Northampton High students use walkout to speak out against Israel’s actions in Gaza

Sanza Parzybok, 17, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students on Tuesday to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Sanza Parzybok, 17, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students on Tuesday to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. STAFF PHOTO/ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Oscar Patterson, 18, tests the microphone during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

Oscar Patterson, 18, tests the microphone during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.  —STAFF PHOTO/ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Ada Griffin, 17, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday. 

Ada Griffin, 17, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday.  STAFF PHOTO/ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Yana Zaghloul, 18, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

Yana Zaghloul, 18, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.  —STAFF PHOTO/ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Yana Zaghloul, 18, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Yana Zaghloul, 18, speaks during a walkout of Northampton High School students to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. —STAFF PHOTO/ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

From right, Yana Zaghloul, 18, Arlo Greene, 17, Sanza Parzybok, 17, Oona Weaver, 17, and Ada Griffin, 17, attend a walkout in front of Northampton High School on Tuesday to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. 

From right, Yana Zaghloul, 18, Arlo Greene, 17, Sanza Parzybok, 17, Oona Weaver, 17, and Ada Griffin, 17, attend a walkout in front of Northampton High School on Tuesday to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.  CONTRIBUTED/NOAH DAUBE-VALOIS

Sanza Parzybok, right, hands the microphone over to Arlo Greene during a walkout in front of Northampton High School, as other participants look on.

Sanza Parzybok, right, hands the microphone over to Arlo Greene during a walkout in front of Northampton High School, as other participants look on. CONTRIBUTED/NOAH DAUBE-VALOIS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 12-21-2023 1:17 PM

Modified: 12-21-2023 5:23 PM


NORTHAMPTON — More than 50 Northampton High School students staged an early walkout of school on Tuesday in protest of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, demanding a permanent cease-fire to the conflict and strongly criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza since the war’s outbreak, saying it was tantamount to genocide.

“The goal of this gathering is not to spew hatred or condemn anybody but to promote peace and education,” said Sanza Parzybok, 17, one of several students who spoke at the event. “The sustained attack on Gaza is a brutal, unjust demonstration of military force that has resulted in unimaginable suffering and pain.”

Yana Zaghloul, an 18-year-old Palestinian-American who graduated from NHS last year, told the crowd that her family had fled their homes to Jordan following the creation of Israel before eventually moving to the United States. She said it was “horrifying” for her and her fellow Arab-Americans to witness the events happening in Gaza.

“Why are Arab civilians always seen as collateral damage in war? Where is the humanity of the West?” Zaghloul said. “We are the youth of the United States, and we must make it clear to our government that we do not stand with them.”

The war started Oct. 7 when Hamas entered Israel and killed 1,200 of its citizens and took around 200 more people hostage. Israel has retaliated with a military ground invasion of Gaza and a bombing campaign. There have been at least 20,000 deaths in Gaza as of Thursday and warnings of a deepening humanitarian crisis.

The head of the United Nations’ health agency on Thursday warned of the “toxic mix of disease, hunger and lack of hygiene and sanitation” faced by people in Gaza as he called for an immediate cease-fire.

Flyers for the event had been posted in hallways around the high school the previous week but had to be taken down as the walkout had not been officially sponsored by the high school, according to Zara Usman, a member of the Northampton Student Union who spoke during the district’s School Committee meeting on Dec. 14.

“There’s a lot of tension around the issue, and I don’t really feel like it’s being talked about in classes because it gets very heated so quickly,” Usman told the committee. “Not all of these conversations happen in a teacher area; some are during self-directed flex time, lunch and on social media.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Scott Brown: Road to ruin for Northampton schools
Around Amherst: High school sleuths point out $2M mistake in town budget
Mayor’s budget boosts schools 8.5%: Advocates protest coming job cuts as spending falls short of demands
Michigan man indicted on alleged $1M construction fraud of Northampton company
Fire at Rainbow Motel in Whately leaves 17 without a home
Rutherford Platt and Barbara Kirchner: ‘Magical thinking’ in downtown Northampton

Though the walkout was not officially sanctioned by the school, several school officials, such as NHS Principal Bill Wehrli and school committee vice chair Gwen Agna, were present at the walkout to observe the students.

As the event was not sponsored by the school, the students were more free to speak their minds, said Arlo Greene, 17, one of the speakers at the walkout.

“We will condemn violence and oppression as citizens of perhaps the largest imperial force in the world,” Greene said. “This is a divisive issue often written off as complicated by a complex web of media manipulation and finger-pointing, when in reality the situation is not hard to understand.”

Ada Griffin, a 17-year-old student who identified as half-Jewish, said although she was proud of her Jewish identity, there were many Jews who opposed Israel’s Zionist ideology and that Israel does not represent all Jews.

“My Jewish grandparents, who are in their 70s now and grew up in the 1950s, are pro-Palestine. My Jewish mother, who was brought up hearing about their experiences and raised me to love and celebrate my Jewish identity, is pro-Palestine,” Griffin said. “Israel does not represent Jews, and to equate Jews with Israel feeds into Israeli propaganda.”

Oscar Patterson, 18, said at the walkout that people need to come together to demand that the United States pressure Israel into a cease-fire. The United Nations has had several votes calling for a cease-fire in the conflict, though resolutions have been vetoed by the United States.

“Sometimes it might seem like we’re very small and cannot make a change, but the whole country is made up of a lot of different singular people,” Patterson said. “If we stand together as a collective, we have the power to influence our government.”

The walkout has been one of several significant protests that have taken place at educational institutions across the Pioneer Valley since the start of the war on Oct. 7. At UMass Amherst, 56 students and one faculty member were arrested after occupying the school’s administrative building in October. At Smith College, students held a “die-in” in protest of the war earlier in December.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.