October 13, 2023 | NEWS | By Marynn Krull & Will Sylvain
This week, the Colorado College community responded to escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The CC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine held a “Palestine 101 Teach In” outside Worner Campus Center on Thursday afternoon. Later that evening, the Jewish Student Organization at Colorado College – also known as Hillel – held a gathering at the Interfaith House for students to engage in open dialogue about recent events.
These on-campus events came in response to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Hamas, a Palestinian militant group based in the Gaza Strip, has attacked several sites in Israel while killing over 1,200 Israeli civilians and abducting at least 150 more. Israel’s response has been swift and devastating, mobilizing over 300,000 reserve troops toward Gaza and killing more than 1,500 Palestinians in retaliation.
These are some of the bloodiest developments the region has seen since the conflict began over 75 years ago in 1948, when the arrival of Jewish Holocaust refugees in Palestine led to the eventual establishment of Israel.
The teach-in outside Worner Campus Center on Thursday sought to educate attendees about the conflict and express support for liberating Palestine.
During the event, Students for Justice in Palestine called for “contextualized knowledge” of the conflict and condemned “selective empathy” on the part of Western media and governments.
“The path to peace and freedom of all civilian lives is only possible through Palestinian resistance,” a speaker at the teach-in stated. “It calls for an end to the apartheid by Israel and freedom of the Palestinian people.”
Another speaker at the event referenced a statement of support from the Denver/Boulder chapter of Jewish Voices for Peace which echoed a similar message. “Our liberation as Jews is bound up in the liberation of Palestinians,” the speaker said.
Meanwhile, the CC Jewish Student Organization acknowledged the intense feelings possibly brought up by the teach-in event in an email sent to its mailing list Thursday morning.
“Our understanding is that the teach-in holds tension between free-speech and provocative speech,” the email read. “This Teach-in may be challenging and bring up strong emotions for members of our community as what we hold most dear/important about Jewish Identity and Israel.”
The email also provided alternative entrances into Worner for those who wanted to avoid the event, as well as information about a simultaneous lunch in Sacred Grounds Tea House to provide an alternative, supportive space for reflection.
The speakers at the teach-in spoke about the history of Palestinian resistance, shared anecdotes from individuals trapped in the war-torn region, and encouraged attendees to hold empathy in their hearts for lives lost on both sides of the conflict.
A speaker also called out an email sent by President L. Song Richardson earlier in the week, saying that the position shared within it neglects CC’s commitment to its stated values, including antiracism and decolonization.
“We are disappointed in the statement issued by President Richardson that failed to recognize the last 75 years of occupation and violence against the Palestinian people,” a speaker said.
In a second statement emailed to the student body after the event, Richardson condemned Hamas’ recent attacks on Israeli civilians, as well as “acts of terror perpetrated in the region beyond the current moment.”
Richardson also addressed concerns about staff, student and faculty safety on campus due to antisemitism, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred.
“It is our shared responsibility to embrace all members of our community and to ensure that we don’t allow strong emotions to result in us saying or doing anything that crosses the line into harassment or attacks on a person’s character,” she said.
After the teach-in, Hillel posted an infographic on their Instagram story reading, “‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ – of Jews. It’s literally a call for genocide and does nothing to promote Palestinian statehood or equality.” The story was captioned, “Educate yourself and others on what anti-Semitic hate speech sounds like!”
In regard to the social media post, a representative of Hillel said, “The post today was a response to a sense of fear of being Jewish on campus. CC Hillel does not represent all the Jewish perspectives in our community.”
Hillel chose not to give a statement on the teach-in to avoid a reactionary response and allow time for processing.
“I think right now, it’s hard to have any sort of productive conversation because it’s so raw. And folks feel big emotions,” one student who attended both the teach-in and the Hillel gathering said. “But I think if discourse is going to be had at this time, I think we need to be respectful about it. And I’m not sure that we’re doing that right now.”