Professors and student leaders shared their personal experiences and urged the MSU community to take action at a Nov. 9 campus event organized by Students United for Palestinian Rights, or SUPR, MSU Arab Culture Society and Muslim Students' Association.
"I condemn Israel because it has no right to kill and expel Palestine's indigenous people in mass," SUPR president Samir Levitt said. "I stand with Palestine's right to resist occupation. I stand with a free Palestine, a liberated Palestine."
Speakers told listeners to contact their representatives about the U.S. government's role following the Palestinian militant group Hamas' attack on Israel and the Israeli Defense Force's intense and continued military response on the Gaza Strip.
James Madison College professor Waseem El-Rayes is Palestinian and a former refugee who has "more than three-quarters" of his family currently living in Gaza. El-Rayes said his family's roots in Gaza "extend more than 10 generations."
He said that his family was given "a little more space to breathe" within refugee camps in the past, but in Gaza today, there is "no privilege to breathe under the relentless" forces.
El-Rayes said that he lost eight extended family members from bombings in Gaza, but that eight people are small in comparison to the total number of people that have died in Gaza since the conflict started a month ago.
"This is just one story out of the 10,000 and counting from a population that Israel is crushing under the weight of its relentless firepower that is supported by our own government," El-Rayes said. "We must do everything we can to stop this horrific massacre of Gazans. Contact your representatives and demand a ceasefire now."
MSU Young Communist League member Brendan Culler brought up the relationship the United States has with Israel and how it has directly affected the lives lost in Gaza.
"We must oppose injustice everywhere, which means we must oppose the United States' support for Israel," Culler said.
He said that although "no one denies what Hamas did" initially on Oct. 7 is "tragic," Israel's continued response is an "affront to humanity."
"If we don't speak out now, when?" Culler said. "If we don't act now, when? If we don't do something, who will? The time is now to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine."
Stephen Gasteyer, an associate professor of sociology, first visited the Palestinian territories in 1985 to study conflict. He found his way back and lived there for "a number of occasions." While he hasn't visited recently, he said his friend told him 43 of his family members died from the bombings. Gasteyer said he was heartbroken.
He remembers the day the most recent conflict started.
"Hundreds of thousands of people were out in the streets calling for humanity, calling for a ceasefire, calling for an end to this madness," Gasteyer said. "All of this is not to celebrate the violence or say that violence was the answer (initially), but rather to decry and call for some humanity."
Students supporting Palestinians said they plan to continue fighting, protesting and calling state representatives and urging them to a ceasefire.
"From the halls of our universities to the lobbies of our corporations, to the offices of our politicians to the ports shipping weapons destined for genocide, we will be there to tell them no to war and no to genocide," Culler said. "We cannot have peace until Palestine is free."
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