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SU cancels discussion on Middle East crisis as ‘radio silence’ continues


SU's Model UN exec board discusses with students on Oct. 12. Image courtesy of Colin McEvers.

In the month since Hamas launched their devastating attack on Israel killing over 1,400 Israelis while taking hundreds hostage, the world has watched a crisis of horrifying proportions play out in front of our eyes. In retaliation, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has attacked Gaza by land and air, killing over 10,000 Palestinians according to their health authorities.


The United Nations said Gaza has become a graveyard for children, as over 4,000 have been killed in the month of retaliation, along with 88 UN workers, 192 health workers and 47 journalists.


Despite the gut-wrenching realities of this crisis, Salisbury University has remained notably quiet. Aside from a student-led discussion headed up by SU’s Model United Nations and newly founded Political Science club, as well as vocal students making their voices heard around campus and on social media, the university has refrained from making statements or holding any university-ran panels or discussions.


Faculty in the Fulton School of Liberal Arts planned an expert panel and discussion titled “War in the Middle East: How Did We Get Here, Where are We Now and What’s Next?” This event was slated to take place on Nov. 7, exactly a month since the Oct. 7 attacks. According to a University press release, it has been canceled.


In an email from the Fulton School, faculty leadership said they are hoping to hold the panel at a later date, and to stay tuned for updates.


Murtaza Aqil, social media manager for the Model UN, reflected on the quick reaction of the school when similarly world-stopping events have occurred in the past.


“From what we’ve seen, there hasn’t been an official statement from the school… when everything happened in Ukraine and Russia the school sent out an email quickly,” he said. “We’ve heard neither, for lives in Gaza or in Israel, it feels like complete radio silence.”


As the institution remains silent, the students bear the onus to remain properly educated, participate in needed discourse and demonstrate support for innocent lives. The Model UN club along with the Political Science club have stepped up to provide much needed context, information and support for the student body.


Beatrix Peck, president of the Political Science club, saw the need to provide students a place to get informed and participate in authentic conversation. She noticed that the emotions and viewpoints of students were not being addressed. In response, Peck collaborated with the Model UN and they were able to organize a student-led discussion about the crisis on Oct. 12th


“Students were curious about what was going on, so stepping up as students to organize a discussion when the school is failing to do so I feel like helps students understand and be more aware of global politics,” Peck said. “People left the discussion feeling like they knew a little more or saw a new perspective; we wanted to give a platform where people could talk without getting into verbal arguments or getting doxed.”


Executive board members began the discussion by giving a brief history of the region, the oppression of Palestinian people both in Gaza and West Bank and Hamas' rise to power in Gaza. They followed by describing the facts of the current crisis, then opened the discussion up to students.


Prior to the faculty discussion being cancelled, Model UN president Jacob Cudmore-Maupai said he was interested to see what direction it would go, noting that the university is likely taking their time in the interest of avoiding a public relations disaster. He says that the American proclivity to label speaking out against the Israeli government as blatant antisemitism can prevent much needed discussion of humanitarian necessities.


“There’s definitely a perception within the American zeitgeist that if you speak against Israel [then] you are antisemitic because a lot of antisemites do hold anti-Israeli views, but of course you cannot equate a political ideology such as Zionism with the entire religious identity of Judaism,” Cudmore-Maupai said.


As this crisis continues to grow and the potential for broader geopolitical conflict deepens, he says it’s essential for the people to realize that governments are not always representative of their people. To him, staying well informed can help prevent people from being manipulated into justifying war.


“It’s good to remember that governments aren’t people, they rarely represent the people,” he said. “Wars in general, us fighting each other… we’re all just cannon fodder for a larger system that not everyone understands.”


Since the crisis began, misinformation and propaganda have flourished on social and mainstream media. As misinformation becomes the new reality of geopolitical conflict, it is crucial for students and the broader population to remain accurately informed. Murtaza Aqil says that X, formerly known as twitter, is a prime example of misinformation taking over our timelines.


“Avoid twitter specifically, or X, sorry,” he said. “You can buy verification now, people can have official accounts set up with a believable name, they hide behind a verification mark to spread misinformation.”


Aqil has family and friends in and around Palestine, some that have been forced to leave the area. Despite feelings of anguish, sadness and anger, he is committed to remain empathetic in spite of violence and grief.


"It's disturbing on both ends, at the end of the day innocent people are dying," he said. "I have friends and family that are in Palestine or around the area who have had to flee; my Dad feels especially hurt for them but holds the same stance as me."


"We can't let hatred internalize in us and take that out on other people, because then you've become as bad as the oppressor."


Despite being left to process and react to this crisis without university involvement, student voices and reactions still hold power. Cudmore-Maupai says that our actions can go beyond social media.


"Do not post, do something, stop posting, do something," he said. "Organize, protest, write a letter to congress-people... also touch grass, talk to people."


UPDATE: This story was updated a of Nov. 8 to provide additional context about the discussion hosted by Model UN and the Political Science club.

 

By LIAM MCGINNES

Editor in Chief

Featured image courtesy of Colin McEvers.

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