Student Groups Respond to Gaza Conflict
by Jillian Brown


On Saturday, Jan. 10, a national protest centered in Washington, D.C. took place in response to Israel’s attack on Gaza; in downtown Santa Barbara, similar efforts were made.

Israeli attacks have injured and killed a number of civilians in Gaza, resulting in a call for an immediate ceasefire by heated protesters across the US.

Maya Liss, president of the UCSB chapter of American Students for Israel (ASI), however, said Israel’s view is underrepresented.

“A lot of people do not know anything about Israel’s humanitarian aid that is going into Gaza, and the fact that Israel completely left Gaza in 2005 in hopes for peace,” she said. “The least I would ask for is for people to get both sides of the story, and then make up their opinion.”

Liss believes the reactions at Saturday’s protest were unjustified.

“There was no anti-war protest when rockets were constantly being fired into Israel for the past eight years. Where were the protesters then?” she said.

Those in agreement with Liss view Hamas as both a political and a social threat to Israel: Hamas has launched rockets at Israel in the past to assert a desire to form one Islamic nation by eliminating the current geographic separation between the Palestinians and Israelis. Inversely, many Israelis favor the two-state distinction, believing it better fit to sustain public independence and safety.

To members of ASI, the issue is personal. According to Liss, many students involved in the group have family and friends in the Israeli Defense Force. Furthermore, she said, “Everyone in ASI has some, if not a strong, connection to the land of Israel.”

However, ASI is not the only group on campus empassioned and affected personally by these recent events. Aharon Ahmad Morris, president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and vice president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at USCB, views the situation in Gaza differently.

“The attack was indiscriminate, and a disproportionate response [to the Hamas action],” he said. “It was a belligerent military move.”

While Morris contends that the US should support an Israeli offensive against Hamas, he believes this cannot happen.

“A military offensive would only involve killing innocents and creating more Hamas members,” he said.

According to Morris, the US’s next move should be a “systematic digression of our blind support”; essentially, the US should condemn Hamas as well as Israel for their respective violent acts.

Morris feels that students are not well-informed of the matter, stating that “the information received is partial and one-sided toward Israel’s view.”

Additionally, he is irritated by what he sees as unfair treatment. “Anyone who speaks out, such as myself, is going to be attacked.”

Kayla Hofstetter, a second-year pre-biopsychology major, agrees with Morris, believing that UCSB students are not adequately informed of the issue. “I didn’t even know what it was,” she said. “We should know more. More of an effort should be made to keep the college community at large more informed,” which is exactly what organizations like ASI and SJP seek to do, get the word out, for both sides.

Last week, a faction of SJP students chalked the campus, using a common, and effective, means of sharing their beliefs. According to Morris, within an hour, an ASI student allegedly complained about the messages and the chalked areas were hosed down. In an attempt to address issues with ASI students, Morris decided to re-chalk his group’s messages, but the police were allegedly called before any action could be taken.