As tensions rise in the Middle East, one can only wonder how things escalated so fast and if peace is still a possibility in the violence-stricken region. What is the root of this problem? And who are the true victims in a battle where civilians on both sides are dying? Upon closer inspection, one can see that the conflict at hand is not one between governments and not one about land. It is simply a case of two groups of people, two nations, being held hostage by the ruthless and careless acts of the Palestinian terrorist organization -- and current parliamentary majority -- Hamas. While Hamas has supported the firing of Quassam rockets into southern Israeli towns with the sole intention of killing civilians, it has also brought suffering upon its own people. Since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the amount of rockets fired from there has quadrupled. It is important to realize the fact that the plight of the victims in Gaza was brought about by Hamas and its ruthless acts of violence.
Last Monday, the Students for Justice in Palestine participated in a "die-in" to show solidarity with those killed in Gaza. What SJP didn't say is that many of these "civilian" casualties were actually a result of human shields created by Hamas, or actual victims of Hamas militants. At the “die-in,” a demonstrator shouted anti-Semitic slurs at a student who challenged the purpose of the rally. Another student was physically roughed up and told to “get the hell out of here.” It was a hostile environment where the free speech of people not agreeing with SJP’s message was being suppressed. Such fear tactics may work for Hamas in Gaza, but they are unacceptable at UC Berkeley. Those who truly care about the plight of the Palestinian people need to stop blaming Israel for everything and victimizing themselves. Rather, they should look at the situation they are in, think about how they got there, and plan a progressive, constructive way to improve the quality of their lives. Electing a violent and racist group to government is not the right move on the path to peace. I call upon the Students for Justice in Palestine to stand up and be willing to criticize the acts of an Islamic fundamentalist group that has caused much harm upon its own people. Hamas needs to be held accountable for its actions. When Israel's partner for peace is targeting innocent civilians, how can peace even be a possibility? The Arab-Israeli conflict has gone on long enough, and the voice of moderacy, not extremism, is the way to go.