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North Carolina: Students Rally for Palestine

By Kosta Harlan

Students outside David Price's office holding flags and signs

Chapel Hill, NC – Over the past week, hundreds of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took action in protest of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Student organizers began planning events as soon as the Israeli bombing of Gaza started three weeks ago, and were prepared to mobilize students when classes began this week.

On Wednesday January 14, a candlelight vigil to honor those killed by the Israeli invasion of Gaza drew a crowd of over 250. 1,000 candles lit up the Pit, a central area on campus, while students from Solidarity with Palestine through Education and Action at Carolina (SPEAC), the Arab Students Organization (ASO), and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) gave speeches, read poems, and reflected on the on-going massacre of Palestinians by the IDF. Those gathered sang a Michael Heart song written during the current crisis, “We Will Not Go Down (Song for Gaza)”.

“We know that the first attacks began during the day when offices were full of civilians and children were walking home from school,” said Hala Borno, a Palestinian member of SPEAC, as she denounced the brutality of the Israeli attacks. “There are countless scarring images of innocent women and children buried under mounds of rubble from freshly bombed buildings, or with burned faces due to weapons that use white phosphorus. Those who survive the bombings find themselves in hospitals severely deprived of supplies due the lengthy and crippling blockades on Gaza. And this humanitarian crisis has only worsened.”

The next day, Thursday, over 500 students packed into a crowded conference room for a discussion called “Understanding Gaza.” A panel of professors and Palestinian and Jewish activists discussed various aspects of the crisis, and then a question and answer session continued until well after the building was supposed to have been closed for the night. Students and professors expressed their outrage over the massacres of Palestinians and many asked questions about what they could do to protest. At the teach-in, Ben Carroll of Students for a Democratic Society urged the audience to take action on the issue by joining with SDS and other student groups in delivering a petition to Congressman David Price's office.

On Friday morning, a delegation of students from SDS delivered over 150 petition signatures and a letter of demands to Congressman Price's staff at the Chapel Hill office. Only a week earlier Congressman Price voted for House Resolution 34, which affirms complete support for the Israeli aggression against Gaza and places blame for the conflict solely on Hamas' shoulders.

The SDS petition said, “Your vote in support of Israel's continued attack on Gaza on Friday, January 8, 2009 showed a willingness to further the occupation and the devastation of the Palestinian people, who have already suffered due to decades of U.S. foreign policy.” It also stated, “As the current economic crisis continues to ruin the livelihoods of millions of people in the U.S., we demand that you support funding human needs rather than endless war and occupation.”

The protestors vow to continue raising pressure on Representative Price and other elected officials to expose U.S. support and complicity in Israeli war crimes and demand that they do everything in their power to bring about a ceasefire and unconditional, immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Rallies and educational activities are planned for next week, both at UNC and in the Chapel Hill community.

Hundreds of students in an auditorium, watching panelists speak

Students at a candle light vigil

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