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Protesters try to stain human flag

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
More than 100 supporters of Israel gathered on the Mall yesterday to form a human Star of David, which appears in the center of the Israeli flag. Protesters also gathered at the event to call for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
By Aaron Mackey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 29, 2004
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An attempt to create a human Israeli flag on the UA Mall yesterday was interrupted when protesters floated a set of red balloons over the crowd, trying to create the illusion of a bloodstain on the flag.

More than 100 students and supporters of Israel formed the Star of David in the flag to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel and to show support for the nation.

The UA Hillel Foundation and the Arizona Israeli Alliance organized the event. It was the first human Israeli flag created at the UA.

Less than 50 feet away, the Alliance for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and other campus groups called for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

While participants in the human flag waited to have their picture taken by an airplane flying overhead, three protesters moved closer to the group, trying to float the balloons over the flag.

Mike Sousa, an art education senior, said the bloodstain represented the killing of innocent Palestinians and the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

Several human flag participants left the group and attempted to bring down the balloons, with one man cutting the string attached to the balloons.

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Armand Navabi, computer science senior, was one of several participants who protested against the human Israeli flag on the Mall yesterday.

Jacob Reuben, an Associated Students of the University of Arizona senator who participated in the flag's formation, said he respected students' right to protest but that the use of the balloons was in poor taste.

"They have a twisted way of protesting," he said.

Heather Lobenstein, a journalism senior who organized the human flag, said the event was not intended to be political, as students were only gathering to show support for Israel.

But Jessica Weinberg, co-president of APJME, said the creation of the flag was political.

Weinberg said by supporting Israel, participants were also supporting what she called the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

"The creation of that state came at the expense of the human rights of Palestinians," she said.

UAPD Detective Sgt. Robert Sommerfeld said the demonstration and protest went on without incident.

"Overall, the groups acted very peaceful," he said.

Armand Navabi, a computer science senior, said he protested Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories because he believes Americans aren't aware of the true state of affairs in the Middle East.

"I'm out here because there's a lot of things that people don't know about," Navabi said.

Standing with signs that read "End Israeli occupation" and "Your tax dollars fund illegal occupation," the majority of the protesters allowed the human flag formation to continue.

Lobenstein said she was sad some protesters did not respect the flag's re-creation.

"Hopefully in the future, they will be respectful," Lobenstein said.

Weinberg said the protest demonstrated that campus groups like AIA and APJME need to work together to show respect for both sides.

The protest and the creation of the flag were important to increase campus dialogue about issues in the Middle East, Weinberg said.

"You can only hope that people will start to think about it for themselves," she said.

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