By Joshua Falk
Stanford students and community members held a candlelight vigil on Tuesday night and a protest on Wednesday afternoon in response to the Israeli attack on a flotilla of activists carrying aid to Gaza on Monday.
The vigil, which took place between Meyer and Green libraries at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, mourned the nine deaths that resulted from Monday’s attack.
Geoff Browning, a minister for United Campus Christian Ministry and a staff member in the Office of Religious Life, led a prayer before Jenna Queenan ’11, the incoming president of Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel, asked for a few minutes of silence while the crowd lit candles.
Queenan emphasized the importance of putting the attack in context, but “not necessarily a political context.”
Adam Hudson ‘10 encouraged those present to pressure the American government to change its policy toward Israel.
“The very government that runs our country is the biggest sponsor of Israeli military aggression,” Hudson said. “We can choose to be apathetic, or we can take a good look at what our government does.”
Hudson also said the conflict was about more than religion.
“This is a conflict about humanity,” he said.
Joe Gettinger ‘11, former president of the Jewish Student Association, knew many people present at the vigil and noted the diversity of the group.
“The range of people is quite impressive,” he said. “We all agree that the loss of life is condemnable.”
Former ASSU Senator Mohammad Ali ‘10, one of the vigil organizers, said the purpose of the event was to “commemorate those who gave their lives while delivering humanitarian aid.”
“This is an issue that really matters to a lot of people, regardless of your political beliefs,” Ali said.
“It’s a kind of a shame for humanity, trying to defend what happened over there,” added Zahit Guner of Turkey.
Students acknowledged and appreciated the increase in awareness.
“This needs to bring light to the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Salahodeen Abdul-Kafi ’12. “I’m glad that people are finally starting to talk about the blockade.”
Chloe English ‘13, who is involved with Invest for Peace, an initiative associated with Stanford Israel Alliance, said the responsibility of Stanford students is to “scrutinize and question” events such as the Gaza flotilla attack.
“This was an example of an appropriate response,” English said of the vigil. “Ultimately, what most Jews want — in Israel and around the world — is peace.”
The somber tone of Tuesday night’s vigil contrasted sharply with the character of Wednesday afternoon’s protest.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,” declared Fadi Quran ’10, an organizer of recent divestment movement Campaign Restore Hope, over a megaphone in White Plaza. “It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
After gathering in White Plaza, protesters marched by Tresidder Union, Meyer Library and Coupa Café. Those involved sang “We Shall Overcome” and chanted, “End the occupation.”
Several students associated with the Stanford Israel Alliance were also in White Plaza handing out fliers.
“The aim of the Gaza flotilla was not simply to provide humanitarian relief, it was also to provoke reaction from Israel,” read the fliers.
Jaclyn Tandler ‘11, president of the Stanford Israel Alliance, defended the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
“We believe that it is a just means to protect Israeli citizens in southern cities,” she said.
Tandler said she hoped that Monday’s events wouldn’t impede future peace efforts in the Middle East.
After Wednesday’s march, Quran said the purpose of the rally was to “spread awareness about the issue” and to “remind people that there is a blockade going on.”
“I think Stanford students really get stuck in the Stanford bubble,” said Mai El-Sadany ‘11. “It’s our role as Stanford students to get involved with what’s happening around the world.”