A protestor holds a cut out of a mother and a daughter urging for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian war.
A protestor holds a cut out of a mother and a daughter urging for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian war.
Jumana Alsaadoon

Israeli-Hamas war continues for more than a month, communities, students speak up

Israel– The pilot announced to the passengers that the plane would continue their flight to Israel despite the conflict unfolding on land. Sophomore Shirin Kaussler and her family were stunned . 

“On the plane about halfway through, they said ‘As you guys may know, there is a conflict in Israel right now’, and we were like, ‘No we don’t because we don’t have any Wi-Fi. My parents were stressing out because they have no idea what is going on,” Kaussler said. 

The Kaussler family was held up in the middle of the war, trying find  a safe place. 

“When we were in the streets, we witnessed a lot of policemen and ambulances and people screaming just down the road. The day before we arrived, there was smoke everywhere on the roads, but the day we got there, it settled, so we didn’t see anything, but we did see a lot of police. When we were driving, we saw a lot of military, lots of guns,” Kaussler said. 

They were able to get to the airport after a couple of days. 

“We were in the airport, they bombed us again, and it was loud, and it shook the whole building. I thought I was going to die. Everyone was screaming, and the building was leaking from the bomb. That was the scariest part for me. I thought we had made it. We were going to make it home. We were so close, and then we got bombed,” Kaussler said. 

After saving money to go on a religious Baha’i pilgrimage for years, the Kaussler family made it back on the plane toward the U.S. 

“I felt guilty because I got to come and most people are still stuck there, but I also felt a sense of relief of being home,” Kaussler said. 

The effects of the experience were strenuous on her and her family. 

“I was so tired, I couldn’t even go down the stairs. I had the worst headache every time. I would get up, my head would be pounding. I didn’t eat anything because it felt like I had the flu. I didn’t have it and my stomach was hurting because of stress,” Kaussler said. “I was sick for the first couple of days, and the way I processed it, I was resting and we had a therapist come over and talk us through it. I’m just happy to be home. I felt thankful and lucky because there were so many people who were still there.”

Washington D.C.–Thousands of people hold the Palestinian flags as they march down from the National African American Museum to the Capitol. In the crowd, a little girl holds a paper plate, cut in half and painted red, green and black to resemble a watermelon. She is wrapped in a checkered black and white cloth, called a Kufiya, to resemble the resistance of Israel from Palestinians.  

The protest was organized by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). The organization was founded in 2006 with the purpose of advancing the movement for justice in Palestine.

Dr. Osama Abu Irshaid, Executive Director of AMP, spoke to the protestors at Washington D.C in the Oct. 20 protest and many protests after. 

“This massive turnout is a testimony that they will not be able to intimidate us nor will they be able to silence us. We will continue to speak up, speak out for the Palestinian rights,” Abu Irshaid said.  

United States representative and congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attended and spoke at the protest alongside congresswoman Cori Bush.

 The Oct. 20 protest was held on a Friday, which is a religious day for Muslims. During the protest, thousands of individuals got into lines to pray. American-Palestinian Omar Suleiman led the prayer at the National Mall. Suleiman amassed 2.3 million followers on Instagram for his religious and advocating content. He came back to speak to protesters Nov. 4 at the national march. As he spoke, he pointed to his arm which had his name ‘OMAR’ written on it. 

“If I was over there and my parents didn’t make it out, they would have had to do this to me, and I may have been murdered by the same taxpayer dollars that I am paying right now,” Suleiman said to hundreds of thousands of protesters.  

Harrisonburg held a city-wide Vigil for Palestine, hundreds of people attended. In attendance was freshman Hind Musa, who has been advocating for Palestinians. She wears a checkered Keffiyeh and a necklace of the map of Palestinian territory. 

“My twelve-year-old friend spoke and she is a good public speaker. She went out there and spoke about how some families in Gaza were writing their children’s names on their extremities, arms, and legs.In case they got bombed from an airstrike, they would find their limbs and know that this is their child,” Musa said. 

The young speaker touched Musa when she continued to talk about the experience of children in Palestine. 

“She was focusing on children specifically and how they would walk down the street in Gaza, worrying if they were going to get bombed into pieces any second and how that is not normal. Nobody should have to experience that,” Musa said. 

Musa also attended many protests in Washington D.C. with her family and friends. 

“I went with some family and friends. We were there to show support for Palestine, to show our outrage about what is happening. We may not have physical power as civilians to stop what is happening, but we will not be silent,” Musa said. 

Many speakers resonated with Musa, specifically the person who started the protest. 

“There was a speaker at the start. He spoke about how Palestinians were oppressed and what is going on and a brief overview of the general conflict and show our feelings.” 

Musa recommends those who are not familiar with the topic to get educated on historical context. 

“Do not go to biased sources, which is hard in this day and age, but go to several people, several different opinions, try to find something general, from a history website. It goes way back into history, it did not start on Oct. 7. It started in 1947 after World War Two with Britain. Research and go to many different factors, not just one,” Musa said. 

Musa is not the only student who attended protests. Senior Solomon Fowler-Evans attended some of the first protests in Washington D.C., one being organized by Jewish voices for peace. Their mission is We envision a world where all people — from the U.S. to Palestine — live in freedom, justice, equality, and dignity.”  

I saw [Rashida Tlaib] speaking about what’s going on in Palestine, and she’s a Palestinian American, and after that you know, I saw a group of a bunch of speakers do all types of stuff. Then we marched around Washington for about two hours while people were holding up signs chanting ‘Free Palestine’,” Fowler-Evans said. 

During this protest, many individuals were arrested for choosing to stay inside of the state Capitol until a ceasefire was enacted. 

“I did not go inside. There were about 10,000 people who attended the protest, and I think a little bit less went inside,” Fowler-Evans said. 

