People chant in a rally in support of Palestine passes through Carnegie Mellon University Friday afternoon.
People chant in a rally in support of Palestine passes through Carnegie Mellon University Friday afternoon.
Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

Rally for Palestine expresses anger over Israeli occupation, treatment of Palestinians

Red and green smoke filled the air as rally attendees marched down Forbes waving flags and holding signs supporting the people of Palestine. For Christine Mohamed, the rally’s importance extends beyond the events of the past week.

“We are completely horrified by what happened on Saturday,” Mohamed said. “But being that we care for human life, we’re just as upset for the loss of children and the occupation and the treatment and dehumanization of the Palestinian people.”

Over 300 people rallied near Schenley Plaza to support Palestinian people on Friday afternoon. Those in attendance gathered in a circle to listen to speeches before walking down Forbes Ave to Carnegie Mellon University where more speakers talked about the treatment of Palestinian people and the recent news about the situation between Israel and Palestine.

Mohamed, an executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Pittsburgh who helped organize the rally, said the rally’s goal was to spread the word about how Israel has treated Palestinians.

“This isn’t about causing a scare or terrorizing our Jewish brothers and sisters of Pittsburgh. That community has been through a lot,” Mohamed said. “But what we do want to speak out against is war crimes being committed by a far-right government and bring awareness to that, to the loss of food, water, electricity, medicine. There are 2.2 million people in Gaza that had nothing to do with this, but they’re being punished as a whole.

A man waves colored smoke in a rally in support of Palestine in Oakland Friday afternoon. (Amaya Lobato Rivas | Assistant Visual Editor)

Violence broke out on Saturday, Oct. 8 in Israel when militant group Hamas launched an attack just outside of Gaza, one of the occupied Palestinian territories overseen by the Israeli government and army. Israel declared war on Hamas, and has since announced a “total blockade” on the Gaza strip. The escalation comes after decades of tension that dates back to Israel’s founding in 1948.

As of Friday, the Israeli government told the Palestinians living in Gaza to flee before attacks on the city directed at Hamas begin. The Israeli government began raids in Gaza days ago that they said are aimed at finding the Israeli hostages Hamas took captive on Saturday.

On Monday afternoon, over 100 students attended a rally to support Israel in Schenley Plaza. One student called Hamas’ actions “pure unadulterated terrorism,” while a counter-rallier in support of Palestine said Palestinians feel “frustrated” and “as if they have no choice.”

Since the rallies on Monday night and calls for the University to take a stance, Pitt administration and student organizations have released statements. In an email sent out to the Pitt community by Joan Gabel on Thursday, the Chancellor called Hamas’ actions “unconscionable” and “barbaric.”

Dean Carla Panzella also sent out an email on Friday afternoon where she called the events that have taken place “tragic and horrifying,” adding how her responsibility is “the care of the students.”

“In the past week, I have heard from many of you about how events occurring in Israel, Gaza, Syria, and beyond have affected you and your loved ones,” Panzella wrote. “Each of you is important, and your individual well-being is my top priority.”

In a statement released Thursday by the Muslim Student Association, the organization affirmed its “unwavering support” to the Palestinian people. They said they “unequivocally condemn” the killing of innocent civilians and decades of “unwarranted persecution, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity from an apartheid state.”

Deena Eldaour, an organizer of the rally, speaks in support of Palestine in Oakland Friday afternoon. (Amaya Lobato Rivas | Assistant Visual Editor)

Mohamed added that, as a Muslim, she feels a “duty to stand up” against the oppression Palestinians face.

“If it was any other group in this world suffering this type of oppression, this kind of war crime, we would all want accountability,” Mohamed said. “So no group should be excluded from that, everybody should be held accountable.”

Carl Redwood, a candidate for Allegheny County Council, said he attended Friday’s rally to “show support for the people of Palestine.”

“Right now there’s an overwhelming push, by the media and everyone else, to paint the Palestinians as the aggressor, and that’s not true,” Redwood said. “The aggression happens every day against the Palestinian people who are under the occupation of a right-wing Israeli government, and it’s important that people step forward to show that there is support for the Palestinian people around the world.”

One person, who asked to remain anonymous, attended the rally with their 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. They said their father left Gaza at the age of 7 “because of the war.”

“Imagine a world where we’re now in Pennsylvania and somebody comes in and says, ‘Hey, by the way, we’re gonna block you guys in into a wall, you’re not allowed to go in and out, you’re not allowed to work, you’re not allowed to eat whatever, do anything without our permission,’” they said. “‘We’re gonna take away all your freedom and we’re gonna call you terrorists whenever you defend yourself.’ Who in their right mind wouldn’t defend themselves under those circumstances?”

A child waves a Palestinian flag at a rally in support of Palestine in Oakland Friday afternoon. (Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

Ahmad, a Palestinian-Jordanian attending the rally, recalled an altercation from his childhood when he lived in the West Bank.

“I was either maybe 7 or 8 years old when I was pushed brutally by one of the soldiers and he pulled out the M16, or whatever gun that he had, just because I tried to move from one city to another city in Palestine,” Ahmad said. “So that moment in time, I will never forget.”

Ahmad called Hamas’ attacks on civilians “wrong,” but said “it might be a reaction” to the oppression Palestinians have faced.

“Look at the reaction of the Israeli soldiers or the Israeli government against this,” Ahmad said. “Now it’s a massacre against Gaza people, not Hamas … and the whole world, every government in this world, are just showing…monetary support, military support, weapon support to Israel just to keep bombing Gaza people. And those are civilians, those are innocent people, and no one is mentioning that.”

As Mohamed reflected on the rally, she said she was “very glad” it was peaceful and expressed happiness over how awareness of the situation in Palestine has grown.

“People are gaining information and understanding what has been happening over decades and decades and decades,” Mohamed said. “If we want to be a civilized society and grow as a peaceful humanity, this needs to end.”