A tight circle of 120 people stood in front of the courthouse May 17 at 7 p.m. The clock tower rang as candles were positioned in the center of the circle. The people were gathered for a vigil, organized by UCSB Students for Justice in Palestine, PODER Santa Barbara, and the community of Santa Barbara, honoring the Palestinian victims murdered on May 14 by the state of Israel.
As the sun set, students read the names of the victims and lit a candle for each one. In total, 98 candles were lit to represent the lives lost — of those, 16 were children, including an eight-month old baby girl. Following a moment of silence, the circle was opened up for community members to share thoughts, feelings, and words of support.
The vigil follows the Board of Supervisors’ recent honorary resolution recognizing the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel. “It’s more complicated than people make things out to be,” said 1st District Supervisor and Chair Das Williams. “I want Israel to continue to exist. I’m a supporter of the two-state solution,” he said. Williams clarified, “I do not agree with policies of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Judy and David Neunuebel, members of Jewish Voice for Peace, attended the vigil. “[The supervisors] should at least acknowledge the Nakba,” they said. “Nakba” means disaster or catastrophe in Arabic, the word used to refer to the hundred of thousands of people dispossessed when the state of Israel was formed. Everyone should have the same freedoms, said the Neunuebels. You can’t have two sets of laws — one for whites, another for blacks; one for Jews, another for Palestinians: “It’s not fair, it’s not just,” they said.
At the end of the day, it’s the same process, they said. “With Black Lives Matter, Jim Crow laws, there is a parallel,” said David Neunuebel. “It’s the same thing with Trump trying to build walls,” said Oscar Soto, attending the event with his daughter and partner. Another attendee wore a shirt with the message “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have to go.”