Peace Is Common Denominator For Local Palestine And Israel Protests
On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians and concerned citizens gathered in front of the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to protest for peace in the Gaza Strip.
And on Sunday, thousands of Israelis and concerned citizens gathered in front of New World Symphony in Miami Beach -- to protest for peace in Israel.
While the protesters differed in ideas of how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be handled, both sides wanted to see one thing: peace.
"The Palestinian people are ready for peace, but we’re ready for real peace and justice,” says Ahmad Abuznaid, a Palestinian who attended the protest in Fort Lauderdale.
Audrey Bomse, who also attended the pro-Palestine rally on Saturday, is a lawyer for human rights group Free Gaza. She’s Jewish, but she says she does not want to be “identified with the oppression going on in Palestine.”
“Israel pretends to be committing all these atrocities in the name of Jewish people, and I’m here to say it’s not being done in my name,” she says.
She compared what’s happening in Palestine to the Holocaust.
“My mother was a Holocaust survivor in Austria. Growing up, what she taught us was that ‘never again,’ meant ‘never again should that happen to anyone in the world, not only to Jews.’”
During a pro-Israel protest at Florida Atlantic University, Rabbi Simcha Freedman talked about Israel's fight for peace.
“Israel withdrew from Gaza and gave it over to the Palestinians, Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Israel made peace with Jordan -- Israel wants peace,” he says.
But all of the protests -- regardless of being pro-Israel or pro-Palestine -- called for more objective media awareness.
“Whenever the stories come up, they talk about body counts,” says Rohama Bruk, who was involved with creating the Miami Beach protest on Sunday. “Israel has less causalities [because] it’s prepared to defend itself against terrorist attacks.”
Reversely, participants at the Palestinian rally feel that most Western media is biased toward Israel.
“Even NPR, when they interview people, they interview U.S. ambassadors to Israel. … They’re not providing the full picture,” says Camilo Mejia, member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq war veteran.
Gaza is densely populated, with more than one million residents. Because Palestine is so heavily blockaded by Israeli forces, civilians have virtually no where to run when Israel attacks. Israel maintains they're protecting themselves against Hamas tunnels and rockets that have been used to carry out attacks.
Rohama Bruk says she believes wiping out Hamas is the immediate solution to the conflict. But she says the long-term solution for peace is education.
Similarly, Abuznaid is hoping peaceful protests will bring enlightenment to the American community.
“I think people in the United States need to become more acclimated and more educated on the issue, and hopefully by seeing a bunch of people waving flags, peacefully protesting… they’ll open their minds to the subject, and begin to move toward a different direction on the policy of this country,” he says.
While Abuznaid wants to see an end to civilian deaths and Israeli occupation in Palestine, Bruk says that defeating Hamas is the immediate solution.
“Hamas needs to stop threatening Israeli and Palestinian life,” says Bruk. “And really, we want peace.”