Despite the United States’ historical support for Israel and its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many American citizens and students have increasingly begun to side with Palestine and its campaign for a sovereign state.
This new attitude has led to protests and rallies on college campuses across the country intended to increase awareness of the plight of Palestinians and educate people on the true nature of the conflict in the Middle East.
One such rally took place recently at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where over 400 students gathered for a conference of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. The conference was held to plan a strategy urging American colleges to sell stocks they hold in companies doing business with Israel.
Amenah I. Ibrahim, a UM graduate student and organizer of the PSM conference, said that the pro-Palestinian movement is growing everyday in America.
“Even though it’s still mostly Muslim and Arab students here, they’re starting to organize solely for this one particular issue,” said Ibrahim. “That’s a huge thing.”
Rallies like this have not gone without objection from those who support Israel.
The PSM conference ignited a firestorm of debate on the University of Michigan campus, where the event was surrounded by counter-protests held throughout the weekend.
At San Francisco State University, hostility has risen so high that the university felt it needed to impose restrictions on the activities all student groups could conduct.
One rally got so out of hand that police officers and SFSU Public Safety officers were called in to separate SFSU’s Jewish student organization, Hillel, and a group of pro-Palestinian supporters.
Dennis Dubinsky, a member of Hillel at SFSU, said that the rally was met with such protest because it concentrated more on anti-Israel themes and skipped over the true nature of the conflict.
“The pro-Palestinian movement unfortunately took the stance of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic,” Dubinsky said. “The Jewish community at SFSU took it upon themselves to support what they believe in.”
The University of Wisconsin has also seen its share of controversy and conflict over growing support for Palestinians.
Last April, more than 300 people gathered at Library Mall and marched to the State Capitol building to protest Israel’s military campaign in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The rally was organized by the Madison Area Peace Coalition, Jews for Equal Justice, and the UW Muslim Students’ Association, al-Awda.
Jennifer Loewenstein, a member of the Madison Area Peace Coalition, said she thinks there is a growing support for Palestine because she thinks more people across the country are beginning to notice events in the Middle East.