Protesters gather at UC Berkeley on 100th anniversary of Balfour Declaration

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Karim Doumar/Staff

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More than 40 students gathered on the steps of Sproul Plaza to protest and mourn the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration on Thursday afternoon.

The declaration, written by former prime minister of the United Kingdom Arthur Balfour, affirmed the British government’s support for a Jewish state in Palestine. The rally began at 11 a.m. and was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP.

“The letter served as a legal document and represented the de facto colonial transfer of historic Palestine to an explicitly eliminatory movement without the consultation, or even pretending to consult the Indigenous Palestinian inhabitants,” SJP wrote on their Facebook event page.

Members of SJP declined to comment out of fear of their members being doxed.

Protesters chanted “¡Viva Viva Palestina!” and held an open mic for people to discuss their thoughts and feelings about Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

At the same time, pro-Israel student groups Tikvah and Bears for Israel counterprotested on the steps behind SJP, holding signs reading “Ask a Zionist” and “Zionism: Self-Determination for the Jewish People” along with the flag of Israel. The groups dispersed when pro-Palestine rallies began marching to California Hall.

Campus junior Sophia Gluck, co-president of Bears for Israel, said the group came out to counterprotest because it believes it is important to have people from multiple opinions represented at protests and events concerning Israel and Palestine.

“I support everyone’s right to protest, but the wants and needs of Israelis and Palestinians are very different, but also overlap,” Gluck said.

Once the pro-Palestine protesters reached California Hall, they provided a list of grievances, including the campus and city’s use of police force. Protesters also condemned campus administration for inadequately denouncing threats made against Palestinian students and staff. In September, posters were distributed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center near Barrows Hall alleging that certain campus community members were terrorist sympathizers, several of whom were known supporters of Palestinian divestment from Israel.

They ended their list by chanting, “Resistance until liberation, resistance until return, free Palestine.”

Protesters then marched back to Sproul Plaza while waving the flag of Palestine and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go!” before dispersing.

“On November 2nd, Palestinians around the world will be remembering and mourning this day as the symbolic beginning of their colonial dispossession and uprooting from Palestine,” SJP wrote on their Facebook page.

Jessíca Jiménez covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.