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  • Alan Cohen, Staff Writer

Willamette students rally against U.S. aid to Israel

Photo by Caramia Christensen

On Saturday, Oct. 21, a group of approximately 20 Willamette University students and Salem residents rallied in front of the state Capitol in favor of a “free Palestine” and against U.S. aid to Israel.

This demonstration took place two weeks after Hamas, the political and military power that controls the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing over a thousand civilians and taking nearly 200 hostages. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by multiple countries, including the United States. Though it governs the Gaza Strip, there have been no legislative elections in the strip since 2006. The last Gaza presidential election was in 2008.

Since Israel’s declaration of war on Oct. 8 and subsequent missile attacks on the Gaza Strip, more than 7,200 people have lost their lives as of Oct. 24, over 5,800 of which have been Palestinians. Conflict in the region dates back about a century.

The local rally was among many demonstrations in cities and college campuses around the world since Israel’s declaration of war.

It was organized by the Willamette chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a nationwide progressive organization originally founded in the 1960s as an anti-war movement. According to the society’s website, they also advocate against “racist discrimination, police crimes, homophobic and transphobic attacks, attacks on women [and] attacks on reproductive rights,” among other causes. This chapter is not recognized as an official student organization by the university and is not affiliated with the Associated Students of Willamette University.

Salem residents and members of other left-wing political organizations, such as the Democratic Socialists of America, joined Willamette students at the Saturday event.

Catie Mohr (‘26), one of the students who organized the demonstration, gave a speech stating that the organization is attempting to change public opinion on the conflict and thanked individuals who were organizing in support of Palestinian communities and sovereignty.

“Palestinians are being genocided right now, as we speak, by the Israeli nation,” she stated. Mohr also shared her discontent with legislators, including many Democrats, who have publicly supported U.S. aid to Israel.

Zeke Druker (‘24), who also organized the rally, spoke against the complete siege of Gaza that has forced over 2 million people to live without water, electricity or basic supplies.

“Anyone with a human conscience should be terrified by the state of Israel’s campaign of terror; a Jew especially, as I am, should be abhorred of the acts committed in the name of the Jewish people,” Druker stated.

The group of demonstrators were also heard chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a phrase that’s been debated for its meaning.

No counter protesters were present at the rally Saturday. It is not yet known if any local events involving Willamette students speaking in favor of Israel have been organized.

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