Page One

Israel Independence Day sparks dueling UC events

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Thursday April 18, 2002

The standoff between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students on the UC Berkeley campus continued Wednesday with a pair of dueling events on Israel Independence Day. 

Pro-Israeli students waved flags, danced and ate traditional foods on Sproul Plaza, celebrating the nation’s 54th anniversary. Activists from Students for Justice in Palestine, some twenty yards away, rolled out a fifty-foot scroll listing the 418 Palestinian villages they say were destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948. 



“We want to express that what happened in 1948 is not something to be celebrated, it is something to be mourned,” said Snehal Shingavi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and SJP leader. 

“It’s a celebration of freedom and peace,” replied Randy Barnes, a UC Berkeley senior and co-chair of the Israel Action Committee, a campus group. 

Barnes said the Independence Day event marked a stark contrast with the SJP takeover of Wheeler Hall last week that resulted in 79 arrests. 

“That’s not the path of peace,” said Barnes, arguing that SJP action and rhetoric promote “anger and hate.” 

“The bottom line is that Palestinians are being slaughtered right now and Randy Barnes and his friends are dancing on Sproul and celebrating the government that’s doing this,” responded SJP leader Will Youmans. 

Activists on both sides said the atmosphere on campus has been tense since last week’s protest, which drew hundreds of activists and swarms of reporters to campus. But neither side reported any violence or serious incidents. 

One student, Micki Weinberg, a UC Berkeley freshman who calls himself “an ardent Zionist,” is attempting to bridge the gap between activists on both sides. 

Weinberg approached Eyad Latif, a Palestinian-American student, and suggested that activists on both sides start a group that will focus, not on politics, but on students’ “common humanity.” 

“I want people who are diehard Zionists sitting in the same room with people who are diehard Palestinians,” he said. Weinberg said the students could focus art, music and cultural heritage. 

Latif, who said that he has lost an infant sister and a grandmother in the Palestinian territories because the Israeli Army has cut off access to medical care, was hopeful about Weinberg’s overture. He said SJP members are discussing the offer. 

But some are skeptical. 

“Micki Weinberg wants to forget about the oppression of the Palestinian people and mingle instead,” said Youmans. “What’s needed is an honest political dialogue.” 

Barnes, of the Israel Action Committee, said he had not heard of Weinberg’s overture. He added that recent efforts by the Office of Student Life to intervene fizzled with last week’s protest. 

Weinberg is a former member of the Action Committee who left because his views are “not in line with IAC.”