April 16, 2009
By Somer Wiggins
Hundreds of red, orange and pink flags lined the HUB lawn Tuesday, representing the Palestinian and Israeli causalities of the bombings in the Gaza Strip.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members were outside at 8 a.m. to plant the flags and raise awareness for the issue.
“We are here to spread awareness of the occupied Palestinian territory,” said Shadi Ghrayeb (graduate student-engineering).
During the 22-day conflict this past winter, 1,434 Palestinians — 409 women and children — and 13 Israelis were killed, Ghrayeb said.
The red flags represented every two Palestinian adults killed, the orange flags represented every two Palestinian women and children killed.
The pink flags represented every one Israeli killed.
“That’s roughly 100 Palestinians for every one Israeli,” Ghrayeb said. “The numbers tell the whole story.”
The students said they also want the public to know about another number: the amount of aid America gives to Israel. America sends $3 billion in aid a year to Israel, Ghrayeb said.
“It’s important for the American public to know how tax money is being spent on war crimes,” Ghrayeb said. “I’d rather see that money here at Penn State.”
SJP students are going to begin a boycott on Israeli goods as part of their non-violent resistance of the Israeli government, Ghrayeb said.
“I’m sick of hearing all my friends saying what a good time they had on spring break,” Ghrayeb said. “During this time, the people of Gaza were busy rebuilding their institutions.”
Students passing by took note of the flags and of the signs, detailing the club’s message posted next to them, while walking to class Tuesday.
“I didn’t really realize that the casualty amount was that off-balanced,” Adam Boyer (freshman-history) said. “It’s interesting to see it visualized.”
Karin Zizala (senior-nursing) didn’t know that more Palestinians were killed than Israelis and agreed the flags were a good way to make people react.
Aaron Kaufman, director of Penn State Hillel, responded to the event, writing in an e-mail that “every student organization is certainly entitled to free speech.”
“However, no set of statistics can tell the whole story, which in this case is extremely complex and multifaceted,” Kaufman wrote.
“Of course, all loss of life is tragic and regrettable,” he wrote.
Students for Justice in Palestine will host British Parliament member George Galloway tonight to speak about the conflict.
“Most people are good at heart,” Ghrayeb said. “They will realize who’s the oppressor in this conflict.”