More than 400 Palestinian supporters and close to 200 Israeli supporters lined Oxford Drive Wednesday on The University of Western Ontario campus, as the two sides aired concerns over the current conflict in the Middle East.
While the groups harbour different perspectives about the conflict centred around Israel’s military action in Gaza, the demonstration was peaceful and appeared woven around a common theme – peace.
First-year Western Engineering student Najmalden Assaf was one of hundreds of students who took part in a peaceful demonstration surrounding the current conflict on the Middle East.
“Give peace a chance,” says Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry professor Munir El-Kassem. “A life lost on the Palestinian side or the Israeli side is a life that is lost forever. Killing people is not going to bring peace.”
El-Kassem, who spoke at a similar demonstration on campus in March 2008, says he was “pleasantly surprised and happy” to see the theme of the many of the signs students on both sides of the issue were displaying this time – such as ‘Yes to peace, No to terror’.
“This is exactly the kind of message I want to send on behalf of the innocent children that have been killed,” he says. “Peace equals breaking bread, indeed. What price do people have to pay before peace can be realized in the Middle East? Let us remember that violence can only beget violence. Let us live in peace.”
Rob Danter, one of the student organizers of the gathering, says the demonstration was a way to get the message out to fellow Western students that “we all need to speak up.”
“Whatever we can contribute to the discussion I feel we have an obligation to do so,” says the fifth-year Classical Studies student.
“Those here may have different reasons for supporting one side or another, but at the end of the day nobody on either side of the issue wants to see innocent children die, or any people for that matter.”
Danter says everyone needs to push their local politicians to action before the situation escalates and more innocent people are killed.
“The actions being taken will not lead to peace now or in the future,” he says. “It’s (the fighting) just going to create a whole new generation of people who are angry at seeing their family killed. All it will do is pull them towards the radicals – those who don’t want peace.”
El-Kassem says there is “absolutely no reason” Israelis and Palestinians should stand on opposite sides.
“We should be standing on the side of life,” he says. “Let us stand as one voice, stand together and appreciate life. Enough is enough.”