Student organizations host events, promote Gaza awareness

By Becky Reiser

As the conflict in the Gaza Strip continues, Pitt students find themselves in an ideological… As the conflict in the Gaza Strip continues, Pitt students find themselves in an ideological battle of their own. Students supporting both sides of the situation in the Middle East are reacting by planning and attending multiple events on campus. Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine planned several events to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza and promote peace. The group’s president, Jonas Moffat, said approximately 10 student groups endorsed and participated in four events in four days. The Kimbo Art Gallery in the William Pitt Union opened a new exhibit Friday called ‘Hope under Siege: A Palestine Photo Exhibit.’ Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine co-sponsored the event, along with the Muslim Student Association and other student groups. Students also gathered in the Union to listen to speeches and poetry readings and eat Middle Eastern food. ‘I was overwhelmed Friday,’ said Moffat. ‘I went to the window [in the Union] to reserve seats, and I reserved 100.’ Moffat, however, estimated that there were more than 200 attendees in the Union. ‘People were flooding the stairs and sitting on railings,’ said Moffat. ‘There was standing room only.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ The main focus of the event was the photo exhibit, which displayed pictures Moffat took when he travelled to Palestine in 2003, 2006 and 2007. ‘It was a different angle and perspective,’ said Sultan Ghuman, a member of the Muslim Student Association Board. ‘I thought it was interesting, because the exhibit was planned out months before but coincidentally has to do with what is happening now.’ On Saturday, people gathered in Washington, D.C., in support of National Call to Action Day. One bus traveled from Pittsburgh, along with several buses from neighboring cities, such as Cleveland and Philadelphia. ‘Usually the Iraq or Afghanistan anti-war protesters fill buses to D.C., and Palestine is on their periphery, but there was a stand-by list of 25 to 30 people that couldn’t go,’ said Moffat. Pittsburgh students joined a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Lafayette Park in D.C. in cold, wet weather to spread their message, ‘Let Gaza Live.’ On Sunday night, Moffat and a friend hosted the final of the weekend’s four events, a presentation titled ‘Tel Rumeida Circus for Detained Palestinians: Memoirs of Non-Violent Resistance.’ As the struggle for peace in the Middle East continues, so will the demonstrations on campus. This Saturday, the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee will organize a march from the William Pitt Union up Fifth Avenue to Craig Street. The march is open to people of all faiths, and it includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim speakers. Not all student groups are ready to go marching in the streets of Oakland. David Streeter, president of Pitt’s Chapter of the Union of Progressive Zionists and an active member of Hillel, said, ‘I’m not sure what UPZ will be doing … but now, we don’t have plans to rally. ‘ ‘We have mixed reactions on Gaza. UPZ doesn’t have much of a stance now.’ Chelsea Zimmerman said Hillel, which she’s a part of, has held discussions about the Gaza conflict. ‘Meetings have been called in response to a plethora of e-mails, phone calls and discussions from students who are looking for ways to educate the public on the conflict and the region’s history,’ said Zimmerman. Zimmerman said she believes ‘students are looking for ways in which they can show their support for Israel,’ regardless of their beliefs. Hillel plans to meet tonight to discuss upcoming events concerning the Gaza conflict. Melek Yazici, president of the Muslim Student Association at Pitt, said that the Association plans to march Saturday to promote ‘awareness of the ongoing sufferings of people in Gaza.’ She said, ‘[The goal] is to urge people not to be ignorant, to stay informed and to take action about the situation in Gaza.’