Having attended several student protests and enjoyed being part of the political scene, when I heard about a Palestinian protest, I could not refuse the offer to attend it. However, little did I think that this one protest would question my views on protests and possibly be the last one I attend.
The protest was following the recent ceasefire from the Israelis and was held outside the UMASS student center where we were met by a prominent number of Zionists. The reason I used the word Zionist rather than Jewish was because the members who were present were from a student Zionist Organization. The participants of the Palestinian protest were of mixed races; there were several Arabs, many non-Arabs, and to my surprise, a group of Jewish students. Were they on the wrong side? Had they mistaken the group? As these questions ran through my mind, a Jewish girl approached me and told me of the turmoil she was going through following the ceasefire. These students regarded themselves as being Jewish, as opposed to Zionist. She was disgusted with the works of the Zionist terrorist groups and wanted peace for Israel.
The protesters were chanting "peace for Palestine" and "stop the ceasefire," whilst the Zionists were campaigning for Israel shouting, "Palestine is not even a real state." My friend, who had invited me to the protest, is from the Gaza strip and lives with her family in a refugee camp. She is a student at Mount Holyoke College and was asked to tell her story at the protest. She was dressed in jeans and a coat. As soon as she began to reveal her story, she was interrupted by a man who appeared to be in his late 30s and shouted "Is that how a refugee dresses?" I was disgusted with the ignorance and prejudice I had just witnessed. Shortly after, I found myself to be present in a heated argument with this man who was no more than an ignorant, uneducated Zionist. He refused to accept the existence of Palestine based on the fact that it did not have a national anthem. I thought this was ironic considering the desperation of Israel to be accepted by Arab nations upon their emergence. Having had enough of the arguing, I shook hands with the man and wished him to gain some knowledge.
I left the protest early, without looking back. Multiple thoughts rushed into my head. The event I had attended hosted less than a hundred people and the offense I had felt during my time there made it feel like it had been a waste of time. Yet, I can hardly imagine the reality of the situation in Israel and Palestine and the hostilities. What was to come of the protest? It was too small to gain any publicity and the representatives were simply interested in chanting for peace in Palestine, but how can this help the Palestinians? The reality is it cannot.
Protesting is a nice idea, it raises awareness further, but in no way does it help the suffering. This realization altered my view on protests. Whilst I enjoy being part of political rallies, campaigns and events, protests are insignificant unless they have prominent publicity and become a political statement. And for any ignorant Zionists out there, do enjoy the Palestinian national anthem.