The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

SJP, community members hold Palestine solidarity rally

Jacoby Banks-Hull
Advocates, students and members of the community gather in front of the Alma Mater statue on Thursday as Students for Justice in Palestine hold a protest.

Many attendees, community members and organizers have elected not to be identified by name for safety reasons. Some interviewees have requested to be identified by first name only.


Students and community members gathered at Alma Mater on Thursday afternoon for a rally hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine, a Palestinian advocacy group on campus. 

According to CNN, Hamas, a Palestinian-interest militant group based in Gaza, has, beginning on Oct. 7, launched attacks in Israel, resulting in the deaths of “at least 1,200 people” over the past five days. 

In response to the attacks, the Israeli government has stopped “the supply of food, fuel and other essential commodities” to Gaza, an article from Qatar-based news source Al Jazeera said. The article said this act by Israel “under international law amounts to a war crime.” 

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According to a statement announcing the event on SJP’s Instagram on Monday, the “emergency rally” was held in order to “take a stand … against colonial violence and the brutal repression of the Palestinian people.”

The statement explained the rally was announced in observance of “the upcoming national day of Palestinian resistance” and in response to a “‘complete siege’ on the Gaza strip (ordered) on behalf of Israeli ministers.”

Community members and representatives from various registered student organizations on campus spoke at the rally. Attendees came with cardboard signs and flags, and rally organizers passed out signs to other members of the crowd.

“Imagine these oppressed individuals resorting to crafting makeshift weapons to protect themselves against the military and might of their colonizers, an army backed by the wealth of European powers, one of the most formidable in the world,” one speaker said. “Now, visualize them breaking free from these oppressive walls.”

SJP organizers introduced different chants for the crowd to repeat, including “Show me what solidarity looks like, this is what solidarity looks like” and “Palestine is our demand, no peace on stolen land.” The chants were repeated in between speakers and before and after the rally. 

Gracelyn, senior in LAS, said she attended the protest in solidarity for the resistance against Israeli oppressors in Palestine. 

“As someone whoʼs ethnically Jewish, I feel like itʼs really important to make the distinction between Zionism and Judaism … and I think that itʼs important to recognize that there are people — especially Jewish people — who support Palestine and support the liberation of Palestine,” Gracelyn said. 

Two Jewish University students who observed the rally and wished to remain anonymous commented on their perspectives. 

“I also have family in Israel,” one of the students said. “I have friends in Israel. Many of them have had family members kidnapped.”

The other student said that it was important for Jewish people to stay aware of political issues in order to “make good choices for themselves and the community.”

According to Josh Isaacs, graduate student studying geology, opposition of Israel is not inherently antisemitic.

“I think thatʼs one of the tough places with this because there are a lot of people who would look at the criticism of the state and say that that constitutes antisemitism,” Isaacs explained. “I personally am Jewish. … People are not criticizing Israel because it is Jewish, but rather because it is perpetuating these human rights violations, attacks, oppression and colonialism against an essentially powerless group of people.”

Isaacs said that although Hamas is not immune to criticism, it is important to recognize its advocacy for Palestinians.

“The resistance that Hamas is putting forth, even if there are parts of it that I disagree with, is essentially the only shot — given global politics — that it (Palestine) has at freedom or liberation,” Isaacs explained. “As long as the United States government and other institutions like UIUC continue to support Israel, then thereʼs not going to be (liberation).”

According to a version of the charter of Hamas published by the United Nations, members of the group have committed to the “religious hatred of Jews.”

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews) when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees,” the charter said. “The stones and trees will say: O Muslims (…) there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Another anonymous speaker at the rally said there is a need for violence in the face of “imperialist” forces.

The only language the enemy understands is the language of revolutionary violence,” the speaker said. 

Naomi Simmons-Thorne, graduate student studying education, attended the rally in support of the Palestinian students. She said she believes the administration’s recent Massmail in response to the conflict was insufficient. 

“Our university sent out a message that only really seemed to show any degree of care for the Israeli members of our community,” Simmons-Thorne said. “But I think Palestinian members of our community are also feeling very emotional right now and maybe even powerless.”


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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the quote “the only language the enemy understands is the language of revolutionary violence,” was incorrectly attributed to a speaker representing Students for Socialism and Liberation. The speaker who said this did not identify themself as a member of any organization. 

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