Hundreds of Cornell and Ithacans students demand freedom and safety for Palestinians in weekend protests
While the US calls for ceasefire To end the recent escalation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, activists in the Cornell and Ithaca area are pushing to end the human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
Condemning the recent violence and commemorating Nakba DayWhen the Palestinian displacement began on May 15, 1948, hundreds of Cornell students joined local organizers in rallies Saturday and Sunday in Ithaca township to call for the freedom and security of the Palestinian people.
The Saturday March – intended to raise awareness of both the current conflict and long-standing issues – was organized by Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine, Cornell Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, the Cornell Asia-Pacific Student Union and the Cornell Arab Student Association, alongside several Italian organizations and members of the Students’ Assembly.
Saturday’s rally and march began in Ho Plaza, where a crowd of around 200 protesters spread from McGraw Tower to Willard Straight Hall. Seven speakers, including student organizers and a professor, took the microphone to support Palestinian rights.
Speakers drew links between the Israeli treatment of Palestinians and other marginalized groups. Professor Eric Cheyfitz, Literatures in English, drew parallels with the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples, including the Cayuga Nation, and Mullen compared Israel’s actions to apartheid in South Africa.
Malak Abuhashim ’23 told the participants the story of his family, who were forced to leave their home in Yibna, Palestine, when the Israeli government permanently moved much of its Palestinian population on June 4, 1948.
“My people deserve fundamental human rights: the right to live, the right to return to their homes, the right to have access to drinking water,” she said in her speech.
Today, Abuhashim’s family is divided between Kuwait, the United States and Gaza – with his relatives who have left Palestine forbidden to return. She only communicated with her family in Palestine by phone, and her family living in the United States send them money to buy food and clothing.
After the speeches at Ho Plaza, protesters marched through Collegetown and Ithaca Commons, chanting “freedom for Palestine”.
“It was really like a voice coming down from Ho Plaza to the Commons,” organizer and SA member Laila Abd Elmagid ’21 said after the event. “It was great to feel united.”
The first of four additional speeches was delivered by Aya Oulida, a sophomore student at Ithaca High School, who spoke out against the violence that has stop many Palestinians celebrate the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. She said support for the Palestinians was a universal humanitarian problem.
“Palestinians are being evicted from their homes,” Oulida told The Sun. “Their lives are in danger every day. They never know if they will wake up at home again or even wake up at all from the bombing. “
According to Abd Elmagid, the organization of Saturday’s event began on Wednesday evening, when it recruited other AS members – including Joseph Mullen ’24, Claudia Leon ’23 and Moriah Adeghe ’21 – members of the Ithaca’s cosponsor and activist clubs to support the march and began promoting it through Instagram and Facebook. Max Greenberg ’21, a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine and Cornell Progressives, involved the SJP and Ithaca organizations.
Ahead of the weekend protests, Abd Elmagid helped draft a declaration on behalf of the SA against the Israel Defense Forces airstrike on Gaza, which Mullen read aloud at the SA meeting on May 13.
“We read a statement on Thursday in favor of Palestine,” Mullen said. “We wanted to translate this into action.”
The Sunday rally took place entirely in the Commons, where speakers included Ithaca Jewish Voice For Peace organizer Beth Harris, Rev. Megan Castellan, local organizer Rayvon Kenyon, national co-director of a women-led anti-war organization Pink code Ariel Gold ’04 and high school students from Ithaca Oulida and Yasmeen Alass.
Speakers deplored the deaths of Palestinians, calling for justice and freedom for the Palestinian people. Alass, a Palestinian living in the United States, said she dreamed of being able to return one day.
“My main goal was to let people know that this problem is not bilateral,” Alass said. “This is not a problem where you can remain impartial.”
Several of the participants drew similarities between the racial justice movement in the United States and violence against Palestinians.
“The most important element that I think a lot of Americans miss is our interconnection. This is our opportunity to help our brothers and sisters across borders, ”said Phoebe Brown, a protest participant who is running for the Ithaca Common Council as part of the Solidarity Slate.
More than 100 people attended Sunday’s rally, including Ithaca residents, Cornell students and Ithaca College students. While some, like Alass, have a long-standing personal connection to Palestinian human rights issues, others said they learned about the issue more recently, with the ongoing violence gaining attention on social media.
Organizers circulated a petition on Sunday calling for the US Congress to end Israel’s military funding and support sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law.
“Not only do we need an immediate ceasefire, but we need an end to Israeli apartheid,” Gold said. “In reality, the only way to do this is to end the United States’ unchallenged support for Israel.”
Like Gold, other members of the Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace who attended the protest said they wanted to send a broader message that some Jews are anti-Zionists because of their presence at the event.
“A lot of people equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, which is not the case, because not all Jews are Zionists,” said Ash Schimkus, a student at Ithaca College.
After the protest ended, some participants joined the weekly Ithaca Black Life Gathering. Organizers of the Palestinian rights rally, including Harris and Gold, said they saw working with racial justice activists in Ithaca as an important way to promote fairness for all.
Moving forward at Cornell, Abuhashim and Mullen expressed the need to continue fighting for Palestinian rights, calling the weekend’s participation encouraging and hoping to keep the momentum going.
Mullen and Abuhashim both said they plan to hold a rally and march for Palestine every May 15, while also advocating for Cornell’s divestment from Israel in the SA. , according to Abuhashim.
In talks with The Sun, Greenberg and members of SA condemned Cornell’s ties to the Israel Defense Forces, including through Cornell Tech. partnership with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, where some researchers are developing military technologies used by the Israeli army, including in the occupied territories.
“These people who are dying. These people who are suffering. They are also humans, just like us, ”said Abuhashim. “They have emotions. They have lives to live. It’s not just a story.