A rally for peace in the Middle East was held outside of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library (MSE) at noon on Wednesday, attracting a crowd of about 100 spectators.
Six graduate students, four of whom are in the Political Science Department, organized the event to promote awareness of the recent conflict and to support peace between Israel and Palestine, according to Paula Duarte Lopes, a Political Science graduate student and one of the six organizers. Although the rally itself was unaffiliated with a student group, several student activist groups did attend to publicize counter-points to the rally.
The rally began with a moment of silence. Several speakers then presented a variety of viewpoints on the Middle East crisis. Senior Zainab Akbar read a personal account of recent violence written by a Palestinian friend of his currently living in Israel. Paul Kramer, a professor from the History Department, spoke on the difficulty of attaining peace by violence. He encouraged the United States to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian Territories. Duarte Lopes read aloud peace appeals published online by both Palestinean and Jewish communities in the Middle East.
"We wanted to show that there are people out there who are voicing opinions on both sides [of the issue,]" Duarte Lopes said. She said that the purpose of the rally was to initiate awareness and encourage response, regardless of the opinion.
The Coalition for Hopkins Activists for Israel (CHAI), an Israeli activist group under the auspices of Hillel, was one of the student groups present in opposition to the rally.
"We just wanted to be a pro-Israel rally. It's important for people to see we are a presence," said CHAI President Yonit Golub. The group distributed fliers supporting Israel's response to Palestinean provocation and suicide bombings.
Club members were frustrated when the graduate students refused their appeal to present an Israeli counter-point after the rally.
"There are clearly two sides of the story. They had a right to a stance, but there's something wrong with their argument if they won't acknowledge an opposite view," said freshman club member Yonina Alexander.
Duarte Lopes said the club's request was declined because the graduate students did not feel that CHAI supported the same peace message of the rally.
"We wanted to promote peace. I think [the rally] went well. We didn't want confrontation, just for people to start thinking for themselves," she said.
Observer freshman Joe Harrow agreed: "If a group was not talking about deoccupation, then they're not going to talk about peace, and that had no place in this rally."
Observer Bernhard Miller, a Political Science graduate student, felt that the rally presented a fair viewpoint.
"They had concern for peace in the region. They definitely succeeded in not relying on extremist positions," he said.