Students for Justice in Palestine protest US policies, Israeli detentions


Photo by Muhummad Mallick

Despite frigid, blustery conditions, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) marched and held a rally at DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus on Jan. 18, 2018. Protesters stood in solidarity with prisoners and detainees such as Ahed Tamimi and held signs saying, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine,” and “End the siege on Gaza now.”

SJP organized a silent protest and rally in response to President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. President Trump’s official stance on Jerusalem reverses decades of United States foreign policy and may disrupt the possibility for America to orchestrate peace between the long feuding countries of Israel and Palestine.

SJP marched from the John T. Richardson Library to the DePaul Student Center, where they chanted “Free, Free, Palestine!” and “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The occupation’s got to go!” Representatives from various organizations such as SJP and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network gave speeches in support of Palestinian efforts in the conflict over Jerusalem.

SJP president Rifqa Ali began organizing SJP and the protest once President Trump declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“As soon as he said that, we began to mobilize because we all wanted to make hold a silent march and rally,” Ali said. “We walked from the library to SAC and from there we went to Arts and Letters and then came to the Student Center to rally. We also came here to honor Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who was detained by Israeli soldiers from her home at five in the morning. It is almost her 17th birthday, but she is still in jail.”

Ahed Tamimi is brought to a courtroom inside the Ofer military prison near Jerusalem. In a Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 ruling an Israeli military court denied bail for the 16-year-old Palestinian girl, ordering her held until her trial on charges that she slapped and pushed two Israeli soldiers. (Mahmoud Illean | AP)

Ali says that people often tell her protesting does not accomplish anything, but she disputes that claim.

“Through history, we see that protests are a stepping stone to getting where you want to go,” Ali said. “Protesting also brings awareness to causes, and if people are not aware, how are we going to get anything done?”

Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of the Office of Religious Diversity at DePaul Abdul-Malik Ryan also spoke at the rally.

“I felt that it was important to share from the perspective of the Muslim community here at DePaul,” Ryan said. “Jerusalem is important to Muslims everywhere and especially to Palestinian Muslims; it’s also important to stand for justice and solidarity for the oppressed and  all people of faith and goodwill.”

Ryan believes having regular discussions and spreading awareness is vital to the efforts of Palestinians.

“The first step, which is always a continuous step, is spreading word and awareness to people,” Ryan said. “I’m sure the vast majority of students at DePaul are not aware of what is going on and are unsure of what to make of something like this and do not know what side to be on. The most important thing for people to do on a college campus is to continue to educate people and have discussions.”

Ryan also noted that while this is a Palestinian cause, people from differing ethnicities and religions were present at the rally.

“This is more of a justice and human rights issue than anything else,” Ryan said.

Junior Zaid Akel is glad that SJP held a rally to bring awareness to issues surrounding Palestinian conflicts and President Trump’s recent comments.

“Our media often does not talk about these kinds of issues,” Akel said. “Our media is always focused on the current administration and it’s always ‘breaking news’ when there are other topics which need to be covered.”

While Akel supports bringing awareness to the issues surrounding the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts, he disagrees that Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine or Israel.

“I think it should be a neutral city-state,” Akel said. “I do not think anyone should lay claim to it. Jerusalem is a holy place for Christians, Muslims and Jews, but Israelis close off Christian and Muslim holy sites. I just think it should just be neutral.”