February 20, 2009

Gaza “mob” protests recent fighting

[img id="77311" align="alignleft"] As part of a protest organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, demonstrators appeared in Hutch Commons and Bartlett Dining Hall Tuesday to call attention to Israeli actions during the recent fighting in Gaza.

In the events, which organizers referred to as “flash mobs,” participants entered the halls during lunch and dinner hours en masse and then froze in place, some mid-conversation, for roughly five minutes. The students wore pictures from the conflict, or signs detailing perceived Israeli wrongdoings.

“The purpose was to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza, so that’s why we were all wearing pictures of the tragedies that have happened,” said fourth-year Gabe Gaster, one of the demonstrators. “The intent was to provoke people to think about the situation, and present them with facts for discussion. It was to try to get people to think and talk about how unnecessarily horrible the situation is.”

Aside from occasional comments or jeers, the demonstrations went off largely without incident.

Third-year Tova Levin, however, took offense at the event. “I’m upset about this,” Levin said. “A lot of these protesters had signs that were misinformed or wrong.” Levin, an event chair for Chicago Friends of Israel, was particularly concerned with a student she said was not Jewish wearing a sign reading “Orthodox Jews Against Israel,” which she saw as misleading.

Gaster denied that any of the group’s literature was factually incorrect. He responded that the sign in question was not attempting to mislead but rather to highlight what he felt should be a distinction between religion and politics.

Despite her own objections, Levin felt the demonstration went largely unnoticed. “I think most people ignored them,” she said.

At another table in Hutch, the protest provoked a heated conversation between several friends. “It’s generated discussion,” said one of the students, who asked not to be identified. “If they were trying to get people to talk about it, then it definitely worked.”