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Mideast Tensions at UCLA

April 12, 2002|MILTON CARRERO GALARZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

More than 200 pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators engaged in a yelling match outside UCLA's Kerckhoff Hall on Thursday in yet another campus confrontation arising from the Middle East conflict.

While each side struggled to drown out the other, the arguments did not lead to violence.

Students have been protesting at college campuses around the country as hostilities have intensified on the West Bank. Earlier this week, hundreds of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students held simultaneous demonstrations at UC Berkeley. Seventy-nine students were cited after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied Wheeler Hall.

UCLA's pro-Palestinian demonstration, organized by the Peace and Justice Committee, was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but the student group postponed it to Thursday to avoid interfering with a Holocaust remembrance ceremony.

Thursday's pro-Palestinian rally lasted nearly two hours and featured several speakers who denounced what they described as atrocities in refugee camps by the U.S.-sponsored Israeli military. In response, Jewish activists carried signs denouncing Palestinian suicide bombings that have killed Israeli civilians.

Iroshi Perera, a sophomore studying neuroscience, stood in the middle of the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups and tried to listen to the colliding viewpoints.

''I'm confused,'' she said. ''I don't know what to believe. It's completely opposite views. They both seem adamant that they are right.''

''I don't think it accomplished anything because nobody wants to hear each other," said Neda Sargordan, a junior majoring in political science.

But she too was ultimately drawn into a debate with a pro-Israeli demonstrator--one that grew so heated that a university administrator stepped in to mediate.

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