By Amisha Temal, Features Editor
Naturally, the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict has had a large ripple effect reaching communities internationally. The grief of all the thousands of lives lost is insurmountable. Generations of individuals will leave the year newly traumatized. Despite America funding, aiding and supporting Israel actively, Americans are greatly divided. Students in America have organized and carried out efforts to educate and push back against the violence on both sides.
Already existing campus clubs and organizations at Post have been using their strength in numbers to make an impact on and off campus. LIU Hillel was recently reactivated, replacing The Jewish Leadership Association (JLA). Hillel is a widespread international organization that serves as a safe space for Jewish students on more than 800 campuses. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) held a bake sale during common hour at Hillwood Commons, with all proceeds going to aid victims of war in Gaza and the Earthquake in Afghanistan.
Many students in America have family and loved ones in the impacted areas, therefore making it difficult to maintain a state of normalcy. Additionally – Arabs, Jews and Muslims in America are all becoming victims of hate crimes at an increasing rate.
Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are living in fear of islamophobia, hate crimes and discrimination. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, three Palestinian students in Vermont, two of whom are American citizens, were shot while speaking Arabic and wearing keffiyehs. A keffiyeh is a traditional middle-eastern scarf worn by Palestinian people and people in surrounding countries, such as Jordan. This attack follows weeks of Muslims and Arabs in America becoming victims of violent attacks across the country and here in New York.
Jewish Americans are living in fear of antisemitic hate crimes and violence directed at them. Senior art therapy major Renee Haimov, President of LIU Hillel, spoke about the ongoing tragedy.
“It has definitely been very terrifying, very frightening,” Haimov said. “Not only for people in Israel but for people in America that have family in Israel. Also, whenever there is a peak in conflict between Israel and other nations there is a rise in antisemitism around the world. I have family in Israel and family in the army. It is also terrifying because I live in a Jewish neighborhood. I have to debate whether or not to hide my identity or conceal it out of fear for my life.”
The conflict between Israel and Gaza has provided a platform for the Neo-Nazi movement to express their anti-jewish hate.
“Thankfully I haven’t seen anything in person,” Haimov said. “But it is devastating to see online people coming across swastikas on subways or seeing posts on Instagram of people in Florida rallying and throwing up Nazi solutes. On Halloween, posts circulated online warning people in my neighborhood, the Five Towns, to not open their doors to anyone. There are possibilities of Nazis and antisemitic people disguising themselves in costumes to harass us.I just question why we are fighting and quarreling about which side is right or wrong when lives are being lost. We should not be fighting and we should just live together and be at peace.”
Joe Biden has expressed his empathy towards victims of strikes made by Hamas and made a connection to the devastating losses from 9/11. He firmly reiterated America’s alliance with Israel and his contempt towards the actions of Hamas. Biden made a trip to Israel on Oct 18, and later met with Jordan’s Majesty King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to further act on his disapproval of Hamas. Biden reinstated that Hamas does not have the safety and welfare of the Palestine civilians in mind. He emphasized the separation between Hamas and the powerless civilians.
Similarly, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demonstrated his alliance with Israel by visiting recently. The US and UK both are mediating with Israel to minimize blows towards Gaza. His majesty King Abdullah met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put forward a more peaceful resolution. He emphasized the historical and cultural significance the targeted Al Aqsa Mosque holds.
The Al Aqsa Mosque, or the “farthest sanctuary,” is a large mosque located in Jerusalem. It is the center of the ongoing war. It was built around the 8th century AD. It maintains a majestic aura due to its grand appearance and rich Islamic significance. In Islam, the Al Aqsa Mosque is regarded as the third holiest place. It is stated in religious literature that the mosque is the location of Prophet Muhammed’s gravitation to heaven for a night. Followers of Judaism regard the mosque as a sacred prayer space, as it overlooks the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is believed to be where King Julius built the first temple.
In contrast to the leaders previously mentioned, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg notably took a rigid pro-Palestine stance and voiced her dislike for the “apartheid regime” Israel has against Palestinians. She calls what Israel is doing in Palestine a genocide, which some believe and some deny. After posting on Instagram an image of her and fellow activists holding up signs supporting Palestine, Thunberg was subject to backlash for not mentioning Israeli deaths.
Sophomore fashion merchandising and psychology major and MSA Vice President Khadija Abdul-Musawwir spoke on the violence and deaths in Gaza.
“I think people assume that this is an equal playing field between both sides when that never was the case,” Abdul-Musawwir said. “One side has been the aggressor since the 1900s. I would talk about what was going on in Israel and Palestine last year and people would just look at me blankly. The death toll right now is very high. But, in 2014 it also was at one of its highest peaks and no one talked about it. Suddenly it has hit mainstream media, which I am thankful for.”
College campuses across the country are breeding grounds for group activism and protests. Clubs and organizations are unanimously taking firm stances in the conflict. Some even raise money to help those impacted.
At Harvard University, students from 33 clubs who signed a letter criticizing Israel are facing backlash and possible career repercussions. The University President had to make a statement on behalf of the community to ensure that no extremes were being taken. Many wealthy sponsors and Harvard alumni have pulled back from supporting the school following the heated campus climate.
A student attending Drexel University may have been a victim of a hate crime after their dorm room was set on fire. At Cornell University, classes were canceled due to extreme antisemitic threats.
Faculty members at Universities have also been defiant against their administration. At Columbia University and Barnard College, more than 300 faculty members signed an open letter of contempt toward violence and harassment rooted in antisemitism.
“Any civilian loss of life during war is awful but, as colleagues on the faculty acknowledged in the letter mentioned above, the law of war clearly distinguishes between tragic but incidental civilian death and suffering, on one hand, and the deliberate targeting of civilians, on the other. We feel sorrow for all civilians who are killed or suffering in this war, including so many in Gaza,” the letter stated.
The lengths devoted activists go to protest on campus have earned many groups of people media recognition. New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) made a public statement regarding college hate crimes following an increase in tensions on CUNY campuses. He responded to Jewish students being locked in a room at Cooper Union Library in Manhattan to hide from Pro-Palestine protests.
“While the students at Cooper Union have a right to peacefully protest, hate has no place in our city,” Adams said.
In an act of brutality, a landlord in Illinois murdered a 6-year-old Muslim Palestinian-American child, Wadea al-Fayoume. The deaths of Palestinians are frightening to many. However, many have notably taken a peaceful approach to their circumstances.
“It’s something about their faith that is really unwavering,” Abdul-Musawwir said. “I want to be at that level, because at this point they are welcoming death. Not in the sense of ‘take me now,’ but they are so prepared for it. They don’t fear it. Their faith in god is so strong and they firmly believe that if they pass it isn’t the end. It is really inspiring.”
It’s more important than ever for students to take care of themselves during this period of multinational turmoil. The Center for Healthy Living provides free counseling and support for any who may need it.