By: Jesse Shore
Over the past week, Temple University students rallied in support of Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks. “At Temple, there is a strong SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine],” begins Hasbara Fellow Shirley Shpungin, “but there is no real justice for anyone if simple truths are not acknowledged: Israeli civilians are being attacked by Hamas, a terrorist regime that does not want peace. As a result of this violence, Israelis are forced to defend themselves.” Shpungin goes on to explain how, although there is certainly a pro-Israel and pro-peace community at Temple, there has been little effort to promote a rational, calm, and clear voice for peace to the greater student body. Shpungin, along with her friends Meir Miskin and Hasbara Fellow Eric Belkoff, are taking the initiative to enhance that effort.
It began with an informal rally in solidarity with Israel by the Bell Tower, Temple University's central and most crowded location. The purpose of the rally was to counter the distorted claims made by an anti-Israel protest, which was scheduled to take place the same day. Shpungin describes that most if not all of the events run by the SJP are more anti-Israel than they are pro-Palestinian. She explains that “at the very least, we wanted people who pass by them to know that there is another side to the story.” An interfaith and peace memorial ceremony was also held at Temple's Hillel, organized by Hasbara Fellows Paige Guber and Emily Green.
Due to organizational issues, the SJP had to postpone their rally, giving Shpungin and her friends the unique chance to speak in solidarity with Israel and for peace without “being bullied.” “We're not interested in fighting or having pointless arguments. We want to stop the violence and the false accusations against Israelis.” This goal was made clear on the Facebook page for the rally. The students used the page to clarify their goals, to discuss talking points and to refine their messages before the event took place.
Students discussed how the true obstacle to peace are the terrorist regimes and organizations that oppress their own people and force Israel to fight in self-defence. Over 40 students attended the rally. For over an hour and a half, they engaged their peers who were curious and who stopped by. “I am so glad we had the chutzpah to organize this. It shows that if we stick to our guns, we can be very successful.” Although the SJP has rescheduled their protest, it does not deter the Hasbara Fellows and student leaders. They intend to continue making sure that their voice is heard.
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