Members of Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a public protest last week in White Plaza. On the steps of the stage across from Tresidder Union, students used chalk to write the names and ages of children killed in the Israel-Gaza conflict that unfolded over the summer.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that the conflict, called Operation Protective Edge, resulted in 2,104 Palestinian casualties, 1,462 of which were civilians. Sixty-nine Israelis have been killed. At the protest, the members of SJP had a list of the estimated 456 Palestinian children and one Israeli child who were killed in the course of the fighting. According to SJP, the aim was to commemorate the deaths as well as bring awareness to the actions of Israel that SJP considers to be a violation of international law and human rights.
“We wanted to humanize [the casualties in Gaza] and show people that there are stories behind these numbers,” said Sherif Ibrahim, an SJP member and first-year graduate student in African Studies.
The group was taking part in the International Day of Action on College Campuses for Palestine, an event organized by the non-profit American Muslims for Palestine. On Sept. 23, students at colleges across the country organized rallies.
Educating the campus
SJP, the Stanford Israel Alliance (SIA) and J Street U are all planning events this quarter to raise awareness about the conflict.
SJP has organized several educational events throughout the quarter, which began with a Palestine 101 session on Oct. 2 that was meant to provide people with an understanding of Palestine, its history and its position in the Middle East. They are also holding events featuring guests such as a conscientious objector who refused to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
“This campus needs to engage because this is Stanford,” Ibrahim said. “We can really critically engage this topic, and come up with something that is powerful and that will change the dynamic.”
SJP’s counterpart, The Stanford Israel Alliance (SIA), is also holding public events this quarter and will bring in speakers to into the conflict’s historical roots.
“Our perspective is that Israel was acting in self-defense, and that Israel has every right to act in self-defense,” said Yisroel Quint ’17, an SIA member.
Quint said that while Stanford students are less active than other campuses when it comes to the Israel-Palestine issue, a common sentiment he hears from students is that they don’t really understand the conflict.
“I think there are a lot of false facts that fly around, and it’s very easy to look at this conflict on a surface level,” Quint said. “When that’s done it’s very hard to understand what’s going on.”
SIA also plans to begin fundraising for charities that focus on fostering conversation between Palestinian and Jewish youth.
“The biggest thing that’s happened over the last 20 years is that the sides have become so split,” Quint said. “Both sides have demonized the other side, and because of that peace is less and less likely.”
Julia Daniel ’17, a member of J Street U, which she described as a “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace organization,” said that J Street U will also devote much of its time this quarter to educating people and promoting open conversation. J Street U is holding an event called “Gaza and Protective Edge: What Really Happened?” on Oct. 8.
“Particularly since this is such a contentious and emotional topic for many people, it is easy to feel threatened, defensive or simply overwhelmed by most conversations on campus and in the media,” Daniel said. “The result is groups of students […] who struggle to engage or empathize with each other, and a larger ambivalent student body.”
Contact Katie Zingheim at zingheim ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, The Daily incorrectly referred to civilian casualties as the number of citizens killed. The Daily regrets this error. The post has also been updated to reflect the latest OCHA report on casualties.