Senna Omar / The Highlander

On Friday, Nov. 18, 2023, the University of California Riverside’s (UCR) chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted a rally outside of Hinderaker Hall to protest the presence of Bassam Eid on UCR campus, who SJP has characterized as a “genocide supporter.”

Hillel, a club promoting ”Jewish cultural, social, educational and religious organization,” invited Bassam Eid, a Palestinian, human rights activist, to speak at their Shabbat dinner, which was supposed to take place in the Student Success Center at 5:00 p.m.

In an Instagram post on Nov. 18, UCR Hillel described Eid as “an insightful speaker with a pragmatic and somewhat optimistic vision for the future of [the] middle east” and that “conversations like the one with Bassem Eid provide an important opportunity for our students to hear a critical perspective.”

Linton Freund, who spoke later in the event, characterized Eid as, “…a Palestinian Zionist who was invited by UCR Hillel to speak” and that they were “protesting his presence and his message.”

The protest was supposed to begin at 4:30 p.m., but organizers were made aware that the Hillel event was moved off-campus. Organizers discovered the event’s new location was the Riverside Convention Center and around 4:45 p.m.; they announced the change in location to the crowd and proceeded with the rally at Hinderaker Hall. 

Multiple SJP speakers led the crowd in protest chants and told stories of their loved ones currently living in Gaza. The last person to address the crowd was introduced as, “anti-zionist Jewish solidarity speaker” Linton Freund, a UCR Ph.D. Student. When asked why they were protesting, Freund responded, “I was protesting because I am a Jew that believes in a free Palestine. The Israeli occupation is wrong, we need a ceasefire now.” 

Freund believes “Palestinian liberation means a single state that gives Palestinians freedom, equity, resources and the control of those resources. Palestinian liberation means allowing Palestinians to return to their homes, without fear. Palestinian liberation means ending the Israeli occupation & upending the systemic racism that harms Palestinians.” 

Following the remarks to the crowd, organizers announced that since the event had moved, so would the protest, and so at 5:02 p.m. protesters left UCR to head to the Riverside Convention Center. 

An anonymous protester stated, “The protest that occurred was in response to an organization on campus who was going to bring a speaker, Baseem Eid, who was made multiple false claims and justifies genocide. And as a student at UCR I don’t think speakers like that should be welcomed on campus. However a couple hours before they were supposed to have their event, they moved it off campus. So I would say the protest was successful.” 

“The event was moved off campus, which I would call a success,” Freund stated. They further elaborated their perspective, “The event did still take place off campus, but I think our presence and message was clear — we do not welcome anyone who supports genocide. I am not only a Jew but I’m a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor. My family did not survive a genocide because of who we are for me to be silent as my people enact a genocide against an entire people. Zionism and Israel do not speak for all Jews, and do not care about the safety of Jews let alone anyone. I know what genocide looks like and I will never be silent in the face of genocide.”