By Julia Train
The Muslim Student Association held a “Pray for Palestine De-Stresser” on Nov. 2, the first on-campus event for Muslim students since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
During the event, students painted, played games, ate pizza and discussed the latest conflicts between Israel and Palestine.
After attendees finished funneling in, a conversation opened up about the current war in the Middle East, which has resurfaced multiple times since the mid-1900s.
The MSA president stood at the front of the conference room in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and asked everyone how they’re feeling about the current events.
Several students spoke up and talked about how teachers are discussing the war, their own reactions and the different viewpoints that are being taken.
One mentioned how the news presented in the U.S. is slanted toward the side President Joe Biden takes, which is pro-Israel.
“I feel like [it] has to do more with politics, and for instance, Biden’s obviously on Israel’s side. So I feel like at least for the news in the U.S., it’s [going to] obviously be more polarized for his opinion,” said Helena Rashid, a sophomore political science major and MSA president.
Another mentioned that a professor brought up his views, which are the same as Biden’s.
The subject of the email sent on Oct. 11 from Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo was then mentioned.
In the email, he stated, “The reprehensible attack on Israel and the escalating war with Hamas reminds us that hate and violence remain disgustingly prevalent in our wider world. At Rider University, we condemn this deplorable act of terrorism and the devastating human tragedy that we are witnessing take place in Israel and the Gaza region.”
The attendees unanimously agreed that they were “disappointed” with Dell’Omo’s statement because they “felt like he was trying to make everybody happy or not cause tension between students.”
Attendees conversed about the ongoing conflict and the fact that people often call it the latest Israel-Hamas war while they are ignorant about what’s actually going on.
Maria Castillo, a member of MSA, said that she’s displeased with the mislabeling of the issue as the “Israel-Hamas conflict.” She mentioned that there is little discussion about the mistreatment of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
“Using the name Hamas…it takes away from the root cause, which is genocide. Saying Hamas lowers people’s empathy for it,” said senior political science major Maria Castillo. “This is not really Hamas versus Israel, because if we’re going to call it that, I might as well call it Hamas versus Israeli Defense Force. … And people like involving Hamas as a way to lack empathy for the Palestinians.”
Hamas is a Palestinian militant group that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State in October 1997. On Oct. 7, Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,400 people, according to NPR.
Following the attack, Israel increased its attacks and military presence in Gaza drastically, resulting in mass casualties and injuries.
As of Nov. 6, the Palestinian death toll surpassed 10,000, over 1,400 Israeli citizens have been killed and there are 242 hostages taken from Israel, according to AP News.
Castillo, who holds multiple leadership positions on campus including executive vice president for SGA, president of the Political Science Club and a member of the CDI tripartite committee, expressed that she thinks it’s difficult for people to state their opinion for fear of being wrong.
“The government and IDF are really the ones to blame. They’re the ones that are not ceasing fire, cutting vital sources of life to Palestinians by cutting off water, electricity and food,” said Castillo. “So it’s definitely a government issue. It’s nothing with religion. It’s nothing that Jewish people themselves and citizens do. It’s really the government of Israel.”