Some University of Winnipeg (U of W) students from the Jewish and Muslim communities feel it’s important to use their privilege to stand against the oppression of Palestinians and Israelis caught in the current Israel-Gaza conflict.
The students say they are concerned for their safety amid tensions following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than 1,400 people and saw 240 Israelis taken hostage. Israel’s government vowed to destroy Hamas in response. Israel has since relentlessly bombed Gaza, killing more than 8,800 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, and displacing over 1.4 million people. On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, Israel bombed Jabalia refugee camp, killing dozens of civilians in an attack that AFP says wiped out “whole families.”
One Jewish student, who wished to remain anonymous to protect his safety, says he feels awful seeing so many people dying and being harmed. He’s started hiding his Star of David while on campus.
“It’s a lot easier for me to hide,” he says. “I’ve never in my life had a moment where I felt scared to take out my Jewish necklace.”
He says everyone in the Israeli and Palestinian communities are suffering right now.
“The dehumanization that we’re seeing everywhere on both sides is just being eaten up. I’ve come to see just how awful it is when people stop seeing people as people,” he says. “Let’s not forget ... the main way that we can deal with this is to treat your friends and to treat the people in your circles as people.”
Although he hasn’t experienced extreme antisemitism, he says he knows people who have.
He says it’s been exhausting having to tell people he is not fighting against Palestinians or spreading hate toward them. Instead, he just wants the violence to end.
“We want people to be happy and live in peace. I think that it’s important to recognize that peace doesn’t come when one group is silenced,” he says. “It’s really important to be listening to everybody and to be taking in a lot of perspectives.”
Sualeha, another student, says she’s seen an increase in concern about safety from students in the UW Muslim Students Association (UWMSA). As president of the UWMSA, she says hate being spread on both sides of the issue puts people at risk.
“The whole point of advocating for Palestine... is to get the Palestinian people liberation, and at the end of the day, it’s not just a religious issue,” Sualeha says. “It’s about fighting for sovereignty. It’s about fighting for liberation and fighting against genocide.”
She says her faith teaches people to stand up to oppression happening to anyone regardless of their faith or background, and it’s important to give voices to those that are being silenced.
The U of W has not received any reports of antisemitic or Islamophobic discrimination at this point. The university has been closely monitoring the situation to make sure students, staff and faculty are safe on campus, Caleb Zimmerman, the U of W marketing and communications executive director, says.
“We continue to remind everyone of the importance of treating each other with respect and working together to keep the campus a safe and welcoming space for all,” Zimmerman says.
The U of W has not received reports of discrimination at this time, he says.
Students who experience hate or discrimination can contact the university’s Human Rights and Diversity Office or contact Security Services’ emergency number at 204-786-6666 or non-emergency number at 204-786-9272.
Published in Volume 78, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 2, 2023)