The University of Maryland chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace planted 3,000 white flags on Wednesday, each representing “about 10 Palestinians” killed since Hamas attacked Israel in early October.
Natalie Weger, the “justice & equity” reporter for the student paper The Diamondback, writes that “more than 25,000 people in Palestine and more than 1,200 people in Israel” have died since Hamas’ assault from “the blockaded Gaza Strip.”
A member of the SJP who did not want to be identified out of “fear of retaliation” said the display purposely was arranged for the first day of spring classes “to set the tone for the rest of the semester” — and to let everyone know the SJP is “not going away anytime soon.”
JVP President Hershel Barnstein said the flags were intended to “grab people’s attention in some way.” He added “If you’re standing on the right side of history, then you’re standing with the Palestinians.”
About 100 attendees watched as some students gave speeches about the ongoing violence in Palestine against the backdrop of the flags.
Two students spoke to the crowd about their family members who were killed in Gaza.
Freshman computer science major Sarah Edwan said her cousin, Jehad, and Jehad’s three children were “targeted by an Israeli missile” and killed in a building collapse that occurred soon after a temporary ceasefire ended in November.
“Over the following hours, after digging through the rubble, Jehad’s husband, who was also injured, managed to pull Jehad and her children, his wife and his children, piece by piece out of the rubble,” Edwan said.
Speakers at the vigil also referenced a poem called “If I Must Die” by Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian poet from the Gaza Strip who was killed Dec. 7. The poem was written on a white kite attached to a Palestinian flag in the middle of the exhibit on the mall.
“‘If I Must Die’ symbolizes all of the martyrs, or what we call the victims, of everything happening in Gaza,” senior geographical sciences major Iman Akhtar-Smith said. “We’re telling the stories of the martyrs in Palestine.”
After outraged ensued at a “Holocaust 2.0” chalking scrawled at a UMD pro-Palestinian protest in November, the Students for Justice in Palestine said it was being “misinterpreted” and meant “no harm to any Jewish person.”
It was, the group said, merely a “comparison” of the WWII Holocaust to the “genocide […] now occurring before our eyes.”
IMAGE: The Diamondback/X