Friday, October 16, 2009

Protesting Olmert on University of Chicago Campus

"Shame, Shame, U of C, Palestine will be free!" Yesterday afternoon (October 16th), I stood in the rain in a crowd of two hundred who had gathered to protest Ehud Olmert's speech on the University of Chicago campus. The message of the demonstration was simple and clear: Ehud Olmert should be giving a speech at the Hague, not an academic institution.

Olmert, of course, was Israel's prime minister during Israel's bombing of Gaza last December. The United Nations recently found that Israeli authorities committed war crimes during their attack and has condemned the ongoing siege of Gaza.

And we in Chicago do too!

As a part of the demonstration, fifty students (hear that, 50!) attended Olmert's speech and countered what he had to say. I'm told that Olmert was hardly able to finish a sentence - when he talked about peace, students talked about his occupation and when he talked about academic freedom, students asked him where was academic freedom when he bombed universities in Gaza. (You can check out some great live-blogging from inside the hall from Ali Abunumiah here.)

This young woman whose name I didn't catch (and I'm so sorry about that!) told those of us outside that she stood up during Olmert's speech and held up the names of all of the people killed his bombing of Gaza. She clutched the names in her hands again when she spoke to us - over a thousand killed and Olmert responsible for them all.

It's always energizing to be apart of a demonstration like this. American Muslims for Palestine and the rest of the coalition that organized this event, including several student groups, did a wonderful job and deserve your support in the future! But I found myself moved as I thought o how Israeli authorities respond to nonviolent demonstrations like this one when they take place in the west bank.

Gather with signs and megaphones somewhere like At-Tuwani and Palestinians are met by Israeli soldiers. Those soldiers will likely declare the area a closed military zone and threaten everyone with arrest. Palestinians are beaten, shot, and tear-gassed in demonstrations like the one we took part in.

And that's why it is so important that we raise our voices and tell the world that we don't support apartheid, whether it's in South Africa, in Palestine, or when it's representatives come for a visit to our college campuses. We stand for peace and justice!

Here's is the local news coverage from channel seven. It's pretty fantastic for mainstream news, I think. Take a look and then send them an email thanking them for doing such a great job.

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