Gaza protest draws hundreds to Pioneer Square

Hundreds of Oregonians gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday to protest the three-week long Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territory.

Hundreds of Oregonians gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday to protest the three-week long Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territory.

Protesters held signs calling to try Israel for war crimes, while many more blamed the United States for encouraging military action and continued tension in the region.

“I feel that the Palestinians need justice. Americans don’t hear about the embargo, the Palestinians are starving and have no medicine or other supplies,” Lee Knightly said. Knightly described herself as a “Portland real estate agent, and evidently a radical activist!”

Israel and Hamas, the militant group in Gaza, both announced a ceasefire Sunday. Israel plans to reopen the borders to allow some humanitarian aid into the area. A total 500,000 Palestinians have been without water since the conflict began, and thousands have had very little food and limited access to medical care.

A variety of organizations attended in support, including the Portland State chapter of the International Socialist Organization. The organization’s representatives included both community members and PSU students.

“We are here to support the right of Palestinians to fight against their oppressors in Israel,” ISO member Camille White-Avian said. “We also want to get the word out about our organization and the kinds of things we stand for.”

Debate over the ideal solution to this everlasting conflict has become more passionate since the most recent conflict. Some sides are calling for a two-state solution that would force Israel to cede the territory it gained in 1967 to the Palestinians.

Others, like Denney, think that uniting the peoples in one state is best, citing the hundreds of years of relatively peaceful coexistence of the Arabs and Israelis.

Three PSU students, not officially associated with any organization, were strongly on the two-state solution side, but remained very pessimistic about the ceasefire or likelihood of peace in the region.

“I don’t think Israel will be held accountable,” said Yasmine Najmabadi, a senior in International Studies. “After all of this destruction, there needs to be a different solution—back to the 1967 borders.”

The PSU students don’t expect President Barack Obama to take a different approach to Israel than his predecessor, despite heavy pressure from the international community and American citizens.

“No way. He’s pro-Israel. No statement is a statement,” said Najmabadi, in reference to the reluctance Obama has shown to condemn Israel’s actions.

A few individuals showed up with slightly warmer sentiments toward Israel, including Joe Reinhorn, a Portlander who “just happened to walk by the protest.”

In his perspective, “Israel is more wrong, but Gaza is also wrong. What Israel is doing is a lot worse, but the Palestinians aren’t as squeaky clean as they want people to believe,” Reinhorn said.

Portland’s youth made up a bulk of the protestors, with large bands of teens wearing keffiyehs (Palestinian checkered scarf) as bandanas and Palestinians flags as capes.

Israeli leaders stated they have achieved their goals of the offensive by reducing Hamas’ capacity to send rockets into Israel, while Hamas claims victory based on their undiminished ability to fire rockets during an Israeli occupation. Leaders from both groups have told their citizens to dismiss the victory statements of the opposition.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have suffered more than 1,300 casualties, with thousands more reported injured. Authorities expect to find more bodies as they clear the rubble. Israel has lost 13 in the conflict, 10 soldiers and three civilians.