Guest column: Amherst students urge cease-fire resolution

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought on Feb. 22 to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip.

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought on Feb. 22 to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. AP

By MARISOL PIERCE BONIFAZ, MAR GUBRIUM, ZOEY MORDECAI and SAARA RATHOD

Published: 02-28-2024 5:37 PM

 

The history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine begins, primarily, with the start of the Nakba in 1948, when over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland during the creation of Israel as a state. This began a long and difficult 75-year period of oppression against the Palestinian people. While the ongoing Nakba was and is a very present fact for the people of Palestine, it failed to gain much international traction or attention.

However, the terrorist attacks that killed over 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7 and the subsequent reoccupation of Palestinian territories by Israeli military forces have skyrocketed this historic conflict into the international social, political and legal spotlight.

Since the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, more than 27,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and that number grows every day. Bombings and intentional blockages of humanitarian aid have combined to perpetrate an ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. Many countries in the United Nations have voted in support of a cease-fire resolution, and a case has officially been brought against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

However, these efforts are hampered by the United States, which continues to expedite military aid to Israel, and consistently vetoes U.N. cease-fire resolutions. Despite the stance of the U.S. government, many U.S. citizens have taken collective action against their government’s funding and support of this ongoing genocide. U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Minneapolis and Detroit, have passed resolutions in support of a cease-fire in Gaza in a show of collective outrage at the United States’ involvement.

The Amherst resolution in support of a cease-fire in Gaza was originally introduced by the Amherst4CeaseFire coalition. The resolution follows on the Town Council’s Oct. 16 resolution condemning the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, and asks for due process in condemning the genocide in Gaza by the Israeli government, an immediate cease-fire, release of hostages from both sides, removing blockades to humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the withdrawal of conditional U.S. support to the Israeli government.

Here, four Amherst students share their perspectives:

Mar Gubrium: “Shaped by my Lebanese heritage, I recall discussions among my family on the enduring Palestinian genocide. In 2021, I was in the car with my Jiddo (grandfather) listening to the news, horrified to hear about the violence against Palestinians perpetrated by the state of Israel. His explanation of historical persecution urged critical thinking and condemnation. These sentiments of shock and horror have intensified, leaving me baffled at the justification of such genocide or the ability to witness it without profound anguish. Empathy for Palestinian loss runs deep and I am left unable to fathom the heartbreak of seeing their land destroyed. To be silent is to be complicit; we cannot keep sitting and watching the cost of inaction.”

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Zoey Mordecai: “Since I was very young, my family has raised me to fight constantly against injustice in the world. In 2019, my father brought me to a talk at UMass Amherst about Palestinian oppression and the backlash against pro-Palestinian voices. During that talk, someone burst into the auditorium and began shouting, cursing the panelists for their “lies.” I remember being 12 and terrified, not knowing whether the black object in their hand was a camera or a gun. It was a camera, and the man was escorted out. But my heart shatters when I think of all the children, 12 and younger, who feel that very real terror in Gaza. There is no moment of relief for them, no moment when they realize that everything is going to be fine.”

Marisol Bonifaz: “As someone who identifies as ethnically Jewish, this polarization and genocide breaks my heart. Many Jewish communities and organizations oppose the utter genocide in Gaza, and condemn the Israeli government. My whole family grieves the utter loss and destruction of Palestinian families and communities.”

Saara Rathod: “In my family we often discuss what is happening around the world. When I learned about what is happening in Palestine, I was surprised. More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been killed due to the war. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed. Approximately half of the total of Palestinians who have died are children. I can’t fathom the amount of pain that the family members and the people who are witnessing this feel. It is astonishing how the world is watching a genocide, but are not taking actions to stop the Israeli army from attacking innocent civilians.”

As conveyed through personal testimonies, the global reverberation of this genocide’s pain and devastation is deeply felt. It’s crucial for our community to stand against settler colonialism, anti-Arab sentiment, Islamophobia, and genocide.

Contact your town councilors to demand a cease-fire, sign the petition, and attend the Amherst Town Council meeting where councilors will discuss and possibly vote on a cease-fire resolution on Monday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Amherst Regional Middle School auditorium.

Marisol Pierce Bonifaz, Mar Gubrium, Zoey Mordecai and Saara Rathod are Amherst Regional High School students and members of the Amherst4CeaseFire coalition.