On Sunday, May 22, Binghamton University students and faculty alongside Binghamton locals participated in a Free Palestine Rally on campus.
The rally began outside of Academic Building A, where organizers explained the plan for the event. Afterward, the rally moved to the Peace Quad, where multiple speakers gave prepared speeches about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Anas Shaikh, the imam of the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, was one of the speakers who attended the event and spoke on the Peace Quad.
“Israel is championed as the only democracy of the Middle East,” Shaikh said. “But I ask you, is it really a democracy when half of its population is treated like second-class citizens? According to international law, Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank. The people of Gaza are living under an illegal blockade. It is by all definitions what the media does not want you to call it — an apartheid state.”
Across the Peace Quad, some students holding up Israeli flags gathered and watched the speakers from a distance. There was a brief scuffle between one student and a few other attendees of the rally, but the situation was quickly defused by other attendees.
Brian Freedman, the executive director of Hillel at Binghamton, watched the rally from across the Peace Quad. Freedman said that he opposed violence and wanted a peaceful resolution for both sides.
Following these initial speeches, the rally, at this point consisting of several hundred members, was led by organizers around the Brain. While marching, organizers led chants including “Free free Palestine,” and “Two, four, six, eight, Israel is a racist state.”
After participants marched around the Brain, the rally ended at the Peace Quad, where there was an open mic event for any participants who wanted to speak.
Diana Khatib, one of the organizers of the event and a junior majoring in business administration, said that the rally was a collaborative effort and thanked every member for participating.
“The reason why this protest was so successful was because of the driving force of dedicated and passionate students who all contributed to our cause and helped us get everything organized while spreading the word in a matter of a few days,” Khatib said. “[Student Association (SA) President David Hatami], Moen [Aziz] and I, while we helped bring everything together and to life, could not have done it without the help of these people who took the time out of their finals week to help us.”
Moen Aziz, another organizer of the rally and a senior majoring in computer science, said he has family in Palestine and has visited the area multiple times throughout his life.
“I’ve seen firsthand what is going on in the West Bank,” Aziz wrote in an email. “However, when I would travel there in middle school and high school, I brushed off the injustices that I witnessed. It was not until the recent escalation that had made me rethink my visits under a new light. I had been face-to-face with colonialism and apartheid throughout my entire childhood and I had no clue of it then.”
Khatib stressed the importance of the rally and urged people to stay up to date with what is happening in the area.
“I want people to realize that Gaza is a 25-mile-long strip and it is [around] six miles wide,” Khatib said. “It has 2 million people living on top of one another, with [42.5] percent of them being children. The median age is  years old. These are the people suffering and dying from Israeli airstrikes. They are killing civilians, who are not even allowed to leave if they wanted to.”
Aziz said he also strongly opposed any anti-Semitic sentiment, as anti-Semitic incidents have recently increased nationwide, and emphasized the importance of focusing on the issue at hand.
“I just want to emphasize that this recent protest and the struggle for Palestinian human rights is not a vehicle to spew anti-Semitism against Jews,” Aziz wrote. “Judaism has existed for centuries before the establishment of Israel. Being critical of Israel’s policies and their government is not an attack on Jews around the world. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in anti-Semitism and hate crimes against Jews recently, which I condemn to the fullest extent. However, those incidents are not representative of my views or the views of the overwhelming majority of people who want the de-occupation of Palestine.”
Editor’s Note: Pipe Dream had a direct recording of Brian Freedman’s quote, but due to technical error, it had been lost. In the interest of full transparency with our readership, we have decided to attach this note stating our intention to update the story with a direct quote once we receive one.