On Tuesday afternoon, over fifty UGA students and professors alike gathered around the Arch to rally in support of Israel in its engagements with Hamas and other hostile elements in the Middle East. The rally, organized by the newly minted Students Supporting Israel (SSI), was intended to engage students’ interest regarding ongoing violence in the Middle East and provide pro-Israel students with a peaceful avenue to express their support. According to Eytan Palte, one of SSI’s executive members, “[SSI] didn’t want to do anything targeting any specific group or assigning blame for the conflict or anything like that — we really just wanted to have the kick start to say ‘we support Israel.’”
Yesterday marked the first event relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict on campus this school year. This begs the question, how informed are UGA students about the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas? And more generally, has the conflict piqued the interest of students across the country?
While there are certainly examples of high student activity about the conflict, general lethargy seems to characterize college campuses across the country. This apathy is quite possibly a function of circumstance and timing. First, in an election year, the conflict in Gaza fails to be an issue that splits along strictly party lines. While the neoconservative wing of the GOP has historically been staunchly pro-Israel, it is not unfamiliar for Democrats to take a similar stance. Thus, the issue does not spark as vigorous debate among candidates in Congressional and Senate elections. Second, recent developments regarding ISIS and President Obama’s deferral of immigration action have taken away news coverage from the Israel-Palestine conflict. These issues have shifted the attention of political activists who would normally be more engaged in issues relating to the Holy Land.
Regardless of its source, this vacuum of student involvement creates an ideal scenario for organizations like SSI or Athens for Justice in Palestine to stir up support and activism in support of their respective causes. As the bloodshed in Gaza continues and Israel and Palestine fail to come to a long-term peace agreement, I expect these organizations to increase their visibility and activity on campus and in the local community. The ongoing struggle is far too important to the future of the Middle East to go unrecognized by students in Athens and the rest of the country.
—Davis Parker is Manager of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
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