free, free Palestine,” according to lawyer and Princeton for Palestine member Mohammad Ali Naquvi.
The rally was initiated by Amal Awad, a Palestinian-American who said he felt it was time to take a stand against the recent violence in Gaza, Naquvi explained. Awad had contacted various community members a couple of weeks before the rally to spread the word and organize guest speaker appearances.
Guest speakers included town resident and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, and political scientist Norman Finkelstein GS ’87, who said that President Obama was the “enabler-in-Chief of this massacre.”
Finkelstein said that Obama and his aides repeatedly announced that Israel has the right to defend itself, even after numerous human rights organizations had started documenting the Palestinian death toll, giving Israel the “green light” to continue the massacre.
However, he added, it is only when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, whom Finkelstein called a “puppet” of the United States, decried Israel’s actions as criminal, that the State Department said the violence in Gaza was “disgraceful.” That same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the ground invasion in Gaza was over, Finkelstein noted.
“Anyone who has an ounce of gray matter upstairs can see cause and effect,” Finkelstein said of Israel’s response to American criticism.
Naquvi said that, although the speakers represented a unified cause, their opinions varied on specific issues.
“We didn’t want to limit the event to any one scope,” he explained, adding that the group felt comfortable discussing different ideas on the conflict.
Four counter-protestors showed up to the rally in defense of Israel, but Naquvi said they were very peaceful and held up signs without chanting.
Before the Princeton rally, guidelines were set to prohibit violence and hateful slogans or posters of any kind, Naquvi said. Although he acknowledged that certain people inevitably infringe on these guidelines during any march, he said the atmosphere was overall constructive and positive.
Naquvi added that a statement was read during the rally in support of the “marginalized” citizens of Ferguson, Mo., in response to the recent shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager by a police officer. The statement was put forward by Palestinian activists living in Palestine who feel some solidarity with the Ferguson community, Naquvi said.
Naquvi said he thinks that U.S. media has shown more balanced coverage during this conflict than during other major conflicts between Israel and Palestine, but added that he thinks more needs to be done to educate Americans on the conflict.