Israeli Indepence Day celebration sparks discussion
Students celebrating Israel's independence day by dancing, waving Israeli flags and eating free falafel were met by protesters from Students for Social Justice in SMC's quad on April 20, 2010.
Hosted by Santa Monica College's Pride and Hillel clubs, students marked the 62nd anniversary of David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister to lead after Israel was declared an independent state.
The demonstrators presence was small, with a handful of SSJ members passing out flyers and holding up signs saying things like, "They Say Celebration But All We See Is Occupation," and "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies."
Leeor Braude, Associated Students director of publicity, and co-organizer of today's celebration said that the event was meant to focus on Israel's positive contributions to our environment and our world. "The main goal of the event is to bring cultures together by sharing ours," he said.
In attendance at the event was Save a Child's Heart. SACH and their team of doctors give heart surgeries to children in developing countries. "Forty-nine percent of them are from the Palestinian population," says Braude. "We just want to focus on the good, not the bad, not the conflict."
Despite intentions of avoiding conflict, the President of Students for Social Justice, Cameron Quinn, said that conflict is inherent in anything solely Israeli-related. "Any celebration or discussion about Israel that does not mention Palestinians is hiding something from the world," said Quinn. "Palestinians were displaced in 1948, more than 800,000 refugees still remain and they still don't have the right to return to their home."
Dovid Loloyan, who works for Chabad, a Jewish SMC club, feels that Israel does in fact belong to the Jewish people. "It has belonged to us for thousands of years, God-given to the Jewish people forever," he said.
Loloyan feels that regardless of the Palestinians being displaced, blame on Israel is being unfairly weighted. "Then the whole world should change because many people have been displaced," he said. "So why do you only play it against Israel? Play it against the whole world."
Yael Markovich, an Israeli-born business major, enjoyed the celebration but disapproved of the protesters' presence. "This is great," he said. "And I'm not letting all the haters affect me. As long as Israel is our land, they will always hate. The Arabs and the Palestinians that hate us teach their kids from day one to hate."
The small group of SSJ members handed out flyers and spoke to people who approached them, but never interfered with the celebration. Two of the protesters were Jewish and of Israeli descent.
"Both of my parents served for the Israeli army, and I'm very proud of that," said Matan Gold, a Jewish SSJ member. "But I'm for peace and a non-occupied Gaza strip. I'm against terrorism, and I'm against war, but I'm for peace."
Yonatan Mallinger, an Israeli who is also part of SSJ, conversed with an Independence Day celebrator. Their conversation started with a disagreement, but ended on a positive note.
"She said I'm Israeli and Jewish, that I have to be on the Jewish side. I explained to her that I'm not betraying the side," said Mallinger. "I'm pro-peace and peace is good for both Israelis and Palestinians."