University of Chicago students show support for Palestinians, Israel as tensions surge on campus

ByStephanie Wade WLS logo
Friday, October 20, 2023
Tensions surge at UChicago as students support Palestinians, Israel
While the Israel-Hamas war rages on, tensions are surging at the University of Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- While the Israel-Hamas war rages on, tensions are surging on college campuses, including at the University of Chicago.

Dueling student-led protests in support of Israel and Palestinians have been playing out on campus all week. Students for Justice in Palestine demanded the violence in Gaza to stop.

"We have a multi-ethnic, multi-background participation in the organization here, and our goal mainly has been to take up space," said Sahar Kaleem with Students for Justice in Palestine.

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Student-led rallies have erupted across the country amid the conflict. The collegiate unrest has spanned to Columbia, Stanford and Harvard universities, to name a few.

"Students on these campuses are taking up what governments and people in positions of authority are not doing themselves," said Sahar Punjwani with Students for Justice in Palestine.

Another Students for Justice in Palestine member, Hassan, also weighed in.

"We see a rise in Islamophobic and antisemitic attacks across the United States, which makes it so that people are personally affected, and they can no longer ignore this as some kind of far-away issue. So that's why I think we see a greater mobilization," Hassan said.

The division was on full display in the University of Chicago's quad on Friday. One side was marked by the Palestinian flag and the other was marked by the Israeli flag.

"As a pro-Israel student on campus, it's really easy to feel alone with this going on," said Eliza Ross, who supports Israel.

Talia Elkin also supports Israel.

"Enough to make anyone uncomfortable, at least, and feeling really on-edge and unsafe," Elkin said.

As tensions grow, both sides have mobilized their movement side-by-side, with some raising concerns over student safety.

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"This whole week, I did not like walking through the quad alone. I would take the back way to my classes, and I should not feel like that as a Jewish student for just wanting to stand with my brothers and sisters and Israel, and for wanting to condemn terrorism. There should not be that much backlash and hate and isolation," said Blair Penn, who supports Israel.

The university said they are committed to free speech and the rights of protesters to express a wide range of views.

In a statement, the school said, "The University has developed a consensus against taking social or political stances on issues outside its core mission, including calls for divestment."