Supporters of Israel, Palestine rally in Gainesville to raise awareness


University of Florida students and area organizations are working to spread awareness about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by holding rallies in Turlington Plaza.

“There’s been thousands of deaths over the years. It’s been an ongoing conflict that the U.S. totally supports Israel and doesn’t even show the side of the Palestinian people, and that’s why we’re here,” said Rami Okasha, vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine. “We advocate for a political solution that is a just solution for Israelis and for Palestinians.”

The human rights organization held a rally last week and held another demonstration today.

Vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine Rami Okasha discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Alice Rix, a Jewish University of Florida student. Students for Justice in Palestine opposes Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and supports Palestine being an independent nation.

Students in support of Israel also held a rally last week. UF Hillel Rabbi Daniel Wolnerman said the conflict is a global issue, not just a Jewish or Israeli issue.

“This is a universal issue whereby the entire world every man, woman, child agrees that if another nation or if a group of people are launching missiles at us we have to do something about it — we have to,” he said. “The rally at the University of Florida last week was an attempt to show the student base, Gainesville and really the entire world that first of all the pro-Israel and the Jewish students stand with Israel.”

Wolnerman said the conflict is not a new issue.

“When talking about the history of this conflict we have to realize that it’s not as much a modern political issue that only arose over the past few weeks or past few years but really this stretches back millennia,” he said.  “Ultimately the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in that part of the world is literally thousand of years old and a failure to understand things in their proper historical context usually leads to a significant amount of misunderstanding.”

Okasha disagrees. He said the issue is in fact a modern one.

“They often say things like ‘Oh, they have been fighting for 2,000 years,’ but Islam has only been around for 1,400 years. Second of all, before 1948, …all Palestinians — Jews,  Christians and Muslims — they lived together in peace.”

Wolnerman said the violence must stop in order for the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their issues.

Okasha agrees with the idea of peace being a possibility, but he said it can only happen if Palestinians are given the same rights as the Israelis.

Both UF Hillel and Students for Justice in Palestine said they will be holding rallies and spreading awareness as long as the conflict continues. There is hope that this Friday’s meeting between the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil and Palestinian officials in Gaza will be the first step towards peace.

Emily Miller edited this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing or calling 352-294-1525.

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