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Community Reacts to Protest in Solidarity with Palestine

Isabella Balian/Villanovan Photography
Last week’s protest garnered mixed reactions from community members.

Community members had mixed reactions to Nov. 9’s walkout protest in solidarity with Palestine that was organized by University students.

While parents took to parent group chats and Facebook groups to call students “terrorists” that “need to be arrested,” students that participated were proud to show their support for victims in Palestine.

“I am proud of my fellow Villanovans that organized this event and the ones that came out to support it,” CLAS senior Lindsay Redditt said. “It was good and made me feel less hopeless during this time of genocide and tragedy.”

Other students felt compelled to participate in the protest because of their passion for social justice.

“I participated in the protest because violence does not solve issues of imperialism and colonialism that are so deeply engraved in our world history,” CLAS senior Lauryn Hayes said. “As a young person, I cannot sit complicit in allowing the same colonial attitudes that have affected and continue to affect African Americans wipe out yet another group of people.”

As the conflict persists between Israel and Hamas, civilian death tolls continue to rise. The Israeli government has taken to continuously bombing Gaza, which is an Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory that is home to millions of Palestinians. In trying to eradicate Hamas, more than 10,000 Palestinian civilians have lost their lives. Students hoped to gain the support of the University in supporting the UN’s call for a ceasefire and call for the United States government to do the same. 

Hayes said she hopes the University is receptive to the protesters’ requests for University President Rev. Peter M. Donahue O.S.A. Ph.D. to stand with them.

“I hope the University understands that we are not over our heads with asking them as an influential university in America to reach out to people they know in high places of Congress and demand a ceasefire because [its] students, America’s future, want a better world to step into upon graduating,” Hayes said.

Faculty were proud of students for their activism in organizing the walkout. 

“The faculty who have supported [student organizers’] efforts could not be prouder of their compassion for others, moral fortitude and incisive leadership,” professors Elizabeth Kolsky and Hibba Abugideiri said in a joint statement to The Villanovan. “We stand with these courageous Villanovans.”

Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart joined the student protesters and led the protesters in several chants of “Free Palestine.” She joined the student-led effort because civil rights are important to her, and she wanted to encourage the student leaders in their activism. 

As the conflict persists, so does the argument over what constitutes antisemitism. 

Kolsky and Abugideiri gave an overview of the debate to The Villanovan.

“A critique of Israel is a political critique of a Zionist state, not an antisemitic attack against a religious people,” they said in a joint statement. “The State of Israel does not act on behalf of all Jewish people worldwide just as, for example, the State of Pakistan does not act on behalf of all Muslim people. We can critique the actions of the Pakistani government and not be accused of being Islamophobic just as we can critique the actions of the Israeli government without being antisemitic.”

After the protest, an anonymous post including photos from the protest from a Villanova Families Facebook page read, “Antisemitism is alive, well and supported at Villanova today.”

Villanova Hillel, an organization on campus that focuses on building Jewish community, has been monitoring the rhetoric used on Villanova’s campus.

“Every student has the right to organize, but also no student has the right to make another student feel uncomfortable,” Sean Culley, Springboard Fellow for the Greater Philly Hillel Network, said. “Fortunately, on Villanova’s campus, I have not witnessed antisemitic rhetoric being spread, which I am grateful for.”

Although Culley believed the protest that occurred did not contain hateful speech, he recognized the different individual experiences that Jewish students face on campus.

“I can’t say that as a Jewish community at Villanova that nobody has ever faced antisemitism,” Culley clarified. “We only ask the University to ensure that their faculty and staff create spaces where unique identities and experiences are empowered.”

In light of the conflict, Villanova Hillel has also held several events for Jewish students, including Zoom sessions, a vigil and community building activities. During the protest, it hosted an alternative space for students to eat bagels and be with a Jewish community.

“It’s a complicated situation, but it’s highly important for the world to know that the Jews have a historical connection to Israel,” Culley said. “Continuing to spread Jewish joy is something that nobody could ever take away from us.”

As of right now, Villanova Hillel and the Villanova Students for Justice in Palestine have not yet collaborated on events or initiatives. However, both groups have individually worked to ensure students feel safe and represented on campus throughout these difficult times.

While Villanova students, parents and staff have differing opinions on the conflict and what should be done in response, all agree on one thing: there is no place for hate on Villanova’s campus.

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About the Contributors
Hannah Sweeney
Hannah Sweeney, Co-News Editor

Hannah Sweeney is a junior in her first year as Co-News Editor. She is majoring in Political Science with a minor in Communication. She has used this interest in politics and current events to cover topics such as voting, social justice and on campus political events. When she is not writing, she enjoys watching movies, hanging with friends, or even attempting intramural sports. Emphasis on attempting.

Lydia McFarlane
Lydia McFarlane, Co-News Editor
Lydia McFarlane is one of three Co-News Editors for 2023 after starting as a Co-News Editor in the summer of 2022. Lydia is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. She is also minoring in Russian Area Studies. Lydia is active in several cultural organizations at Villanova, and hopes to combine her talents in journalism with her passion for social justice. Lydia's writing has also appeared in The Hill, Education Week and Resolve Philadelphia.
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  • R

    Raphael LachsNov 23, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    “The Israeli government has taken to continuously bombing Gaza, which is an Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory that is home to millions of Palestinians.“

    Gaza has not been occupied by Israel since 2005. Not one Israeli settlement or military base exists there. The Palestinians subsequently had an opportunity to build a state in Gaza but instead chose to elect Hamas for their leadership. Hamas has brought them nothing but misery since that time. As Abba Eban used to say, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

    Raphael Lachs, ‘87