A rally organized by the University of Delaware Students for Justice in Palestine listened to calls for a ceasefire and expressions of grief for those killed during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel’s retaliation in Gaza.
“We come together to reaffirm our commitment to a peaceful and just resolution, one that upholds the rights and dignities of all parties involved,” the event’s moderator said in opening the rally. “As we raise our voices, let us remember the importance of dialogue, understanding and cooperation, for it is through these means that we can pave the path for a brighter future for Palestinian and marginalized groups everywhere.”
Several speakers, who seemed to be mostly students, read letters from people who did not want to read themselves and led the crowd in call-and-responses: “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry” with a crowd response of “Palestine will never die;” “Hey, hey, ho, ho” with a response of “The occupation has to go;” and, the most popular, “Free, Free Palestine” said by a speaker and repeated by the crowd.
One student thanked University President Dennis Assanis for encouraging the students to stand up for their convictions.
“I know that many of us are afraid to speak up for our beliefs on this, whether that be out of fear of retaliation from potential employers, deportation from this country, or violence and harassment against us and our loved ones,” one student said.
She cuted a Prophet Muhammad quote that said if you saw evil and could not change it with your hand, you should change it with your tongue.
The peaceful one-hour long rally on the Green in front of Memorial Hall was attended by about 200 people, including families with small children, at its peak.
At one lull in the amplified sound, a young man standing on a nearby brick wall screamed “God bless Israel. F–k Hamas.”
As he jumped off the wall, the crowd responded by breaking out in several spontaneous rounds of “Free, Free Palestine” while watching the screamer walk through a sidewalk archway off the Green.
A few minutes later, two university police officers appeared near the arch, but were not needed during the evening.
The rally ended with a die-in, illustrating the loss of life in Gaza. About half the crowd — mostly the young — laid down but tried to keep their signs and banners up and visible.
In the background, one man waved a large Pakistani flag.
Calls for justice
Ikram Masmoudi, a UD associate professor of Arabic, told the crowd they were there at the call of their consciences and humanity to express grief and sadness for the events unfolding in Gaza.
“We also condemn in the strongest terms the atrocious attacks of Oct. 7 on innocent Israeli people,” Masmoudi said, “but we also condemn the vicious, disproportionate, and the enraging retaliation of Israel.”
Israel’s attacks defy all international laws by bombing hospitals. churches, mosques, houses and schools, she said.
“It is an attack on all of humanity,” she said.
Elected officials must press for a ceasefire and a “serious” negotiated solution, she said.
“And not a return to the status quo that led to the deadlock where all parties find themselves today,” Masmoudi said. “Above all, we call for the end of the occupation. End occupation so that people — Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace, freedom and dignity. Free Palestine.”
Imam Arqum Rashid urged the crowd to fill the campus with noise by chanting “free, free Palestine.”
“There’s no doubt for the atrocities that have been taking place these last few days, and all of us have a lot of anger built inside of us,” he told the crowd. “But it is important that we not only get through this together, but we continuously advocate for those who are not able to do so for themselves.”
Rashid blamed the “sheer hypocrisy” of the media and elected officials.
“Whether they be left or right, we’re seeing hypocrisy on both sides, and it’s literally mind-boggling,” he said, to whoops of approval from the crowd.
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Where was the government during the last 16 years while Gaza was blockaded, he demanded.
The fight isn’t between two equal sides, he said.
“There’s only one occupying force in this scenario,” he said as the crowd took up the “free, free Palestine” chant.
“There is only one side that blockades the land of a people,” Rashid said. “There was only one side that blockades the seat of a people. There is only one side that controls the airspace of a people. Palestine does not occupy Israel. Israel occupies the land of Palestine.”
He offered a prayer for the crowd to never allow themselves to side with the oppressor, no matter who that oppressor may be.
“To never allow us to side on the side of injustice, to always allow us to stand up no matter who we are standing up for — Muslims, nonMuslims, Christians, Jews, doesn’t matter,” he said. “We ask God Almighty to grant us the ability to continue the great work of humanity.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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