Pro-Palestinian protest demands action, Hillel opposes

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“Keep on supporting Palestine, and do not be afraid,” was heard on Tuesday, Nov. 2, as University of Connecticut students gathered on Fairfield Way to protest the Israeli takeover in Palestine, while UConn’s Hillel organization, center for Jewish student life at the university, set up a booth in silent opposition to the movement  

During the protest, members of the campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine spoke about the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sana Qureshi, a ninth-semester math major, is a student that came to support the protest and believes America has a part in the violence.  

“America is continuously funding Israel, and therefore, putting their money towards the oppression of Palestinians as well,” Qureshi said in an interview after the protest took place. 

Qureshi said the university contributes to this oppression by funding companies that build military weapons used for violence.  

“Students at UConn… go to a university that continuously funds and supports industries in Connecticut and the rest of the US that makes aerospace and defense items that get sent over to Israel and other parts of the world that oppress others. It is our right to speak up against those things,” Qureshi said. 

During the rally, student speakers listed the ways in which they want students, professionals, professors and the university to support Palestine.  

SJP student organizers said actions in support of Palestine include calling local politicians, looking into the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement and demanding university divestment from companies that fund weapon manufacturers.  

Layan Alnajjar, a fifth-semester marketing major, was one of the students who vocalized her beliefs, and during her speech, she encouraged people and institutions to stop funding corporations that make weapons that aid in the destruction of Palesteninan people.  

“Ditch companies and products that actively support the oppression of Palestinian people, say yes to Palestinian companies, say no to Lockheed Martin, Paypal and Caterpillar,” Alnajjar said during her speech.  

According to the BDS website, the movement is a Palestinian-led organization compiling multiple pro-Palestenian groups that support the movement’s cause and advocate for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.  

Alnajjar said she was happy to speak at the rally about a cause she believes in. She said she enjoys speaking out about issues that are important to her. 

“I spoke today because I just feel that no one at UConn knows what’s going on. No one knows how UConn is taking their tuition and funding it toward genocide,” Alnajjar said in an interview after the event.  

Alnajjar said she has been a long time advocate for Palestine, and she hopes to bring new information to UConn students. She said the Israeli-Palestine conflict is not something discussed often on UConn’s campus. 

“I have been fighting for Palestinian justice for years now, and I’m just really happy that I got to bring it to UConn campus just because it’s something that’s just not spoken on,” Alnajjar said.  

Alnajjar said the one thing she wants students to do is to amplify the voices of Palestinian students and speak out about the cause.  

“I would want people to know that the best way to support us on campus is to amplify our voices, to educate ourselves and to educate each other on what’s truly happening in Palestine and what they can do to back us,” Alnajjar said.  

Lena Maarouf, a seventh-semester communications major and president of SJP, said they wanted to organize the event to bring attention to the cause.  

“We really wanted to get the student body out here just to inform the people, inform the public, inform UConn and inform the students about where UConn’s money is going and what they are funding,” said Maarouf. “I would encourage students to look up BDS, look up the specific companies that we are boycotting and divesting from because a lot of people try and get caught up into like small companies that might support Israel but that’s not how we’re gonna make a change, that’s not how we’re gonna get attention.”  

During the protest, members of UConn’s Hillel organization were present, spreading their message and support for Israel by handing out pamphlets and stickers to demonstrators to protest against the SJP’s event silently.  

Joshua Waxman, a seventh-semester dual major in economics and human rights at the protest with UConn Hillel, said the organization did not want to disrupt the SJP protest. 

“We didn’t want to interfere with anything they were doing, we didn’t want to make a noise, make a scene, try [not] to be loud or draw attention away from their event, we just wanted to make sure that there was accurate information being portrayed from all sides and all angles,” Waxman said.  

Waxman said he feels like people get into a habit of thinking about contentious issues as black and white. He said people fail to consider all sides.  

“People really fall into a trap of pro-this, anti-this, and I think it’s disingenuous,” Waxman said. “I don’t think that being pro-Israel means you’re anti-Palestinian, just like I don’t think being pro-Palestine means your anti-Israel, and it, those terms, are honestly simplifications of a greater issue that people use because it’s convenient.”  

Waxman said Jewish people have a connection and long history to the land that Israel and Palestine have disputed over for years.  He said Jewish people have a long history of involvement with the land that Israel and Palestine are fighting over.  

“I want to make sure people realize the Jewish people have a connection to this land that goes back thousands and thousands of years, and us being there didn’t just happen,” Waxman said. 

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