Pro-Palestinian crowd rallies in Salt Lake City as Gaza cease-fire begins

By McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

Published: Thu, July 31, 2014, 10:00 p.m. MDT

 People participate in a pro Palestine rally in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

People participate in a pro Palestine rally in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Hisham Arafat received a message from his father in Palestine on Thursday.

A bomb had exploded outside his family's home, but they were safe.

The Salt Lake Community College student paused, relieved. He picked up his white Palestine cap, a gift from his uncle, and tied a Palestinian flag around his neck before grabbing a homemade poster on his way out the door.

"Shame on Israel," it read.

As the beginning of a tenuous cease-fire approached along the Gaza Strip, Arafat joined more than 100 people waving signs and flags on a downtown Salt Lake street corner Thursday evening, chanting "free Palestine" and marching through the streets.

"It's great to bring awareness here," said Arafat, who left Gaza seven years ago to come to Utah. "It feels amazing when you see all the people here. The smallest thing can help."

The protest, the third of its kind in two weeks, came as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza passed 1,400 in the past 24 days, according to a New York Times tally.

Utah Anti-War Committee member Sarah Simmons, who coordinated both rallies outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building, said the small group hopes to add their support to that of Palestinians calling on the U.S. government for help.

The group wants the U.S. to support Palestinian people enduring crisis in the long-embattled region, require Israel to remove forces from Gaza and stop the deadly bombings in the area, and halt U.S. funding supporting the Israeli military.

Meanwhile, accusations against Hamas "terror tunnels" made international headlines Thursday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel will continue to seek out and destroy the tunnels, with or without a cease-fire.

The tunnels reportedly connect from Palestine into Israeli territory and have been used to attack Israeli troops. The New York Times reported 62 Israeli deaths as of Thursday.

"Maybe not everyone is correct in this situation, but also somebody is doing the occupying, somebody is killing thousands of Palestinian children and women, and somebody is receiving intense military aid. It's not Hamas," Simmons said.

Simmons said she encountered a few people who opposed the pro-Palestine rally, but mostly the bystanders she met were simply curious.

Abdul Mansour, a first-generation American who grew up in Murray after his parents left Palestine, came to Thursday's rally out of growing frustration that U.S. tax dollars are being funneled into the conflict.

"It's just very wrong to call Israel a democratic country and our ally when they're practicing apartheid," Mansour said. "You can't control a piece of land and the people there but then have two separate laws — one for Israelis and one for Palestinians."

Mansour was accompanied by his wife, two children, and his brother. After spending time in Palestine following his high school graduation, he has made sure to stay in contact with his cousins still living in the area.

Mansour said he and his family will return to future demonstrations. He smiled as his 18-month-old son picked up a homemade sign depicting the Palestinian flag.

"Do you want to protest?" he asked the boy. "Protest for Palestine."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

1. HS Sport Dude
Salt Lake City, UT,
July 31, 2014

How about Palestinian’s get rid of Hamas, stop launching bombs/rockets into Israel, demolish the terror tunnels that have been built between Gaza and Israel, and act like they really want peace. Using women and children as shields to your bombs and other military hardware is weak and cowardly. Israel has shown much more restraint than any other country with the fire power they have.

2. darthdan
West Jordan, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

People forget that not only are Hamas forbidding people from leaving their homes when Israel warns of an impending attack, but intentionally stages their weapons and men near women and children. Untold numbers of children reportedly died digging these "terror tunnels" under duress. The only way Israel is going to root Hamas out and neutralize its threat is to do what they are doing. If we support Palestine in the way these protesters suggest, we'll be making a very dangerous enemy out of Israel. They will stop at nothing to protect their homes from the Hamas terrorist and those who support them.

3. happy2bhere
clearfield, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

One, I hope these people appreciate the fact that they could do this protest here in America, or in Israel. However, if they tried an anti-government protest in any Muslim country they would likely be arrested and or killed.

Two, The notion that only Israel is getting weapons is absurd. These rockets, of which they seem to have an endless supply, are coming from somewhere, likely Iran. And the tunnels are also likely the method of getting them into Gaza.

Three, I side with Israel. 100%.

4. financenco
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

This is why terrorists are spreading. People form their own religion continue with the false beleife of Israeli occupation. Those who are Muslim in Israeli controlled areas, hope they never lose control. That is privately. On camera, they have to chear on the other guys, or get killed. I have a test idea. Lets say a bunch of Mormons, in Utah, decided to kill all Palestinians, it is in their teaching philosophy. They teach their kids to hate all Palesinians, and will reward their kids if they kill a Palestinian. In fact, we would shoot from behind women and children. We would launch missiles from hospitals and schools. We would co-oped law enforcement agencies to look the other way. We woudl use tunnels that go from temples to do it. Would you suppport the idea that if that was the case, that those Palestinians had a right to defend themselves? If you said yes, you would be correct. That is what is happening to Israel. It is Hamas, and other terrorist nations, who call for the elimination of their lives. A cease fire really does nothing. It gives terrorists a chance to relocate to another place and shoot again.

5. Shazandra
Bakersfield, CA,
Aug. 1, 2014

It is a tragedy for innocent souls to die. It is also a tragedy for ignorance, dishonesty and hatred to blind citizens as to who is responsible for Palestinian deaths.

Hamas has no love for its own people, Israeli children, or the rule of law. They began the conflict by murdering three innocent teenagers. They perpetuate hatred in all their charters and literature. They use most of their funds to build tunnels and arsenals. Every time Israel cedes land they are rewarded with more mortars and increased hatred. But Hamas is honest about their intentions that Israel should be defeated and obliterated. The world hears them loud and clear; now Israel will rid their land of the non-negotiable warriors.

It's just a tragedy that Palestinians can't think on their own or see through their own prejudice. Public protests in our country aren't fooling anyone. They only prove that the false moniker of apartheid is nonsense.

How many will die before they decide to seek peace? There are plenty of other Muslim countries in the region: Try protesting there.

God is weeping over this unnecessary carnage. 93% of Israelis support this military.