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Hattiesburg community gathers to promote a free Palestine

Suvi Lama
Members of the Hattiesburg community gathered at an intersection in midtown to demand a ceasefire and stop the Gaza genocide.

While major news outlets are busy covering the Israeli conflict, people across the world and in the United States are collectively protesting to demand an end to the killings of innocent civilians in Palestine, a movement for a Free Palestine. The movement has reached Mississippi, and on Friday, Jan. 26, Mississippi Rising Coalition organized a protest at the intersection of Highway 49 and Hardy Street.

On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attacked Israel at a music festival in the Negev Desert, only some miles away from the Gaza border. This resulted in 364 deaths and around 40 people were taken hostage. After Hamas’s attack, Israel has been attacking and bombing the Gaza Strip, killing more than 25,000 civilians in the process. The Gaza Strip is 25 miles long, from 3.7 to 7.5 mi wide, and has a total area of 141 sq miles. With around 2 million Palestinians on approximately 141 sq miles of land, Gaza has one of the world’s highest population densities. Furthermore, more than 60% of the population are children aged 18 years or younger. The protest wanted to bring light to this information.

“Before this, I didn’t have an idea about what was going on,” said Kit Coursey, a USM student involved in the protest. “The main purpose for us to be here is to let people know this is happening. Some of them might not know how to even get in contact with this information.”

To understand the context of the attacks on Palestine, one needs to understand the historical context. Palestine is historically significant in several religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Yet today, Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied from visiting their holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, violating their right to religious freedom and worship.

Most Palestinian Christians in the West Bank have never been allowed to go to Jerusalem’s holy sites due to Israeli restrictions, despite living 20 minutes away. In 1948, in what the Palestinians call Nakba meaning “catastrophe”, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled by Zionist militias and, later, the Israeli army. This resulted in a large number of Palestinian refugees in other Arab countries as well as the West. Following 1948, Israel denied their return while it passed the 1950 Law of Return to allow anyone in the world of Jewish descent to immediately gain citizenship and immigrate.

“Especially with today’s International Court of Justice Decision to not call for a ceasefire but instead put some provisions on Israel, which they haven’t been doing, it’s important for people to come out and support regardless of opposition,” said Musa Alves, another protestor. “Never Again Means Never Again for Everyone!”

Many consider this to be an ethnic cleansing or genocide happening to Palestinians. On Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its provisional measures against Israel in the genocide case brought about by South Africa.

The Mississippi Rising Coalition’s protest ended in two hours. And on Friday, the International Court of Justice delivered its measures in South Africa’s case of Palestinian genocide against Israel, but it did not demand for an immediate ceasefire.

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