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Student voices reverberate across Boston on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Colin Tsuboi
One of the event organizers cheers on the crowd of protesters. Photo by Colin Tsuboi / Mass Media Staff.

On the evening of Monday, Oct. 16, thousands of people assembled near the steps of Boston Public Library in Copley Square to show their solidarity for the Palestinians. The protest was led by major student advocacy groups that have been at the forefront of planning and organizing people across the United States to advocate for the Palestinian community. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Palestinian Youth Movement, the Boston South Asian Coalition and college campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, including the UMass Boston chapter, were some of the groups present. The march did not encounter any counter-protestors.

The downpour in the evening did not stop protestors from peacefully leading the march down Boylston Street to the Israeli Consulate at Park Plaza and back to the stairs of BPL. The crowd walked down the streets in Copley Square, chanting, “End the occupation,” “Free Free Palestine,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and other similar sentiments.

The launch of a surprise attack by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist Movement, on the Israelis led to a chain of attacks between the two parties. The New York Times correspondents from Jerusalem reported on the evening of the Oct. 7 attack. The group infiltrated 22 Israeli towns, leading to retaliatory strikes from Israel. News from the ground said that at least 250 Israelis were killed by the morning of Oct. 8 and around 1,400 people were wounded (1). Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza told The New York Times that at least 234 were killed and 1,600 wounded. (1) The conflict was exacerbated on Oct. 17 when an explosion destroyed the hospital in Gaza, killing hundreds of people sheltering there. Both parties have blamed each other for the blast, but neither party’s claims have been verified as yet.

The consequences of war reverberate worldwide, affecting communities living overseas. In response to the attack on both sides, affiliates have come together to mourn the lives lost in the war and to stand in solidarity with their communities. Numerous young Palestinian supporters representing affinity groups spoke at the event, energizing the crowd. Lea Kayali was one of the speakers at the protest. Kayali is a community organizer for the Palestinian Youth Movement and a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School.

During an interview at the protest, Kayali said, “In terms of the turnout, my heart is so full. I’m so proud to see the people of Boston, Mass., coming out and supporting the Palestinian Liberation. Now is the time we really need community support; I can’t tell you how much it means.”

When asked about their demands for political leaders, especially the Massachusetts senators and representatives, Kayali stated, “We are demanding unconditional liberation of the Palestinian people. We know that our politicians are not on our side. They are supporting the Israeli regime; they are supporting the genocide of the Palestinian people. And I think time will tell, but I believe people have the power, and the number of people out here really shows that the majority of the people in this country and the world support Palestinian liberation.”

Kayali concluded by urging student groups to continue their advocacy work. “Student groups are doing absolutely incredible work by supporting Palestinian cause on campuses. There is a lot of harassment and hate that’s targeted at students right now, and I would just say to all of those students to stay strong. The work that you are doing is critical to building support for Palestine to get free.”

The ongoing conflict has heightened tension on college campuses across the United States. Students are facing backlash for their pro-Palestine advocacy work. One of the organizers at the protest from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a current Harvard student, said, “They can plaster our names and faces on trucks, they can parade through Harvard calling us ‘antisemites,’ they can even attempt to make us unemployable—but none of that can change our solidarity with Palestine.”

Various student clubs at UMass Boston have put out statements through their social media. College Republicans on campus shared through their Instagram that they stand in solidarity with the Israelis and “condemn to the greatest extent the acts of terror committed by the terrorist organization Hamas.” College Democrats on campus shared that they also condemn the attack. “[…] our hearts are with the countless Israeli and Palestinian civilians who have been subjected to violence as a result of these attacks,” said the statement. Both groups expressed that there should be a peaceful resolution to end the ongoing conflict.

The UMass Boston Muslim Students Association put out a statement on their Instagram expressing their support for the Muslim students on campus. “Our hearts are with our brothers and sisters who are grappling with loss, insecurity, and displacement in Palestine. We extend our support to the people of Palestine and stand for the Palestinian liberation.”

The protest ended around 8 p.m. with closing words from the organizers. A Palestinian poet from Massachusetts Institute of Technology narrated a poem before the crowd was dismissed. An excerpt from her poem read, “I thought we condemned the death of civilians. So, why are we bombing the population of 2 million people in Gaza who literally have nowhere to go? Pray for the people, pray for the people for Gaza, and pray for Palestine.”

The protesters also wished everyone to get home safely and encouraged the crowd to find a buddy with whom they could return.

Sources:
1. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/07/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-attack.html
2. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/18/world/middleeast/gaza-hospital-deaths-aftermath.html
3. https://www.instagram.com/bostonpsl/?hl=en

About the Contributors
Kaushar Barejiya, News Editor
Colin Tsuboi, Photographer