The act of peacefully protesting and marching along thousands felt empowering to Fowler-Evans. 

“The marching was the most empowering, just seeing a bunch of people coming together, all very passionate about what’s going on. The speakers were very nice to hear, but I think that’s where I felt the most involved, the chants,” Fowler-Evans said. 

Flower-Evans wishes to see more involvement from his community. 

“I wish more people would speak up about it. Genocide is being committed in the Middle East right now, and we all just kind of move along. Very few people I know here have really been involved, and I don’t like that,”Fowler-Evans said.  


Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University Keren Yarhi-Milo held a panel discussion event with many experts in the field about the trajectory of the war. 

“The news is grim. Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on October 7 was one of unprecedented magnitude in Israel’s history,” Yarhi-Milo said. “Since then, Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops on the Gaza border in preparation for a potential ground offensive to incapacitate Hamas and rescue Israeli civilians that the group is holding hostage.” 

Israel has also conducted a blockade on Gaza, stripping it of its ability to get water, fuel, and food to two million people. 

“In addition, Israel has been using massive airstrikes, further escalating an already dire humanitarian situation,” Yarhi-Milo said. 

Kristele Younes, a lawyer with experience in the Middle East and teaching experience at Columbia University, gave insight into the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

This war did not happen in a vacuum. And this situation did not develop in a vacuum. Since 2007, Gaza has been under a very severe blockade, which has effectively collectively punished 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza including 1.7 million refugees,” Younes said. 

The blockade that Younes is talking about was enacted to control the terrorist group, Hamas, for more than 15 years. The blockade impacted civilians worsening conditions that were previously degraded. 78% of the water in Gaza is unfit for consumption. 

“Half of the population of Gaza are children. So the humanitarian situation pre-7 October was already very dire, with over 63% of Palestinians in Gaza suffering from food insecurity, with 1.2 million depending only on UNRRA food aid, with the electricity and water systems already very severely under strain and with half of the population being unemployed and quite hopeless,” Younes said. 

Despite the already dire situation, the war had worsened these circumstances. 

“Now, in terms of the humanitarian situation, it’s reached a proportion that we’ve never seen before. It is a catastrophe. We have had over 3,000 Palestinians killed, civilians, 60% of them women and children. We have about, we think, 1,200 people who are under the rubbles, who nobody can get to for lack of equipment,” Younes said. 

She continues to explain the severity of the situation in Gaza. 

“We have about a million people who’ve been displaced– forcibly displaced, I should say, from their homes. And the estimates are about 25% to 30% of civilian homes have been destroyed in Gaza,” Younes said. “The situation is extremely dire. Hospitals are not able to function. Schools are closed and people have run out of water, electricity, and food.” 

The blockade affected civilians for 15 years before the Oct.7 war and more severely after the Oct. 7 blockade.  

“The complete siege that was imposed since the attacks on Israel has had a terrifying effect on civilians. People have started dying. We have reports of people not having drinking water anymore. Water is life. Waterborne diseases are now prominent in Gaza,” Younes said. 

President Biden has been supportive of the Israeli response against the attacks of Oct. 7. American professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland Shibley Telhami spoke about American public opinion and the relationship between Biden and Israel.  

“Right now, he’s been doubling down on that in a way that has made him extremely popular in Israel, and a joke is that he could probably get elected prime minister of Israel if he were to run right now, but he has lost the hearts and minds of the Arab and Muslim world, and I would say he’s also lost a lot of people around the world,” Telhami  said. 

Telhami highlights the importance of President Joe Biden’s support after the attack and during the war. 

“President Biden’s visit and his stance that he has been supportive of Israel has been appreciated by the Israelis. And it was important, certainly, on day one, when he said, “I’m with you, I’m with you, given the horrendous attack on them and the sense of vulnerability to say that America is with you,” Telhami said. 

Biden’s support for Israel seems to have no limits according to Telhami which causes conflicts when the humanitarian situation worsens due to bombing from Israel to Gaza.  

“The ongoing bombing is going to create more humanitarian crises. And the president talking about it as if it were a natural disaster– so let’s go. It’s like an earthquake relief rather than their actions that many human rights organizations consider to be war crimes– that he doesn’t even condemn or even use the word “restraint,” it’s a problem. And it’s lost him a lot of people who are not fans of Hamas in the Arab world,” Telhami said. 

Scholar and diplomat Dennis Ross with two decades of experience expanded on Biden’s objectives. Ross stated that Biden had three objectives, to first alleviate the humanitarian crisis, second to enforce the alliance between the US and Israel, and lastly to see what the strategy for war is. 

Ross continued to emphasize the importance of the deterrence message.  

“If we’re this close to Israel and the president of the United States for the first time in history has gone to Israel during wartime- ‘don’t even think about doing anything’,” Ross said. 

Public American opinion is seen to not be on the same path as Biden’s opinions. 

“With public opinion I’ve always said, in times of war, hearts hardened. And in times of suffering, hearts harden. Palestinians’ hearts have been hardened for quite a while, 56 years of occupation, and increasing settler attacks. Hearts are hardened,” Telhami said. 

He agrees that both sides of the conflict have been desensitized to each other’s harm. 

“Now you see the horrendous attack by Hamas on Israel, how Israelis hardened their hearts to the point that people say, let’s level Gaza. Let’s not pay attention to civilian casualties,” Telhami said. 

Telhami pushes the importance of being sensitized during wars and conflicts. 

“We, as an international community, need to take a morally consistent posture. We need not to fuel the urge for vengeance that is destructive with no end in sight. We need to take a much more thoughtful moral position, keep our options open,and move forward. And I think we haven’t done that yet,” Telhami said. 

Washington D.C protest, Oct.20
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