Thousands Protest Israeli Occupation of Palestine in San Diego and L.A.

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Photo on sign reading "hands off Jerusalem"
Jeremiah Amaya / The Triton

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On May 15, thousands of people rallied together around the world to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Nakba Day and demonstrate against the displacement of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. The Triton spoke to three UCSD students who attended protests in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” refers to the mass displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on May 15, 1948, the day after the state of Israel was created.

Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah continue to be forcibly driven out of their homes by Israeli authorities; the Israeli Supreme Court has delayed a hearing regarding these evictions. The conflict over who has right to legitimate settlement in Sheikh Jarrah dates back to conflicts in 1948. Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, warned that they would take action if Israel did not remove its forces from both Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Islam.

At the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli police officers fired into the compound using rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas in response to worshippers gathering in support for Palestinians’ right to remain in Sheikh Jarrah. More than 300 Palestinian worshippers and 21 Israeli police officers were injured in these confrontations.

Since May 10, the Israeli military has launched several air strikes in Gaza, and Hamas has continued launching rockets toward Israel.

As of May 21, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that Israeli attacks have killed 248 Palestinians on the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli police reported 12 Israeli deaths. Israel and Hamas agreed on a cease-fire that came into effect on May 21.

The Palestinian Youth Movement organized multiple protests across North America, including those held in Los Angeles and San Diego.

In San Diego, the protest started at Balboa Park, where people walked on the street together while chanting and holding up signs and Palestinian flags.

Among the protestors in attendance was H.Y., a fourth year Public Health major who asked to be identified by their initials for this piece due to retaliation against protestors of Israeli occupation. H.Y. went to the protest with his friends and family to support the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination and living free from occupation. He also advocates for ending Israel’s oppression of Palestinians in historic Palestine, which encompasses Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank today.

“People should understand that the Palestinians have the right to live in their own homeland in peace and be treated fairly with their human rights respected,” H.Y. said.

He supports calls for the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and granting full rights to the Palestinians in their homeland.

M.R., a fourth year UCSD student, attended the Los Angeles protest. They said that since their activism does not align with the U.S.’s support for Israel, they chose to be identified by their initials.

“The fact that individuals still don’t see that this issue is one-sided is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Palestinians are suffering and are losing their family members in seconds; the least I could do was get out there and protest,” M.R. said.

According to M.R., thousands of people gathered in solidarity. The protest chant “Resistance is justified when people are occupied” stood out to M.R. because they said that the world has remained silent despite the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

“People need to understand that their voice is the change and that if we don’t use our voices and exercise our rights to be active then change won’t happen,” M.R. said.

Another fourth year student, M.C., attended that same Los Angeles protest. M.C. chose to be identified by their initials due to fear of retaliation from websites like Canary Mission.

The website publishes a list of individuals and groups that have publicly advocated for Palestinian rights, including several members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCSD and UCSD faculty. Canary Mission labels support for Palestine as anti-Semitic and incites harassment against critics of the Israeli occupation and violence using this justification.

M.C. noted that police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were present at the protest and felt nervous because the police wore riot gear but said the protest carried on peacefully with little police interaction. Members of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles also participated in the protest and voiced their determination to continue fighting for the liberation of all colonized groups.

“One of my favorite parts before we started marching towards the Israeli consulate was taking a moment of silence and prayer to remember our brothers, sisters and children who are being massacred in Palestine,” M.C. said.

Members of the SJP at UCSD chapter also attended the protests in San Diego and Los Angeles. The organization focuses on spreading awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggles of oppressed groups around the world.

“We categorically condemn settler-colonialism and reject Zionism. We are entirely unsurprised with the ethnic cleansing and collective punishment that the occupation has committed in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza Strip, as it is consistent with occupation policy going back decades,” SJP at UCSD said in a statement to The Triton.

To learn more about the violations of Palestinians’ human rights, SJP at UCSD recommends reading “A Threshold Crossed,” a report published by the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch.

When asked what they think people should take away from the escalated Israeli-Palestinian violence, M.C. shared civil-rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Elizabeth Peng is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. News Editor Sahana Narayan assisted with the research for this article. You can follow her here @sahanasnarayan.

This piece was updated at 12:30 p.m. on May 31st 2021 to remove passive voice in the sixth paragraph to better align with The Triton’s style guide. It was also updated at 8:02 p.m. June 8th 2021 to identify a source by their initials.