By Brian Khorshad
“More protestors”¦ great.” Such a thought likely crossed many students’ minds as they scuttled past Kerckhoff Hall last Thursday. Last week’s rallies just seemed like the latest iteration of a recent string of student activism. But to those clutching signs and hoisting flags, the cause, even though halfway around the world, hit home.
In response to a four-day barrage of 120 rockets, which have pounded Israeli civilian targets and cities since last Sunday, the Israeli Defense Forces commenced Operation Pillar of Cloud in Gaza, an attack targeting senior Hamas officials and rocket-launching sites in the area.
At UCLA, the Israel-Palestine conflict has never failed to polarize students. Last week, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel students alike gathered in Meyerhoff Park to voice opinions over the newest developments in the ongoing conflict. Activists on both sides recounted tragic stories brought about by the latest round of fighting. One student told of his uncle, who darted into a local grocery store just as the air raid sirens began blaring in Jerusalem. Although this man survived, others have not been as fortunate.
Although divergent sentiments on the conflict remain, one thing is agreed upon: all want the fighting to stop. But even if leaders come together to negotiate a cease-fire, the latest round of fighting has highlighted the frightening reality of the conflict.
Recent rocket attacks have strayed as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, population centers previously thought to be out of range. These missile strikes demonstrate Hamas’ willingness to put civilian lives in jeopardy.
For its part, Israeli efforts demonstrate a value for human life. In 2008′s Operation Cast Lead, the previous military excursion into Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces littered neighborhoods with flyers, warning civilians that an attack was coming. Even in the current mission, Israel has taken extreme care to safeguard the lives of noncombatants.
While demonstrators capture students’ attention with beguiling slogans and catchy chants, all members of the UCLA community must realize that these mottos oversimplify a complicated issue.
The history of the state of Israel has been tumultuous, and the nation has struggled to maintain a lasting peace with its neighbors. Despite its best efforts to coexist with surrounding countries, Israel has often been forced to defend its citizens against malicious attacks from other nations.
Pillar of Cloud is Israel’s latest attempt to defend itself against foreign aggressors. Since Cast Lead’s cessation in 2009, Hamas has intermittently fired rockets into Israeli land, evoking little action from the Jewish state. But after last weeks’ increase in rocket fire, Israel went back into Gaza in an attempt to stop Hamas’ efforts to kill Israeli citizens. On Saturday the White House publicly supported Israel’s “right to defend itself,” reiterating the goal of the nation’s efforts. This skirmish is just the latest demonstration of Israel’s national struggle to safeguard its citizens.
As Israel’s President Shimon Peres recently stated, “all mothers want to sleep at night with their babies.” Hopefully Israel and Gaza can come together to give mothers on both sides some rest.
Khorshad is a third-year international development studies student and public relations chair of Bruins For Israel.