Drexel students bring activism virtually to campus in light of Gaza strip tensions | The Triangle

Drexel students bring activism virtually to campus in light of Gaza strip tensions

Image courtesy of Liam Edwards on Unsplash.

After 11 days of bloodshed and over 200 people dead, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday, May 20.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel, and Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes targeting Hamas’ military infrastructure, according to the BBC.

At least 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, there were 12 reported deaths, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, according to a BBC article.

In response to the extensive damages done to the region caused by this ongoing conflict, Drexel students have taken action to raise their voices. One such group is Students for Justice in Palestine.

SJP is an international movement for students to organize and advocate for Palestinian liberation on their various college campuses. The organization stems from the General Union of Palestinian Students which began in the 1950s, according to acting Drexel’s Chapter President Banah Khamis.

According to Khamis, the student movement for the liberation of Palestine first began in the 1950s. Drexel’s specific chapter, however, was founded in 2019 by Ashly Chteh, the organization’s previous president.

SJP does a lot of work both on and off of Drexel’s campus. Some of this includes public protests and Instagram Live conversations on the intersection of Black and Palestinian liberation with the local Black and Brown Coalition. One of SJP’s largest events covered the deadly exchange, where they highlighted the effects that the United States, Philadelphia, and even Drexel policing have on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Khamis said.

However, the work is far from over, according to Khamis.

“The brutalization, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians by the Israeli Apartheid regime has not stopped for a split second within the past 73 years,” she said.

And a ceasefire will not solve this ongoing issue.

“Over 252 Palestinians, 66 of whom were children, were killed in the 11 days of Israeli aggression on Gaza. A ceasefire will not bring back our dead, rebuild our schools, or our homes; it is merely a spectacle and a pacification to the international community’s concerns,” she said.

Therefore, even with the current implementation of a ceasefire, SJP will continue to work within the Philadelphia community. One of its upcoming events, the Interfaith Vigil for Palestinian Martyrs, is being organized in collaboration with multiple organizations in Philadelphia such as the Jewish Voice for Peace Swarthmore, BLM Philly, the Free Palestine Coalition Philadelphia and Temple SJP.

Khamis will continue to work and advocate for Palestine, gathering support for SJP and speaking up for oppressed people everywhere, she said.

In addition to SJP, there is another Drexel organization working to make their voices heard.

Students Supporting Israel is an independent, grassroots movement that supports Zionism and pro-Israeli ideology. SSI was initiated in 2012 at the University of Minnesota. Since then, it has grown to 50 chapters in the US, Canada, Argentina and Norway, according to acting president Gisele Kahlon.

Drexel’s specific chapter was founded on May 7 by Kahlon because she felt an absence of a pro-Israel organization on campus. She sought to create a platform to highlight and celebrate the rich history of Israel, while also educating the Drexel community about the current events in the Middle East, she said.

According to Kahlon, SSI intends to advocate for Israel’s right to defend itself and act in response to the anti-Israeli propaganda dispersed in the community. SSI hopes to be a platform where students can have open discussions to promote a better understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict within the Drexel community.

According to Kahlon, SSI recognizes the mass destruction caused by the recent clash and empathizes with the civilians that bore its burden.

“Every time there is war all civilians are affected regardless of the side, but like every war, it eventually dies down, and everyone resumes with their lives,” she said.

However, similar to Khamis, Gisele believes that the ceasefire will not be the end of the conflict.

“The ceasefire isn’t a solution or even ‘end’ to the conflict; a ceasefire is only a short pause that will, unfortunately, resume soon enough,” she said.

Therefore, SSI will continue to be active on social media even after the ceasefire to keep the Drexel community well-informed about the conflict. SSI wants to caution the Drexel community about the misinformation that is spread about the conflict and work to create a healthy community of well-informed individuals, Kahlon said.