Palestinian supporters speak out in South Florida as Israel-Hamas conflict rages in Middle East
As tens of thousands of Muslims demonstrated Friday across the Middle East in support of the Palestinians and against the intensifying Israeli bombardment of Gaza following the attack last Saturday by Hamas militants, several pro−Palestinian groups in South Florida held rallies and spoke out this week to highlight the plight of Palestinians caught in the violent conflict.
More than 200 people gathered late Friday afternoon in downtown Miami to express their solidarity with the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Those attending the “Protest for Palestinians” rally stood near the Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park off Biscayne Boulevard. Many displayed red, white, black and green Palestinian flags and, according to the Miami Herald, hoisting placards that read, “I stand with Palestine.”
“No one else is giving us a voice, so we had to come out here and be heard,” Adibe Amarin, 34, told the Herald.
The Herald reported that a couple of dozen pro-Israel protesters nearby shouted at the pro-Palestinian demonstrators and held signs blaming Hamas militants for igniting a war with Israel.
Dozens of Miami police officers kept a heavy presence in the area to maintain security. No arrests were reported.
The Herald reported that Friday's rally was organized by Al-Awda, Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Martha Schoolman, of Jewish Voice for Peace, told the Herald her group took part because “this is the whole point of our organization, to keep asserting that Jews and Palestinians don’t have to be at war.”
Arrests on Florida Atlantic University campus
Earlier this week, on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, a pro−Palestinian rally ended with three arrests when those supporting Palestinians were confronted with counter protests supporting Israel, according to the South Florida Sun−Sentineland FAU's student-run news outlet, The University Press.
One young woman was tackled to the ground by a FAU campus police officer. Two of those arrested were not FAU students, according to the media.
WLRN requested a copy of the police reports, but FAU police declined to provide them, citing its pending investigation
FAU's University Press obtained one arrest report. It said an FAU student was charged with two counts of battery after elbowing one woman and then kicking a police officer who tried to handcuff her.
The FAU Muslim Student Association, which organized Wednesday’s protest and got the approval of the school administration, later criticized the media for focusing solely on the arrests.
“Instead of twisting it, we wish the media had highlighted a hug that was exchanged from a counter-protestor, the composed talk that was had between the two parties, and the opinions that were changed,” said the FAU MSA statement in a statement issued Friday. “Despite what the media depicts, there was a great sense of unity.”
The FAU MSA said it “does not support any killings of innocent civilians,” noting its demonstration Wednesday was to show its support for the Palestinian people.
“We express our solidarity with Palestinians in their sorrow over the lengthy history of atrocities against humanity of their homeland,” the statement noted. “Palestinians have a right to freedom and land without occupation. That is what we stand for and what we protested for.”
The same group also penned an open letter to FAU and its president, Dr. Stacy A. Volnick, for making “inappropriate, inaccurate, and harmful” statements following last Saturday’s attack by Hamas militants on Israel. The letter, as of Friday, was signed by hundreds of supporters. They cited one press release noting “support and empathy towards Israel, without extending the same compassion and support towards Palestinians.”
Condemning Hamas, supporting Palestinian people
Other Muslim groups in South Florida have also spoken out against the Hamas attack but have also called attention to the decades of oppression suffered by Palestinians.
Two leaders of the South Florida Muslim Federation penned an op−ed published in the Palm Beach Post this week condemning the attack on civilian Israelis by Hamas but also reminding readers of the root cause of the decades−old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: “the ongoing occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.’
“Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed. Arab governments in the region have failed. The U.S. has failed. And innocent Palestinian and Israelis pay the price for our collective failure,” wrote Samir Kakli, SFL Muslim Federation president, and SFL Muslim Federation development director Imam Azhar Subedar.
“A solution must be found that establishes dignity and equality for all in this land — Jewish, Christian, and Muslim,” they said. “We pray for this, and pray for peace.”
“We acknowledge and respect the humanity of the hundreds of Israeli civilians and nine Americans who were killed, injured, or taken by force,” they wrote. “Equally important is recognizing the humanity of the innocent Palestinian civilians who have been killed and whose lives are capsized.”
“They too are human beings and if we are to move forward toward a lasting peace we must be willing to understand their perspective,” they added.
The Associated Press said Friday that about 1 million Palestinians were told by Israel’s military to evacuate to the southern part of the besieged territory ahead of an expected ground invasion in retaliation for the surprise attack by the ruling Hamas militant group.
In the week-old war, the Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that roughly 1,900 people have been killed in the territory — more than half of them under the age of 18, or women. The Hamas assault last Saturday killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, and roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.