Michigan protesters speak out for Palestine

By Megan Spencer
East Lansing, Mich.

A group of Michigan State University students, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice activists, and Workers World Party members gathered the evening of Oct. 19 for a demonstration at MSU in solidarity with Palestine in response to the “Soldiers Speak Out” campus tour of Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli Defense Forces members’ tour of college campuses is sponsored by StandWithUs, a self-described “education” group that disseminates Israeli and Zionist propaganda to “ensure that Israel’s side of the story is told.” The tour appears to be in response to the growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign aimed at apartheid Israel.

Demonstrators held posters and banners, passed out leaflets and chanted on the sidewalk outside the MSU building where the event occurred. They chanted, “Resistance is justified when people are occupied!” and “1, 2, 3, 4, Occupation no more! 5, 6, 7, 8, Israel is a fascist state!”

The two Israeli soldiers who spoke at the event came outside to take pictures of the demonstrators. As the Zionist meeting began, demonstrators moved closer to the building so that the soldiers and the event’s few attendees could hear the chants. Several people in the room opened the curtains to stare at the demonstrators.

The following day another meeting was held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Numerous protesters attended the event and took off their jackets to reveal red shirts with the names of Palestinian children who were killed during the December 2008 massacre in Gaza. Some student protesters wore tape covering their mouths. After several minutes, the protesters, who made up about 90 percent of the audience, simultaneously got up from their seats and left the room. (AnnArbor.com, Oct 23)

According to the website for Soldiers Speak Out, the touring Israeli soldiers speak about their experiences in the IDF during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and the 2006 war on Lebanon.

Operation Cast Lead, which took place from late December 2008 to mid-January 2009, left 1,400 Palestinians dead, many of them civilians, including 400 children. The assault destroyed the city of Gaza, flattening homes, schools and hospitals. Much of the destruction was a result of direct attacks on civilian objects, in addition to indiscriminate attacks that did not distinguish between civilian and military targets, in clear violation of international humanitarian law. (Amnesty International, 2009)

In addition, the assault left Gaza’s agricultural system in ruins, resulting in acute food shortages for Gaza’s population of 1.4 million people, who were already suffering severely as a result of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

In the 2006 war in Lebanon, approximately 1,300 Lebanese people were killed, many of them civilians and children. Lebanon’s infrastructure was severely damaged, and nearly 1 million people were displaced from their homes. (BBC News, 2006) In addition, the IDF’s use of cluster bombs resulted in the deaths of more than 250 people in Lebanon after the ceasefire was signed. (Al Jazeera, September 2009)

The murderous atrocities and terrorism committed by the Israeli military in both of these instances are inexcusable. It is critical to address, confront and protest attempts to rationalize or legitimize violence and occupation via Zionist propaganda and to continue our solidarity with the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.

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