In response to the peaceful sit-in in solidarity with Palestine organized by Students for a Democratic Society on Feb. 6, a handful of other UR student groups have offered their opinions in regard to the protest.
‘Some students felt uncomfortable with how SDS presented their protest, while others were upset,” President of UR Hillel and sophomore Laura Seide said. ‘Although those who we have spoken with believe SDS has a right to express their opinion, they were also confused to the motives behind SDS’s actions, something that we feel has not been fully explained.”
Seide also added her statements should not be taken as a reflection of every Jewish student on campus.
Hillel believed SDS’s demands were one-sided and not conducive to its goal of a peaceful resolution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Seide explained.
‘Although we do not support the demands of SDS, we do not agree with the violence in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel,” Seide said.
She noted that Hillel and the UR Israel Council co-sponsored a peace vigil with the Muslim Students Association and SADACA to honor and remember all of those who died in the conflict. Members of the UR Israel Council hung up flyers around campus with hope of spreading awareness about the pro-Israel point of view in the Gaza conflict.
‘So many people everywhere get a one-sided view of what is happening in Israel,” UR Israel Council’s Co-President and junior Ross Nachbi said. ‘With SDS’s activity, we felt responsible to stand up for those with pro-Israel views who were feeling threatened since no one had stood up for Israel’s side.”
Nachbi added the objective of the flyer campaign was to educate the River Campus on the other side of the conflict. There was a particular emphasis, Nachbi explained, on making students aware of Hamas, the democratically elected government of Palestine considered a terrorist group by the United States.
‘The goal of the flyers was to educate the campus of the other side of the conflict,” she added. ‘It was important to us to go beyond the number of casualties and to show that there is a terrorist group [Hamas] that was democratically elected by the Palestinian people that is behind the fighting.”
As far as the sit-in itself, Nachbi was surprised by SDS’s actions, but could understand the reasoning.
‘There are certainly issues that need to be addressed regarding Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. ‘And while SDS took a strong approach, our views are not in accordance.
‘We were surprised that they took an extreme position regarding the demands but think it is good that students are beginning to stand up for what they feel on this campus,” he added.
UR Muslim Students’ Association Vice President Sulekha Abukar said her group was approached by SDS, but as a whole remained indifferent.
‘Although we were approached about the event, MSA as a whole did not have a joint opinion,” Abukar said. ‘We had members who were enthusiastic about bringing aid to Gaza and others who were concerned about possible consequences of the event.”
Talks between Dean of Students Matthew Burns and SDS have been slow because Burns was out of the office last week. Both sides plan to further discussions well into the future.
Seide was asked if her group had any further actions.
‘We do not plan to respond to SDS, nor do we plan to be involved in their discussions with the administration, she said. ‘We do plan to continue to offer interfaith programs, faith programs and Israel programs. We believe that properly mediated and informed campus discussion should be made in regards to the conflict.
Peaceful cooperation with other student groups and a willingness to continue discussions with the University were also part of Hillel’s plans, according to Seide.
Smith is a member of the class of 2011.