Gaza Conflict Hits Close to Home

[A]fter days of  rocket fire and airstrikes, Hamas and Israel declared a ceasefire last week. But emotions continue to run deep here at Ryerson, as students with ties on both sides choose to speak out.


By Vectorportal (Licensed through Flickr's Creative Commons)

“It’s extremely important for students, no matter from what organization, to voice their opinions. You’d be surprised by the amount of students that are oblivious to what is going on in the world,” says Dina Zakout a member of the Society for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

With protests and demonstrations from both parties on and off campus, there’s no pleasing everyone.

Last Friday the SJP organized a teach-in to distribute flyers and discuss the on-going conflict between Hamas and Israel. The Israeli Student Association ( ISA) was invited to attend the event.

“When I got to Victoria and Gould there weren’t tables or flyers. I saw a group of students holding signs with what I would call propaganda on it, students laying on the ground with scarves covering their faces to clearly represent civilians who have passed away in Gaza, as well as students yelling out that ‘Israelis kill children,’” said ISA treasurer, Sam Kopmar.

Zakout, who’s lived in Gaza, said the SJP looks to bring awareness to society in a civilized way. “They’re trying to convey a message, a cry out for help. They need as much help as they can get, whatever they can get to the support that they need to put an end to the suffering and injustice of the Palestinians.

Because both parties feel strongly about who is right and who is at fault, tensions inevitably escalate.

“No supporter of Israel wants to see any civilian pass away, however this really has to be put on the shoulders of Hamas. They purposely set up missile launching areas, weapons holdings, Headquarters, in places such as schools, hospitals and other civilian buildings,” says Kopmar.

Israel and Hamas have maintained a truce for the past four years. But with rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, the conflict has caused panic among many residents.

“When you look at the numbers of those who have died, it is heartbreaking. They say the Israeli’s were not targeting civilians, yet it was only civilians that died. It’s very odd,” says Zakout.

Like so many Ryerson students who have families who in the middle of the conflict, Kopmar is keeping close tabs on his loved ones, “A large portion of my family lives in Ashdod, which is close enough to Gaza to be struck by rockets. Last Thursday I was on the phone with my grandmother, twice she had to hang up and run to the bomb shelter. I don’t think anyone wants to think about their own grandmother fearing for her life.”

Each group agrees that they do not hold animosity for the “opposite side,” and that all they want to do is rally for peace and bring awareness to others .

“ I don’t have any relation to either side but this is a really tough subject. My heart goes out to all of the innocent victims who have died…no one deserves to live in fear..” said fourth-year psychology student Chris Alvarez.