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‘Protest for Palestine on the K’ responds to Israel-Gaza conflict

Students gathered, marched and chanted in support of the Palestinian people Thursday at the “Protest for Palestine on the K” after deadly attacks targeted Israeli towns near the border of the Gaza Strip Saturday. 

Israeli minister of defense, Yoav Gallant, since announced a complete siege on Gaza on Monday, targeting the city’s majority-Palestinian population and one of the two Palestinian territories. This led to the cut-off of electricity, water, food and gas as a part of Israel’s retaliation following the attacks by Hamas, the political and militant organization controlling the strip. 

According to June 2022 statistics from UNICEF, 62% of the 2.1 million Palestinians in Gaza required food assistance, and 78% of pipe water in Gaza was not safe for consumption. 

Kent State Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students’ Association ran the protest, which was aimed to raise awareness for the Palestinian struggle, to provide a balanced perspective and clear out misinformation, SDS Chairperson Christian Heller said. 

SDS member Shreya Basu said the groups were protesting because people “don’t really get to see the Palestinian side represented in the media.”

“It’s always about, ‘Well, Hamas is doing this,’ but what about the ordinary Palestinians who are on the ground right now?” she said. “They’re having their homes bombed, their schools bombed, their hospitals bombed. Right now, Gaza is completely without electricity and completely without running water. And that’s not really something that people really understand the impact of.” 

Bearing signs and flags, people protesting for Palestine march across campus Oct. 12, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Over one thousand people were killed and hundreds were taken hostage, according to Amnesty International. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the attacks by Hamas “brought to mind the worst of ISIS,” in a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel Thursday. 

At the press conference with Blinken, Netanyahu said, “Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilization. The massacring of young people in an outdoor music festival, the butchering of entire families, the murder of parents in front of their children, the burning people alive … and the sickening display of celebrating these horrors [is] the celebration and glorification of evil.” 

From 1917-1947, the land where Palestinians were living was controlled by Britain. At the time, Britain agreed to let the Israeli people, who were once pushed out of the area, claim a national home in the region.

Conflicts began between the two sides as Jewish immigrants flocked to the area in the 1930s. In 1947, the United Nations implemented a partition plan, which created two independent states in the middle east, one Palestinian Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized. In the following decades, conflicts erupted between the two sides, and Israel began claiming land within the Palestinian state. 

Heller said up until 1967, there was some division between Israel and Palestine. But after that, Israel has occupied both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election and took control of the Gaza Strip.

At the protest, students from SDS spoke in front of the crowd, with Heller calling for Kent State’s Undergraduate Student Government to address the situation in Palestine and issue a statement in support. Protest attendees brought posters and chanted while marching toward the rock on front campus, which they later painted. Lieutenant James Campbell from Kent State University Police Services, one of the police officers at the protest, said he was there to keep the community safe.

People protesting for Palestine march down the esplanade to The Rock on front campus Oct. 12, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Sophomore college of aeronautics and engineering major Leah Dah said she attended the protest because she agreed with the cause.

“People are so quick to back Israel,” Dah said. “It’s very much genocide going on against Palestine.”

Yaseen Shaikh, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said the recent attacks on Israel were not unprovoked. 

“Students of Justice in Palestine at Kent State University are shaken by the loss of life, the tragic scene of the injustice occurring in Palestine right now,” he said to the crowd of about 60 people. “We abhor the U.S.-sponsored state terrorism committed by Israel on a daily basis. A majority of the past century has been marked by nearly daily killings of Palestinians, thousands of political prisoners, a perpetual siege on Gaza, a brutal occupation and the violation of international law every single day. We fully support the rights of the Palestinian people to resist this illegal occupation.”

In an email response Thursday morning, Michael Pollak, the director of student life at Hillel, the university’s Jewish organization, said the weekend’s attacks were “the worst slaughter of Jewish people since the Holocaust and the deadliest attack in Israel since the Yom Kippur War,” an Arab-Israeli war fought during October 1973. 

Hillel began its vigil, “Kent State Uniting for Israel,” to honor the memory of the lives lost in Israel at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. 

