As students depart for Fall Break, they leave behind a campus divided over the Israel-Gaza conflict. While the animosity between Israel and Palestine has historically been a hot-button issue on campus, Haverford’s response since the recent escalation has only emboldened tensions between students and the administration.
On Tuesday, President Wendy Raymond hosted a vigil in response to the events in Gaza. On Thursday, she issued a statement to students, faculty, and staff mourning “the hundreds of Israeli citizens who were murdered or kidnapped by Hamas….”
While President Raymond alluded to the “generations-long conflicts leading to this moment,” nowhere did she mention that the Israeli Defense Force has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians since Hamas began launching rockets and killing Israeli civilians nearly one week ago.
Some students, including MK, feel that recent campus communications and events on the conflict, such as the vigil on Tuesday, have betrayed Haverford’s values.
“At a liberal arts school that is against war, it feels like a betrayal of a lot of Quaker values of nonviolence,” MK stated.
However, when asked whether he agrees that the premise of the vigil was to mourn hundreds of Israeli deaths, Dean John McKnight responded, “I think that’s right, I think that’s what that moment calls for.”
Many students said they were particularly disappointed by President Raymond’s statement.
“There were so many errors she made – not acknowledging the loss of Palestinian life or framing this in a colonialist context,” said one Jewish student, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. “This is especially painful to me as an anti-Zionist because it is horrendous to see the Jewish community which I love turn its back on the oppression of the Palestinian people when we as a people have been fleeing oppression for the past 2,000 years.”
“She did not mourn the Palestinian citizens who were killed, or the children who were killed by this ruthless bombing,” said junior Kinnan Abdalhamid, a 20-year-old Illinois-born Palestinian, who lived under Israeli military occupation from when he was three until he began at Haverford.
“I don’t expect much from Western media or the college to mention much about Israel’s oppression and apartheid,” said Abdalhamid, “But I at least expect the thousands who were killed to be mentioned and mourned.”
Abdalhamid said he found President Raymond’s references to anti-Semitism as a cause of Palestinian rage to be repugnant, saying Palestinians and Jews had shared Palestine for centuries.
Some students feel that college officials have failed to offer equal sympathetic remarks over the loss of Palestinian life to the same extent as they offered to the college’s Jewish community.
“I am hurt that [Haverford] forwarded the experience of Israelis above everything else,” MK said, “It’s as if they think Palestinians don’t go to school with them … I think [President Raymond’s] lack of criticizing Israel at all makes room for and accommodates hate for Palestinians.”