New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Opinion: NYU, don’t abandon your Palestinian students

In the face of widespread propaganda, misinformation and brutality, the university’s silence on its Palestinian students’ pain is not merely passive, but actively causing harm.
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Alex Tey
Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at 1 p.m. in Times Square on Oct. 8, 2023, for a rally responding to the ongoing conflict in Israel. (Alex Tey for WSN)

On Sunday, Oct. 15, the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted a statement on its Instagram addressing NYU’s administration, writing, “NYU, You are Failing Your Palestinian and pro-Palestinian Students.” In the statement, the group called on NYU to “publicly address Palestinian loss of life, offer support to affected community members, and reaffirm the rights to pro-Palestine speech at NYU” as violence continues to unfold in the Gaza Strip. 

The post came after another message from the SJP in response to university president Linda Mills’ initial “Statement on Israel,” which neglected to mention Palestinian students and victims after attacks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas broke out last week. Mills responded to the first post in an email to the student group, which again failed to explicitly condemn the loss of Palestinian lives.

“Four days after releasing a statement to the Office of the President, we received a response disregarding any mention or acknowledgment of the collective voices of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian student bodies,” NYU SJP wrote in the caption of its most recent statement. 

The statement rightly criticizes the university’s failure to acknowledge its Palestinian students and the pain they are shouldering. In the past week, following Hamas’ initial attack on Israel, the Gaza Strip has faced innumerable attacks by the Israeli army. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, over 2,300 Palestinian civilians have been killed, and over 47 generations of families have been completely wiped from the Gaza civil registry

Yet in the face of this unimaginable loss of life, NYU has made no acknowledgment of its Palestinian students’ pain or the undeniable destruction caused by the relentless brutalities unleashed upon Gaza. Only acknowledging Hamas’ attack on Israel, but not the immeasurable loss of Palestinian lives — not only during the subsequent attacks on Gaza, but over the past 75 years — actively erases Palestine’s pain, further pushing it into obscurity and out of the world’s view. 

In a time where much of the world has remained silent in recognizing Palestine’s pain, NYU’s silence only affirms this erasure on campus. Its active erasure is reflective of its attitude toward the suffering of Palestinian students, and the only way the university can absolve itself is to publicly acknowledge the devastation Israel has been inflicting on Gaza. 

In an interview with WSN, a Palestinian senior at the College of Arts & Science — who requested to remain anonymous due to personal safety concerns — spoke about the rippling effects of NYU’s initial statement on its Palestinian students. 

“It’s a blatant erasure of the Palestinian experience and the Palestinian loss of life,” the student said. “Yes, condemn the lives that were lost in Israel. But also, there was no mention of Palestinian loss of life … The fact that that was not mentioned just makes me feel kind of disregarded as a student. And just — it’s awful.” 

The student also said that as a Palestinian student currently existing on campus, they do not even feel safe expressing themself. It is unacceptable that, despite students feeling unsafe on campus, the university still refuses to acknowledge its Palestinian community.

“The idea that I could get harassed if people do find out I’m Palestinian, or they find out about my pro-Palestinian views, it’s just scary,” the student said. “I’ve been feeling a lot more anxious about just being Palestinian. Even vocally sharing my views is very anxiety-inducing, with everyone getting doxxed and outed.” 

Preceding its “Roundup of Key Statements” last week, the university wrote, “The following are statements made by NYU leadership and others about the attacks on Israel and related issues.” Through this wording, the university avoids directly addressing the current destruction and pain in the Gaza Strip and surrounding regions, effectively erasing the damage that Gaza has sustained during this time. Not only does it try to undermine the importance of the current violence in Gaza, it also takes the 75-year-old history of Palestinian struggle and reduces it to a mere “related issue.” 

The university’s neglect of Palestinian loss and struggle, especially in the face of rampant propaganda and misinformation online, erases a history we must grapple with when understanding present grief and rage. To understand a fraction of our student community’s grief, we must recognize the documented decades of Palestinians’ pain, from the Nakba in 1948 to Israel’s long-term blockade on Gaza. We cannot look away from the past, nor can we deny it when speaking of the present. 

“We’re not trying to erase the other side or attack the other side for their grief and their loss. That’s not what we’re doing. And I think that’s the kind of rhetoric that’s being spread. That, like, ‘oh, we support what’s happening to these Israeli civilians, the horrific scenes.’ We’re not trying to support that in any way,” the Palestinian student said. “Palestinians are not only suffering now, but have been suffering for the past 75 years. … All we’re asking is to be recognized and to also be accounted for by the university.”

When the university ignores its students’ pain, histories and wellbeing, it fails to serve its communities. When NYU stands idly by without supporting its vulnerable students, those students become even more susceptible to potential harm. CAS senior Aidah Masoud told WSN how she has felt in light of NYU’s non-mention of Palestine, and shared an experience at the university that left her feeling invisible. 

“I’ve been feeling unseen, unsupported. It’s been really, really hard,” Masoud said. “None of my professors have directly acknowledged what has been going on except one of them, and he … offered his unwavering support to Israeli students only. He didn’t say anything or acknowledge Gaza or Palestinians at all.”

While Masoud said she wasn’t surprised by NYU’s omission of Palestine in its initial statement, she noted the extent to which an acknowledgment of Palestinian students’ pain could help the community. 

“I reached out to all my professors today and let them know I was feeling helpless and really, really sad. [One] sent back this amazing email, and it really changed everything for me,” Masoud said. “It changed my day, it changed how I felt. It meant the world to me. I think that the Palestinian community is just feeling unsupported. And if anyone just said, ‘yes, we see you,’ or ‘yes, we support you,’ or ‘yes, we acknowledge that what is going on in Gaza isn’t right,’ that would be enough for us right now.”

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the United Nations released a report warning of a “new instance of mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” while calling for an “immediate ceasefire.” 

In the coming days, as the NYU community continues to grieve the violence across the sea, and its Palestinian students grieve the ethnic cleansing of their people, the university must forthrightly recognize its Palestinian students’ generational pain, and also condemn the violence continuing to be enacted by the Israeli army. 

NYU, you’ve condemned the violence in Israel, and openly offered your support to Israeli students. But your Israeli students are not the only ones hurting at this time. Your Palestinian students have been hurting, and they’ve been calling for acknowledgment — not just now, but for years. 

As your Palestinian students express their grief, their fear and their pain, you cannot look away. You can no longer refuse to recognize them. To do any less is to remain complacent in the face of ethnic cleansing, and to be ignorant of your community’s cries for help. If NYU is truly committed to the global community it holds in such high regard, then it must care for all of its students unequivocally — it cannot, in this dark chapter of history, abandon its Palestinian students.

Contact Adrita Talukder at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Adrita Talukder, Editor-at-Large
Adrita Talukder is a sophomore at CAS planning to major in Comparative Literature and International Relations. Outside of the paper, she's usually photographing her friends, watching movies, or polishing her NYU French award. You can find Adrita on Instagram @adritasphotos or @adrjta.
Alex Tey, Editor-at-Large
Alex Tey was previously WSN’s editor-in-chief. She is now at large. Watch out!

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