Student Rally for Palestine at Clifton City Hall

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A graduate of Clifton High School and current college student, who has requested not to be named, organized a student-led rally for Palestine for high school and college students on Wednesday. As discussed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the rally was held in front of City Hall. For more on the discussions, see HERE.

At 2:30 p.m. students walked from Clifton High School towards the front of City Hall and assembled with a large sign calling for a ceasefire, facing Clifton Avenue. Passing cars slowed down to honk their support as students and their families swung Palestinian flags and chanted slogans. The students called Israel a terror state or an apartheid state, and held up signs calling for the end of the violent hostilities in Gaza, but were careful to avoid antisemitic slogans like “From the River to the Sea,” which deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. For more on why some slogans are widely considered antisemitic, please see HERE. For more on the conversations in our schools on the situation in the Middle East, please see our interview with Superintendent Robertozzi HERE.

Students shared their stories of outrage at what is happening in Gaza, and also of the discrimination they had faced as Muslims. A student from Teaneck talked about receiving death threats and harassment when she and dozens of others staged a pro-Palestinian walkout from Teaneck High School. The speakers called for American politicians to end the funding and support of Israel and an end to the violence in Gaza, with a ceasefire to bring peace to the region. Clifton Police monitored the rally and ensured that everyone involved was safe.

The student chants also included calls for an Intifada. The Arabic word “Intifada” translates to “uprising” or “shaking off.” This word has been used to describe periods of intense Palestinian protest against Israel, mainly in the form of violent terrorism, including suicide bombings. The First Intifada lasted from 1987-1990 and the Second Intifada from 2000-05. Thousands of people, both Israelis and Palestinians, died during those two uprisings.

As the rally wrapped up around 3:30 p.m., several members of a Palestinian family took the time to speak passionately about the pain of losing their homes in the West Bank, and their experiences with discrimination from Israelis when they tried to return home to visit. They spoke eloquently about having soldiers pointing guns at their children and living in fear of being shot or attacked by Israeli soldiers for the most minor of provocations. One woman who identified as Palestinian said “It is the most beautiful land in the world. Perhaps that is why everyone fights over it.”

Clifton resident and photographer Steven Cohen spoke to one of the women, offering his thoughts that Palestine would never be free as long as a terrorist organization like Hamas was in charge of Gaza. “They are freedom fighters, not terrorists,” she responded, pointing to a significant difference in how Hamas is viewed by some.

“We all agreed the conflict started way before October 7th,” Cohen said, and added that the woman's personal stories were both believable and compelling, saying that she spoke with deep hurt and profound rage.

The women were reluctant to be identified as they said that at past events their photos were taken and they were described as terrorists. One expressed fear that the Keffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian scarf, is being equated with terrorism. She still has her grandfather’s Keffiyeh as a symbol of her link to family in Palestine.

The Center for American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) reports that anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias incidents are up by 216%. The Anti-Defamation League (“ADL”) reports a 300% rise in anti-Semitic bias incidents. For more on both reports see the CAIR report HERE and the ADL report HERE.

Israel and the leaders of Hamas are currently in negotiations for a ceasefire. We join the student activists in their prayers for a ceasefire from both parties that brings peace to the region.



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