Mideast reaction in Bay Area: Blue ribbons for Israel, protest signs for Palestine

‘This felt like a significant first step toward doing something peaceful.’

Emotions ran high in the Bay Area on Sunday afternoon, more than 7,000 miles away from Gaza and Israel, as local residents took part in pro-Palestine and Jewish demonstrations as the Israel-Hamas war entered its ninth day.

The death toll continues to rise, with Israel reporting that more than 1,300 people have been killed by Hamas bombings, while the Gaza health ministry reports that more than 2,600 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters lined the intersection of Stevens Creek and Winchester boulevards in San Jose, waving the Palestinian flag as cars honked their horns. The demonstrators then marched through Santana Row’s main thoroughfare, shutting down traffic as they chanted “free, free Palestine” and held signs reading “end US funding to Israel apartheid” and “let Gaza live.”

On Sunday afternoon, Dr. Yusra Hussain of San Jose was among hundreds of people who stood in solidarity with Palestine. She believes the US is “complicit in supporting an apartheid regime that’s committing genocide right now on people who are completely trapped.”

“I’m a physician,” she explained. “My tax dollars, the money I work hard for and give to the government to provide necessary goods for our country, are being sent to Israel to support their apartheid, genocide, and outrageous actions in Gaza and Palestine.” This has to come to an end. A diplomatic solution is required.”

On the Peninsula, over a hundred students at Stanford University placed blue ribbons around campus to commemorate the lives lost in last week’s Hamas attack and to refocus attention on the Israelis who have been kidnapped.

According to Rabbi Jessica Kirschner, executive director of Hillel at Stanford, students organized the protest in part because they felt the campus community was ignoring the tragedy or was “actively sympathetic to Hamas.”

“There was a lot of chalking and banners advocating a pro-Hamas perspective, which made our Jewish students feel really unsafe,” Kirschner went on to say. “This was conceived as an effort to keep people’s focus where it belongs.”

Students, according to Kirschner, placed the blue ribbons in prominent locations around campus, such as White Plaza. It was the group’s first major action after a week of mourning. The attacks were deeply personal for many people. Kirschner stated that many students had friends or family members who had been kidnapped, knew people who were being called up for reserve duty, or were themselves being called up.

“This type of tragedy has enormous implications including here,” Kirschner went on to say. “This felt like a meaningful first step to do something peaceful, and ideally keeps the focus in a really important place — the people whose fate can get lost in these geopolitical questions.”

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