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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students for Justice in Palestine hosts vigil to honor lives lost in Gaza this week

Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer
Students gathered to honor lives lost in Gaza this week in a vigil hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine.

More than 100 students gathered in front of Deering Library, which was lit in green, white and red Thursday night, raising candles, reading poems and making speeches to honor the lives lost in Gaza this week. 

Students assembled for the vigil, hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine, following an outbreak of violence in the region in the last week. Israel declared war against Hamas on Sunday after the militant organization launched a surprise attack on Israel Saturday. More than 2,800 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing violence.

“These are real human beings,” an SJP co-president, who asked to remain anonymous for safety purposes, said. “They are people with the same breadth of dreams, aspirations and families. As we stand here, I ask you to internalize that these are not abstract statistics.” 

SJP representatives emphasized that this is not the organization’s first vigil. While death has gripped Palestine this week, speakers urged the crowd to remember this is not a new struggle for Palestinians.

Communication junior and SJP member Rama Darayyad agreed with those sentiments. She said she hopes Northwestern students honor not just the lives lost this week but the lives of all Palestinians who have died during Israeli occupation.

“Palestine is hurting, but it has been hurting for over 75 years,” Darayyad told the crowd. “We have been mourning for more than 75 years, grieving for more than 75 years … We Palestinians yearn for the world to see us and the suffering of our people. But not like this. And not trapped by propaganda and misinformation.”

Darayyad’s family is Palestinian. While her mother’s family still lives in the region, her father’s family was forced to flee the region during the mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, which Palestinians call the Nakba, meaning catastrophe in Arabic.

Darayyad said she has been fighting for Palestinian independence her whole life. 

“I think that nobody understands that as Palestinians living in the diaspora, we are not just tasked with mourning Palestinian lives, we are tasked with convincing the world our lives are worth being recognized,” she said. 

Though Darayyad said she didn’t think she had room for her heart to break any more, it has this week. She said she came to the vigil not only to stand in solidarity with her people but also because she needed to be with students who support her.

Darayyad said she finds it incredibly difficult to exist as a Palestinian on NU’s campus. Most of the statements she’s seen from students about violence in the region have condemned violence on Israel by Hamas this week, she said, but ignored Palestinian deaths.

“I would like to ask Northwestern students to reflect on why they care all of a sudden,” Darayyad said. “Where were you in 2008 and 2014? What about in 2022 when the (Israel Defense Forces) bombed Gaza? Where were you year after year? Did you care? Because I did.”

Medill junior and SJP member Sama Ben Amer, a former Daily staffer, agreed that it has been difficult to process the reactions of students and administrators on campus this week. She said she attended the vigil to show the University that Palestine is important to the student body and encourage NU to be more forthright about its support.

University President Michael Schill shared a message with the NU community Thursday morning condemning the violence this week, but he specified that his personal views do not constitute an official stance on behalf of the University.

While Schill attended a vigil Monday night hosted by Jewish community leaders to mourn lives lost in the region, Ben Amer said the University President declined a personal invitation from SJP to attend their event. Vice President of Student Affairs Susan Davis was in attendance at both vigils. 

“It’s clear where (Schill’s) priorities lie,” Ben Amer said. “It’s clear which schedules he’s willing to change around and what lives he’s willing to support.”

Ben Amer said the organization plans to ask representatives of the University to issue additional statements.

“In the coming weeks, we’ll definitely be continuing to apply pressure on multiple stakeholders and administrators,” she said. “What we’ve seen today is abhorrent. They can’t get away with this.” 

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Twitter: @avanidkalra

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