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A Student Protest and a New Club Emerge in the Shadow of the Continuing Middle East Crisis

By Arpan Josan & Hussein Ali Rifath

Some Adelphi students are continuing to respond to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East in disparate ways. About 20 pro-Palestine students hosted a divestment protest outside the University Center on April 29. Also in April, the new Adelphi club Students Supporting Israel (SSI) met for the first time.

At the pro-Palestine protest on Monday, April 29, which began at 1 p.m, protesters, members of Adelphi’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), made music with drums, prayed and chanted. Public Safety was nearby and there appeared to be only a few detractors. One passing student, Damian McGhie, a first-year criminal justice major, said, “I don't really know what's going on, but I just want there to be peace.”

SJP founder Hayaa Beig said that some students called the protestors incendiary names and mocked their call for prayer, which she said was disrespectful and Islamophobic. “They also claimed we were uninformed and didn't know what we were fighting for, which is remarkably incorrect.”  

Sentwali Bakari, Adelphi's vice president for Student Affairs and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, said that the demonstration by SJP held on campus was peaceful and all the participants followed all university protocols. 

As we continue to monitor ongoing campus events nationwide, Adelphi remains focused on offering an environment that allows for peaceful demonstrations and a respectful exchange of different viewpoints in accordance with the University's Demonstration Policy,” he said.

According to an announcement posted by SJP on Instagram prior to the protest, the students sought financial transparency from the university as well as for the university to relinquish any financial relationships it has with pro-Israel companies. In addition, the students asked for the end of all study abroad programs to Israel, the removal of the Israeli flag on campus and changes to Adelphi’s student conduct regulations. 

Beig, a first-year ethics and public policy major, said that the group has a meeting scheduled with the Adelphi administration to discuss their demands.

Yamna Khalid, a freshman criminal justice major, participated in the protest. “I'm majoring in criminal justice and I think that it's about time. It's been going on for six months now and we really need to do something to make a difference,” she said. “And I think that even if it makes a little bit of a difference, just organizing stuff like this, protests, making sure to boycott and all that, I think it really does make a difference. And your effort is never too small. I definitely think that there's a lot of effort because that comes from a lot of people.”

Daniel Iqbal, a first-year studying finance at Baruch College, visited Adelphi’s campus to take part in the protests. Photo by Hussein Ali Rifath

Daniel Iqbal, a freshman at Baruch College, said he came to participate in the protest at Adelphi because it was less difficult to protest here than at CUNY, his home institution. “I think that we should continue to congregate and continue to share how we feel about this cause and not back down,” he said. “Public opinion is shifting now and we have to stand behind that shift.”

The protest was covered by News 12 Long Island. Adelphi issued a statement to the media, stating: “The university fully believes in the importance of fostering an environment where students and community members have the freedom to peacefully express themselves.” 

A New Israel Club

SSI vice president Avi Yusupov said the club was established on March 29, 2024 and they held their first interest meeting on April 10. Yusupov said it was created to address “many misconceptions and wrong ideas of what the State of Israel stands for, which has caused many negative ramifications in how people see it and its supporters. This club was formed in order to help spread awareness of the great nation Israel and its strong desire for peace internationally.”

Yusupov said the goal of SSI “is to spread awareness and support for Israel's right to exist securely within its borders, debunk common misconceptions held against the state, and additionally display some of the major contributions to the world that Israel has and continues to make.”  

Yusupov also clarified that SSI was not created in response to the founding of SJP on campus earlier this semester. 

We founded SSI at Adelphi to create/facilitate a vibrant and inclusive community where students can explore and celebrate the rich cultural history, heritage and society of Israel, as well as the Jewish people's profound connection to their ancestral homeland,” he said. “As a club, we will focus on educating about Israel, tackling contemporary issues and building bridges and allyships on campus.” 

The SSI e-board consists of their president Emily Hakimian, who has not declared a major; Yusupov, who is majoring in psychology; chairman Brad Greissman, who is majoring in political science; and event correspondent Murray Litman, who is majoring in exercise science. Their advisor is Rabbi Yaakov Lipsker. 

Students could be seen holding signs as they demonstrated. Photo by Hussein Ali Rifath

Yusupov said the group is aware of antisemitism occuring on campus and referenced an Instagram post that was shared by an Adelphi club. It contained an antisemitic trope “that the Jewish people control the wealth of the European nations, using the trope to further vilify the Jewish State. Additionally, that same club uploaded a post encouraging the public shaming of zionists, recommending the phrase ‘go back to Brooklyn’ be used, and they uploaded this twice.”

He added, “Just to clarify, Brooklyn is known for its very large population of Orthodox Jewry, where I also happen to be from. The club was reported of course. However, without a voice representing Israel, who will point out these things? Who will distinguish between political and hate speech? This ability to distinguish is especially necessary when these ideas are being promoted by clubs on campus, influencing how students view others and act towards them. Hopefully, SSI will be the one to bring light, and in turn peace, on campuses and other areas as well.”

Hate Speech Reports

In an article that appeared in the April 15 issue of The Delphian, some other students also reported being victims of hate speech on campus. Despite the encouragement by Bakari in that article for students to come forward to report these events, he said that to date no formal incidents have been reported for investigation. 

Further, Joseph De Gearo, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said he reached out to the president of SJP, again inviting her to sit down with him, and also sent an email to the president of Chabad with the same message. At press time it was not clear if either had responded to him. 

Bakari added, “We continue to pursue future opportunities for dialogue and educational discussions.” 

Regarding continuing to support all students on campus, Bakari said, “Students experiencing threats and harassment are encouraged to report the incidents immediately for appropriate investigation. In order to investigate and take appropriate actions, we must first be made aware of any incidents accordingly. Additionally, we encourage students who have concerns and/or wish to address perceptions of hate to reach out to Adelphi's Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and Adelphi's Bias Response Team for help.”

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