Rally for Palestine held on Sanford Mall

    The Palestinian flag stands tall on Sanford Mall in light of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Muslim Student Association held a rally in support of Palestine Oct. 25, 2023.
    The Palestinian flag stands tall on Sanford Mall in light of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Muslim Student Association held a rally in support of Palestine Oct. 25, 2023.
    Ashton Woodruff

    App State’s Muslim Student Association held a rally for Palestine Wednesday on Sanford Mall to honor lives lost in the Israel-Hamas war and spread information. 

    Around 120 students and community members attended the rally from 12:30-1:45 p.m. 

    Before the rally, attendees created signs voicing their opinions and to show support for Palestine in the Belk Library Makerspace. (Jenna Guzman)

    Before the rally, the MSA and supporters made posters in the library Makerspace. Neon signs with bold sayings read “We thought we’d have flying cars in 2023 not genocide on Instagram Live!” and “Land you have to kill for is not yours. Land you have to die for is.”

    There was police presence on Sanford during the rally and no visible counter protests.

    Several MSA members spoke to the crowd during the rally.

    This rally is in support of Palestinian civilians who are being killed in Gaza and the rest of Palestine especially according to the recent events happening, as we’re all aware,” a MSA member said to the crowd. 

    They said this was a peaceful protest and the MSA does not support any forms of hate speech, racism, islamophobia or antisemitism. 

    I would also like to say that opposing the Israeli government and Zionism does not, in any way shape or form, mean I or anyone at this rally is antisemitic,” another MSA member said in their speech. “Let me repeat: anti-Zionism is not antisemitic.” 

    Those gathered in support of the rally, holding neon signs carrying messages in large, bolded lettering, listened intently to the speeches made, some wiping away tears. 

    Attendees hold up signs at the rally Oct. 25, 2023. The death toll among Palestinians has surpassed 8,000 as of Oct. 29, 2023. (Ashton Woodruff)

    A Palestinian American MSA member, said they feel “helpless,” stuck watching a continuous stream of social media posts showing dead Palestinian men, women and children.

    “I stand here safe and sound with shelter, food, electricity and my dignity. Those are all things Palestinians in Gaza do not have right now,” they said. “Not because it isn’t available, but because Israel has decided that they are not deserving of it.”  

    In Gaza, 47.3% of the population is made up of children under the age of 19 and more than 1,800 children have been killed, the member said. As of Sunday, there have been several different reports listing the number of children killed in Gaza, with most reporting a number around 3,000.

    “I have seen videos of children with thousand yard stares, unable to express emotions as they shake in fear from the bombs they just survived. I have seen videos of the aftermath of a hospital bombing with body parts flown everywhere,” they said. “I have seen the evidence of the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinian people.”

    One attendee said their family in Gaza faces a lack of food, water, medical supplies, internet and communication services and lives under near constant shelling. Other Palestinian students and faculty expressed similar concerns for their families remaining in Gaza and the West Bank.

    Each of the speakers asked the participants and onlookers to educate themselves on the crisis and look for ways in which they can help from afar. 

    You can show your solidarity with Palestine by educating yourself,” an MSA member said. “You can spread awareness, have conversations with your peers, support Palestinian-owned businesses, donate to relief funds and attend rallies, but never stop speaking up.”

    They said they urge those listening to understand that they do not need to be Palestinian or Arab to show empathy for the Palestinian lives lost, they “just need to be human, above all other identities.”  

    One attendee held a sign reading ‘This Jew (believe it or not) is against genocide and ethnic cleansing.’

    “Honestly, I feel like I kind of have a moral obligation to be here. I’m Jewish, I have Israeli family and you know over the past five or so years I’ve been following this situation pretty closely,” the attendee said. “I’ve had family members call me a self-hating Jew for supporting Palestine so it’s just kind of like, I feel like a lot of Jewish people aren’t stepping up and they need to be stepping up.” 

    Another attendee said they were appreciative to the MSA for putting together the rally because of the amount of misinformation they have seen on the topic. 

    “I mean what’s happening in Palestine right now is being portrayed in media as a conflict or a war. But in reality, it’s a genocide of the Palestinian people who have been under occupation,” they said. 

    According to a UN human rights expert, Israel is an apartheid state built upon the systemic oppression of Palestinians on the basis of ethnicity. The human rights expert said “the apartheid is being practiced by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory.” According to Reuters, the Palestinian envoy to the UN called the Israeli siege of Gaza “nothing less than genocidal.” Israel and the U.S. refute claims of ethnic violence, claiming actions in Gaza are self-defense against terrorist-group Hamas.

    Many ralliers said they were opposed to the foreign aid provided by the U.S. to Israel this year and in years past. 

    At the rally, one attendee held a sign that read, “not conflict, not war. Genocide. #FreePalestine.”

    If you take anything from my speech today, take this: education is at the heart of this movement. Palestinians need to be remembered. They need to be celebrated,” an MSA member said. 

    Editor’s note: The names of all speakers and participants of the rally were removed due to nation-wide threats and concerns of safety.

    Editor’s note: A source in this article is a member of The Appalachian. The Appalachian remains an objective news outlet regardless of staff members’ beliefs or affiliations. We acknowledge and disclose the conflict of interest but recognize the story would be incomplete without the Palestinian perspective.

    Correction: The phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was removed from the headline and the body of this article as a quote of a chant heard at the rally. The phrase has historically been used by pro-Palestine groups yet, many Jewish and pro-Israeli organizations consider the phrase antisemitic. As an editorial decision, we removed the phrase.

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      Elizabeth A BoneyOct 31, 2023 at 7:22 am

      Very nicely done; you shared a difficult topic in a balanced manner. Appreciate the way you disclosed the potential editorial conflict.