Tensions are rising on college campuses in California and across the country as students react to Israel’s war with Hamas. The deadly violence has led some college leaders to warn against discrimination or harassment against any member of the Jewish or Palestinian communities.
Hundreds of University of California, Los Angeles students gathered at Bruin Plaza Wednesday night for a solemn vigil for Israel.
“I’m really just praying for all of the innocent people caught in the sides of it,” said UCLA student, Cienna Janes.
There was a heavy security presence at the event as the longstanding Israeli Palestinian conflict enters a new phase following the deadly terrorist attack in the Jewish state carried out by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group in Gaza.
Amid rising tensions, some student groups say they have received threats over their beliefs and academic discourse. Organized by UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine, a lecture called “Emergency Teach-in on the Crisis” was moved from in person to Zoom after the group says it received threats.
“I want 100 percent to have Palestinian students to have their voice and I want all Palestinians to have the same rights and same access to their homeland as Israeli’s do,” said Nicole Fenyes, president of the UCLA Chabad group. “The most important thing to remember is, the two sides are not necessarily equal in the sense that Hamas is by far a terrorist organization.”
After rumors circulated that some professors were making it mandatory to attend the session or offering extra credit, UCLA quickly made a public statement confirming that the Palestinian event was not mandated by any of its faculty.
“These events are not sponsored by UCLA, but by student groups and faculty members whose free expression rights are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution,” UCLA said in the statement. “Allowing the use of campus facilities for such events is part of UCLA’s legal obligation under the First Amendment and does not constitute the university’s endorsement of any event, its speakers or the views they express.”
Some students at University California, Riverside are speaking out after dozens of Palestinian flags appeared on campus Wednesday. Several UCR students reached out to KTLA regarding Palestinian flags on the lawn on campus saying they feel unsafe and uneasy and they can feel tensions rising.
One Palestinian student condemns the violence, but says his people have been oppressed for years.
“It’s like very bad for both sides, but what people fail to understand and what western media fails to portray is that my people have been oppressed for a very long time and when they’re constantly ignored,” said Adrian Adi, UCR student. “I don’t condone violence on both sides, but it’s semi understandable what’s going on.”
As war rages overseas, many people and students locally are feeling the effects of what’s happening. Families have lost loved ones from Saturday’s gruesome attack and others are desperate for answers after learning that Hamas has taken some of their loved ones hostage.
“I’m here for my Jewish friends, people I met in Israel, people in Palestine, and every one caught in the middle of this conflict,” Janes said.
The group, Students for Justice in Palestine, will be holding a walkout and rally tomorrow at 2 p.m. at UCLA.