Students torn, mobilized by Gaza war

Alexandra Finkel

Mike Goldstein has traveled to Israel twice and is a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Northwestern’s Jewish fraternity.

He’s also the only Jewish member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Since Israel began its invasion of the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, juggling the two has become tougher when it comes to his relationship with his fraternity members and even his family.

“I try not to talk about it in public spaces in the frat because all anyone ever wants to do is argue,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “And watching CNN with my dad has become somewhat of an impossibility because I think it’s just too important to ignore it and not have a conversation.”

The conflict has not only been divisive for Goldstein. Many NU students said it has impacted personal relationships, even resulting in a new Facebook trend.

Jake LaRaus said he was apathetic toward the situation in the Middle East before he visited Israel last December. He has since “donated” his Facebook status to show the number of rockets Hamas has fired into Israel.

“The trip put a face to the issue,” the Weinberg freshman said. “I think being in Israel made it more tangible and less abstract.”

LaRaus said the issue has especially been divisive when it came to his relationship with his Muslim roommate.

“It’s definitely divided us religiously, and there’s this uncomfortable silence,” he said. “We know where the other stands, but we don’t want to bring it up to make things worse.”

Dana Shabeeb, co-president of the Muslim-cultural Students Association, said she and her friends donated their statuses to reflect the number of Palestinian casualties instead.

McSA is currently sponsoring Islam Awareness Week, which started a week earlier than originally scheduled to create a dialogue on campus about the situation, Shabeeb said.

The group will hold a speaker panel called “Gaza Under Siege: Context, Conflict and a Call to Action” Wednesday, as well as a vigil for those affected by the conflict Thursday night.

McSA is also working with Students for Justice in Palestine to bring controversial author Norman Finkelstein to campus on Feb. 5. Finkelstein made headlines in 2007 when he was denied tenure at DePaul University for attacking notable Jewish historians and figures.

Students for Israel is also planning events for later in the month.

“I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised as to the number of students who are somewhat aware of the situation,” said Weinberg freshman Nathan Enfield, the group’s co-president. “It’s not just a Jewish or Palestinian issue – it’s a global issue.”

For at least one student, however, the conflict isn’t simply a headline in the “International” section.

McCormick senior Mohanned El-Natour has relatives who live in the Gaza Strip, including aunts and uncles. Although El-Natour said his relatives have not been harmed, he fears for their safety and hopes the conflict will resolve quickly.

“It’s made me realize there’s a lot more than the little bubble we all live in,” El-Natour said. “It’s made me want to make the most of what I have.”

[email protected]