Students rallied in support of Israel and against terrorism in Kogan Plaza Monday night, in response to weekend terrorist attacks in Israel. The generally peaceful rally, which drew more than 300 students waving Israeli, Turkish and American flags, included a remembrance of the victims of the attacks and speakers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The rally, sponsored by the GW Hillel, the Jewish and Turkish student associations and other GW student groups drew about 15 student protesters who said they felt excluded from the rally and looked for those in attendance to recognize the plight of Palestinians.
Three uniformed UPD officers provided security at the event that attracted media attention from the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.
One homeless man was escorted by University Police officers from Kogan Plaza after he began yelling incoherently from the crowd.
Students from American, George Mason and Georgetown universities and the University of Maryland carrying pro-Israel signs joined GW students in singing and reading prayers in both Hebrew and English.
“It is essential that we come together,” said Jonah Zinn, president-elect of the Jewish Student Association. “Americans of all types must unite and show the world that terror is unacceptable.”
Over the weekend, suicide bombers killed 26 Israelis and injured more than 200 in terrorist attacks outside a cafe in Jerusalem and on a Haifa bus.
Speakers drew comparisons between the current U.S. war and recent action by Israel. Some likened the Palestinian Authority to the Taliban.
Hasan Basmisirli, vice president of the Turkish Student Association, said the group co-sponsored the event because it supports Israel.
“In an environment as problematic as the Middle East, Israel and Turkey should stay allies,” he said. “As human beings, we are all for peace. Turkey gives its full support to Israel.”
Sophomore Jennifer Ibrahim, who held a Lebanese flag, said families in nations that harbor terrorists are also victims of violence.
Ibrahim said she is disturbed by “President Bush saying he will indiscriminately murder harborers of terrorism.”
In speeches since Sept. 11, President George W. Bush announced that the U.S. government will hold states who harbor terrorists and terrorists equally responsible for any attacks.
“Lebanon does have groups of terrorists, but their families are dying just like families in Israel,” Ibrahim said.
Sophomore Mira Browne, who waved a Palestinian flag during the
rally, said the attacks “do not represent the Palestinian people.”
Sophomore Hala Rharrit also said she condemns suicide bombing.
“It kills innocent civilians, but it is caused by oppression of the Palestinian people,” Rharrit said.
Sophomore Dani Greenspan urged all students to unite in the face of terrorist attacks.
“It is important to support Israel,” he said. “We’re fighting the same war together.”