“We expect our campus communities to offer solace and support as we grieve over the vicious and cruel attack on Israeli civilians and process the unbearable pain of the heinous murders, rapes and kidnapping of Israeli men, women and children,” Pollak said in the statement. “Our Hillel is supporting Jewish students now. Jewish students are organized, motivated and proudly expressing their Jewish identities on campus even in the face of this week’s horror. The importance of being together in community during this hard time is vital.”

Chris Abou-Elias, a sophomore Peace and Conflict Studies student, speaks to attendees of the Protest for Palestine about being a first-generation student from Lebanon Oct. 12, 2023. (Cadie Pierce)

Chris Abou-Elias, a first-generation student who said their family is from Lebanon, said people need to recognize the sensitivity of the situation in their speech to the crowd. After attempts at a peace process, Abou-Elias said Palestinians feel they have no other choice but to turn to violence. 

“Jewish people have a need to feel safe as do Palestinians,” they said. “These two interests can coexist. It is important to understand that retribution is not the Palestinians first attempt at justice. There were efforts at peaceful coexistence, peaceful protests that ended in Palestinians being slaughtered.

“There is violence on both sides. This is not a question. However, the violence is not proportional.” 

Editor’s note: A paragraph in this article was moved up to more accurately portray why students held this protest. 

Audrey Trevarthan is a digital assistant. Contact her at [email protected]. Annalexis Davis, campus editor, contributed to this article. 

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About the Contributors
Audrey Trevarthan, Campus Editor
Audrey is a junior journalism student with a passion for opinion writing and digital content. Contact her at [email protected]
Matthew Brown, Photo Editor
Matthew is a junior photography major. He has a passion for photography and traveling. Contact him at [email protected].
Cadie Pierce, Photographer
Cadie Pierce (she/they) is a Senior Integrative Studies major and Photojournalism minor and staff photographer for KentWired/Kent Stater. Cadie can be reached at [email protected].

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  • R

    Robert Lee KollerNov 20, 2023 at 6:49 pm

    As I write this, I am looking at a map titled “Palestine Plan of Partition,” published by the United Nations in April, 1946. It clearly shows an equal division of the British Mandate for Palestine (excluding Transjordan!) between an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State.” The Palestinian Jews were content with this proposal and the Palestinian Arabs were not. The war on the new State of Israel began in 1948 and it simply hasn’t ended. It’s my opinion that, at this point in time, 75 years later, Israelis have had enough! Just a few weeks and fifty years ago, I was a young USAF First Lieutenant assigned to the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. I routinely examined the satellite imagery that showed the Egyptian Order of Battle build-up along the Suez Canal in preparation for it’s attack upon Israel. How awful that the U.S. State Department informed the Israeli government they would not have our logistic support if they engaged in a first strike effort to neutralize the threat! I think it would be kind now if the powers that be in this world would allow Israel to occupy Gaza Strip and teach a new generation of Arab Palestinians how to engage in this world by occupying themselves with constructive and healthy enterprise, something they should have begun many decades ago. I am a 1967 graduate of the former Kent State University High School and a 1971 graduate of Kent State University, I hope the campus isn’t permitted to descend into the chaos over this political discord I and so many others witnessed over a half century ago! (I would also like to mention my father graduated from Kent State in 1940 and, beginning in 1949, became one of its longest serving professors; thus, I was literally raised at Kent State!)

  • M

    Mike LOct 13, 2023 at 6:27 am

    The Palestinians do not want peace. They want the eradication of the Jews. Israel has given up territory to the Palestinians they had after being attacked. The Palestinians have uses those areas to stage attacks on Israel. Isreal has offered peace deals to the Palestinians and the Palestinians have refused to accept a coexistence with Israel. Isreal is the only democracy in the Middle East. Don’t fall for the lies of Hammas. They are the the ones oppressing the Palestinians in Gaza.

    • M

      Marc E MillerNov 13, 2023 at 6:26 pm

      As a KSU 1971 alumni I agree with you completely. Israel has NEVER been the aggressor and is always been on the defensive. I will NOT support any group that is pro-Palestinian!