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On Tuesday, UF’s Students for Justice in Palestine organized a vigil and walkout during an event featuring former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sergeant Yoni Michanie. The event commemorated yet another year of SJP organizers putting together a vigil to mourn those in Gaza. Year after year, Israel attacks unprotected Gaza with state of the art bombs and missiles. Following the 2014 conflict between Israel and Palestine, the United Nations came out with a report in 2018 stating that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if the conditions remained as they were.

Bombs continued to rain down on Gaza.

It is important to note that the bombs did not come from nowhere. These missiles and weapons did not strike of their own accord. There was no third party nor some incomprehensible, untouchable higher beings causing such a level of mass destruction. It was the state of Israel. This past week in Gaza, 34 Palestinians were murdered, 16 of which were civilians, according to the Associated Press.  

Eight were children, three were women and 111 more were injured. 

Israeli officials want us to believe that these women and children are terrorists. At Tuesday’s event, Yoni Michanie was prepared to speak on some of his previous ideas he had written about. In 2018, Michanie wrote for the Jerusalem Post that it was “Time for the world to call for new democratic elections in the West Bank…” and that the world must “. . .force the Palestinian leadership to end their struggle...” Is this the great democracy that the United States boasts of having in the Middle East? A state where it is all too common for high ranking officials to call for other countries to lead a coup in prettily dressed terms? Since the Great March of Return Protests began in Gaza in 2018, over 400 Gazans have been murdered while protesting for a better future for their children. Is this the democracy you wanted? Michanie’s other writings have referred to Hamas and the Palestinian struggle as “Islamic Jihad” and the Palestinian Authority as “barbaric.” To invite such a high ranking military leader who endorses such policies and shows such disdain for Palestinian life is shameful as is. To invite him the week that dozens in Gaza were murdered is appalling. 

The majority of Gaza’s population is young, which could be attributed to a variety of societal problems caused by bombings. Therefore, the majority of Palestinian victims are young. What happens in Gaza every day is a sad tale. The city is one that sits on the beach with crystal clear water and bright white sand. The rocks jut so high, it feels as if each might pierce the sky itself. Yet, we do not live in a timeline where we can just appreciate the beauty of Gaza. We must also fight for it. UF SJP will stand for it today and everyday. To any and all who seek to support the cruel and appalling policies we saw this week, we have a message for you: be ready. We’ll be there.

Saja Hussein is the treasurer for Students for Justice in Palestine and a UF political science sophomore