Palestinian students seek awareness

Andrea Hauser

As the cameras rolled and the bullets flew, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy died in front of America’s eyes as his father attempted to protect him from the crossfire of Israeli soldiers.

This death last Saturday was just one of 55 fatal encounters during the recent violent conflicts between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian refugees.

The controversy began last Thursday after Ariel Sharon, leader of the extremist Israeli Likud party, visited the Wailing Wall. The wall is a holy site for members of the Islamic and Jewish faiths in Jerusalem and has been the site of several confrontations between the two groups.

The Associated Press reported that at least 1,300 people have been injured in the conflict.

Sameh Al-Shihabi, ISU graduate student in industrial engineering, said Sharon’s actions were an insult to the Palestinians.

“He’s responsible for a lot of bloodshed,” Al-Shihabi said. “It’s kind of a challenge for the peace process as a whole. There was a definite message – a challenge to Palestinians.”

Al-Shihabi, a displaced Palestinian from Jordan, said he believes Sharon visited the wall in an effort to disrupt peace efforts between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. While Sharon never has been charged for war crimes, Al-Shihabi said many Palestinians hold him responsible for the massacre of Palestinian refugees in 1982.

“He is a terrorist to us,” Al-Shihabi said. “If any other Jew would’ve gone to the Wailing Wall, I believe nothing would’ve happened. But this guy, it was just too much for us.”

Al-Shihabi said Saturday’s tragedy was one of the first times the Western media have given a Palestinian side to the conflict.

“I don’t know if we were lucky or not, but it was caught on camera, so the world will start feeling a little sad,” he said. “This thing became like a kind of routine in Palestine, so the media in the West did not show it.”

Mahmoud Daaboul, junior in management information systems from Lebanon, said students should be aware of the conflicts in Israel.

“This is more important,” he said. “We’re talking about human lives here.”

Al-Shihabi said the Western attitude toward the conflict is often in favor of the Israelis due to influences from the American media, government and Hollywood.

“In one day I watched four movies about Arabs and Muslims as terrorists,” he said. “For the issue of Palestine, they are always biased to one side or the other.”

Al-Shihabi and Daaboul said they would like students at Iowa State to look at both sides of the issue.

“We wish for people not to be biased through the media or politicians,” Al-Shihabi said. “If any decisions you are going to take in any way affect somebody, please think about it . keep an open mind.”

The situation is very frustrating for students connected to the conflict in America, Al-Shihabi said, since there are few ways they can help.

“We do not have money to promote it to people,” he said. “According to Islamic tradition, we just pray for the martyrs that were killed.”