Through the lens: Israeli–Palestinian conflict touches Omaha

People gathered on a wet, cold Omaha Friday to share their perspectives on tensions in Israel and Palestine. Photo by Andrew Smith

Dozens of Palestinian flags cut through chilly winds at the intersection of 72nd and Dodge Streets last Friday evening, as supporters of Palestine and members of Nebraskans for Peace sought to raise awareness towards the continuing Palestinian struggle for freedom amid escalating conflicts in the Middle East.

In the last week, attention was diverted back to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, an ongoing 75-year-long dispute over land division. A surprise attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas swept through Israel on Oct. 7, killing over 1,000 Israeli citizens and taking hundreds hostage. Reuters reports that as of Oct. 16, over 2,750 Palestinians have been killed in retaliation by Israeli forces, primarily through bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza City, the largest city in the region, stands as one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world with an estimated 2.3 million citizens living in the 141 square mile strip of land. Its people and buildings remain threatened by Israeli forces after the initial push by Hamas.

Those who gathered on Omaha’s busiest corner shared their feelings on the conflict overseas.

Elise Smith (left) hugs a friend joining in on the event. “Palestine has been fighting for decades. This war brought on, it’s really just kind of the last straw,” said Smith. Smith addressed her perceived bias of Western media and America’s involvement in the conflict. “The U.S. has always been very open about their involvement in the Middle East. We have done nothing but harm that area of the world time and time again.” Photo by Andrew Smith
Willie Massui advocates for peace near the 72nd and Dodge Street ORBT station. “I’m advocating for peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” said Massui. “A lot of people I know really do want peace, to coexist. At the end of our lives, what really matters is whose life did we touch, whose life did we change.”  Photo by Andrew Smith
Soraya Rahmanzai joined friends and family to fight persecution and promote the intermingling of all people.”As a Muslim, I think that what’s going on in Israel is completely unfair. The Palestinian people have been persecuted by the Israeli government for 75 years and so as a Muslim I support Palestine 100%,” said Rahmanzai. “It’s not right that lives are lost on both sides but what the government is doing right now in Gaza? Unspeakable.” Photo by Andrew Smith
Nasrin Elrokhsi (right, holding sign) came with Nebraskans for Peace. Photo by Andrew Smith
One individual showed up before the 4 p.m. start time bearing a sign reading “Omaha stands with Israel.” They declined to comment. Police officers warned the individual about securing the metal and wooden sign as winds picked up. Photo by Andrew Smith
Messages and signs clashed, as with war there is never one side. Photo by Andrew Smith
Commuters honked and waved to protesters on the corner of 72nd and Dodge Streets. Photo by Andrew Smith
Photo by Andrew Smith