Gaza conflict spurs call to action for Baltimore’s pro-Israel students - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Gaza conflict spurs call to action for Baltimore’s pro-Israel students

Almost twenty-five hundred years ago, the Greek dramatist Aeschylus observed that in war, truth is the first casualty.

The verity of that adage may be seen today as diverging accounts of the conflict in Gaza have clouded longstanding issues while fostering a worldwide wave of anti-Semitism. Synagogues and shops are vandalized with swastikas while pro-Palestinian protesters strike the Nazi salute. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to killing the Jews.

Some pundits have pointed out that lost in the frightful film footage and the public relations repostes (also see this) are the reasons Israel felt compelled to take such punishing measures against its tiny, albeit belligerent neighbor.

Making the case for Israel locally in two separate demonstrations this week are *Jeremy F., Raquel M. and Nicole M. The three have organized counter-demonstrations to events planned by a group of Johns Hopkins students who are marching in solidarity with Gaza.Stand with Israel

Jeremy was born in Antwerp, Belgium to Jewish parents. After completing high school, he volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He came to Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 2013 to pursue study in Economics.

Raquel, a recent graduate of UMBC, works in the field of pediatric medicine. And California native Nicole, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University counts Neuroscience, Spanish, and French among her studies.

The Baltimore Post-Examiner caught up with the trio on the eve of the first rally. Here is what they had to say about the ongoing conflict and their support for the State of Israel.

BP-E ~ Why did you organize these demonstrations?

Raquel ~ I organized Wednesday’s rally for the sole purpose of supporting good against evil. Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East and it is continually attacked by terrorists; the same ones who danced in the streets after 9/11.

Nicole ~ We organized the Friday demonstration, because we felt it was important to show that there are students at Johns Hopkins who support Israel. Students don’t understand the impact they can have. We’ve always championed the idea of political activism and social awareness. Students can make an impact, and they should have their voices heard. I wish I could say the same for Jews all over the world, but look at Paris, where violence reminiscent of Kristallnacht is rampant.

BP-E ~ What do you hope to accomplish with these demonstrations?

Jeremy ~ We hope to bring together the Baltimore Jewish community, as well as other Israel supporters, and stand in solidarity with Israeli civilians and the IDF. Born and raised in Europe, I’m acutely aware of the rise in antisemitism and the dangers that so often remind us of pre-WWII sentiment. Jews have a home in Israel and a chance to live in peace. We need to support Israel to prevent history from repeating itself.

Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Dallas.  (Wikimedia)

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrating in Dallas. (Wikimedia)

Raquel ~ I want to send a message that we, the people of Baltimore – Jews and non-Jews alike – support the people of Israel with the pursuit of living in peace; that children can go to the beach, camps, and school without being afraid of a missile landing nearby.

BP-E ~ Have you ever lived in or visited Israel or Gaza? If so, please briefly describe you experience.

Jeremy ~ Yes. I served as a squad commander in an infantry unit in the IDF for two years after graduating from high school in Belgium.

Raquel ~ I have visited Israel quite a few times and attended a semester in High school there during the time Gilad Shalit was kidnaped. Knowing the people there, I feel that the world is portraying Israel in a totally opposite way of what it really is. How would you feel if people repeatedly attacked your children and your home? Wouldn’t you do anything you could to protect your family and loved ones? That is exactly what Israel is doing.

BP-E ~ What do you think of the reporting of this conflict?

Nicole ~ It depends on the news source you’re referencing. In general, I would argue the press doesn’t view Israel favorably. It’s easier for the media to report numbers and throw out words like “disproportionate.” But what does disproportionate mean? That Israel has fewer civilian deaths? Or that Israel prioritizes civilian safety over all else, and Hamas shamelessly uses human shields? Much easier to report a number.

Raquel ~ A lot of the media channels choose to show the conflict in the wrong light. They claim that the people of Gaza are being killed by Israeli attacks without mentioning that the majority of the casualties are due to the fact that the Palestinians are using their own people as human shields. Hamas terrorists fire rockets and hide ammunition within hospitals, schools, community shelters, and homes. The Israeli army is doing the maximum to inform residents of the neighborhoods in Gaza that they are going to retaliate against Hamas and asking civilians to move away to safety. Never in the history of ANY war has one side warned the other before they attacked.

BP-E ~ Do you have family/friends in Israel? If so, what are they telling you about this conflict?

Nicole ~ Yes, both Jeremy and I have relatives there. Many of our family members have been called up to serve, so understandably, everyone is worried. Every few hours (more often depending on where you live) there are sirens and you run to the shelters.

BP-E ~ Do you have family/friends in Gaza? If so, what are they telling you about this conflict?

Children don't naturally hate. (Ehsaan Nasheeds)

Living side by side.  (Ehsaan Nasheeds)

Jeremy ~ No, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sympathize with the civilians trapped by their own government.

Raquel ~ Neither do I, but I would like to add how I hope for a Gaza free of Hamas, living in peace and prosperity, side by side with Israel.

BP-E ~ What do you feel is at stake in this conflict?

Nicole ~ Hard to answer, because so much of this conflict is about taking preventative measures. The IDF and Shin Bet recently uncovered a terrorist plot planned for Rosh Hashanah (the high holiday marking the Jewish new year), in which hundreds of terrorists intended to infiltrate Israel and kidnap any civilian in their path. But simply put, lives are at stake – on both sides.

Raquel ~ I see it like this: Hamas is targeting civilians while the IDF is targeting Hamas terrorists. That is the difference. If Israel puts down their weapons, there will no longer be a state of Israel. If Hamas puts down their weapons, there will be peace. That is all we want.

BP-E ~ What do you think the US role (if any) should be in this conflict?

Nicole ~ That’s a tricky question, and obviously anyone supporting Israel will welcome US aid. From an economic standpoint, most of that money is cycled back into the US economy; and from a political standpoint, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Look, the United States can’t fund a terrorist organization and as we’ve seen, much of the money given to the Palestinian people through charitable organizations ends up in the pockets of Hamas leaders while the communities that need it rarely see a cent. The materials and resources required for one tunnel could have gone towards approximately 86 homes, 19 medical clinics, 7 mosques, and 6 schools. This is an organization committed to violence and the destruction of Israel, as opposed to the aid of the Palestinian people.

BP-E ~ Is there anything you would like to add in closing?

Raquel ~ These rallies are important, and you need to be there!!

* * * * *

The Stand With Israel Rally takes place today at 5:30pm at Penn Station Amtrak in Baltimore, Maryland. Raquel stresses that this will be a peaceful rally. Anyone bringing hateful signs or words will be asked to leave. Stand With Israel will meet near the statue of Gort and then spread out along the sidewalks.

Those wishing to express solidarity with Gaza will march from Penn Station to the corner of North Avenue and Charles Street. The march will end there before Norman Finkelstein’s talk at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse.

Baltimore City Police will be on hand to designate separate areas for the pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies. In addition, extra officers will be present at Penn Station and along the route.

Stand With Israel at Hopkins takes place this Friday August 1 at 3:00 p.m. Participants will meet at 33rd Street and St. Paul, Baltimore.

Metered parking throughout the surrounding area is available for these events.

*Editor’s note – Due to current worldwide wave of anti-Semitism, only first names will be used in this article.


About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at the Washington Herald, and Voice of Baltimore, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, SmartCEO, Magic Octopus Magazine, Destination Maryland, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.
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