An occasionally heated discussion that lasted for more than 90 minutes broke out between participants of an Israeli memorial service and people who participated in an Amnesty International demonstration on the steps of Wilson Commons on Tuesday.

As part of Israel week, the Hillel Foundation held a memorial service in the Hirst Lounge for Israelis killed by acts of terror. After learning of the event, Amnesty International decided on Monday to hold a rally for peace at the same time, according to Amnesty International president and senior Kirk Scirto.

Some of the participants of the Israeli memorial disliked Amnesty’s presence during the service. “I think it’s disrespectful,” graduate student Sahar Oz said. “They should have more respect than doing this at the same time.”

Amnesty decided to demonstrate because the group felt that the service ignored Palestinian deaths. “We feel it is important to be more objective on this,” Scirto said. “We are trying to represent deaths on both sides. We’re coming down against violence.”

Graduate student and participant in the Israeli service Rami Katz believed that the day was meant to only remember Israeli deaths due to Israel week. “The point [of the service] is our sorrow and remembrance,” Katz said. “We are here to remember the sorrow and prevent further sorrow from happening.”

Graduate student Hicham Safieddine participated in the Amnesty rally. “I’m here to voice my concerns regarding the violation of human rights,” Safieddine said. “I would like to voice my frustration with Israeli army because of their lack of any sort of humanitarian approach. I’m also unhappy with America’s support of Israel’s actions against an armless population.”

On his way to the Israeli ceremony, Katz passed by Amnesty’s rally and invited Amnesty International inside to join in the service. “I’m for peace ? I’m against violence,” Katz said.

While the Israeli ceremony took place inside, Amnesty International held signs with phrases such as “For peace and progress both sides must renounce violence,” and “Tanks and guns are never the solution.”

After the Israeli ceremony ended, some participants exited the building and confronted members of Amnesty. Oz took issue with the use of green and red in one of the posters, which are colors that are prominent on the Palestinian flag. Members of Amnesty said that they used those colors, along with others, due to availability of markers.

Members of Amnesty believed that a poster used during the service featured the faces of Israelis killed by “Arab terror” labeled all Arabs as terrorists. “I felt very offended,” Safieddine said. “They don’t have any reference to Arabs killed. My question for them is why they branded Arabs as terrorists.”

Oz thought that the poster was accurate. “The propritiators of every single murder on the poster was a Palestinian Arab,” Oz said. “40 to 50 percent of them were done by Palestinian authority, and the Palestinians don’t deny this.”

At 6:45 p.m., Amnesty International officially left, while some of its members stayed to continue the discussion.

The discussion covered many topics, including the founding of Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, and the idea of sovereignty.

“I personally have sympathy for both sides,” Scirto said. “I have a very complicated stance on this issue. We’re doing this to promote discussion and we’re trying to open minds.”

Katz believes that participants in both meetings are trying to achieve the same goal of peace. “I’m here because I wanted to show that the Israeli side is also very committed to ending violence,” Katz said.

Schnee can be reached at cschnee@campustimes.org.



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