University of Minnesota students and demonstrators braved the cold Tuesday to listen to pro-Israel speakers and wave flags and signs in support of the nation.
Students Supporting Israel held a rally outside Coffman Union in response to the Nov. 21 cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Political science senior Ryan Lyk spoke at the rally. He said the focus of his speech was to define what it means to be pro-Israel.
“Being pro-Israel doesn’t mean that you’re anti-Palestinian; it means that you support the spread of democracy in the Middle East,” said Lyk, who is also the chair of Minnesota College Republicans, which co-sponsored the rally.
“As the College Republicans, we are dedicated to supporting the values that make America great: freedom and the right to vote,” he said. “Israel is constantly under attack, and they’re our strongest allies in the Middle East.”
Lyk said that it’s important to bring the issue to campus because of misconceptions students may have about the conflict.
“Lately, Israel has been demonized in the media and in some of the rhetoric around the school,” said David Axelrod, a Students Supporting Israel officer who also helped organize the rally.
Students for Justice in Palestine held a rally Nov. 16, which almost turned confrontational when the two groups got close.
Lyk said that the purpose of the first rally was to focus on Israel’s right to defend itself while Tuesday’s demonstration was geared toward the cease-fire.
Vice President of Students for Justice in Palestine Allysha Salyani said her group didn’t demonstrate against the rally.
“They’re allowed to do that because that’s what they stand for, but SJP has exactly the opposite stance,” said Salyani, a management sophomore. “If we can come to an understanding, it would be much better.”
Students for Justice in Palestine is holding a “die in” on Wednesday at noon on Northrop Mall. The rally will feature a few speakers before demonstrators lie on the ground to represent those who have died in the conflict.
“It’s really important to bring awareness to what’s going on so that people can make their own opinions instead of just listening to and agreeing with those around them …,” Salyani said.
She said the group expects and is prepared for opposition.
“Hopefully we can just speak to them or maybe even ignore them; either way we just want to get our word out.”