By Gabriel Donahue, Editor-in-Chief
“Towson, Towson, you will see! Palestine will be free!” a group of roughly 40 Towson University students chanted as they marched across campus Wednesday afternoon in a rally hosted by groups including the Muslim Student Association and the Towson chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America.
Some draped in Palestinian flags and wearing traditional garb called keffiyehs, the group called for a ceasefire in Gaza, where the Israeli military has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians since early last month.
The increased violence in the region, beginning after a surprise attack killed 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7, is part of a longstanding conflict of over 75 years between Israel and Palestine. College campuses nationwide have since seen students organize in support of Israelis or Palestinians.
Mina Bacha, a student who helped organize the rally at Towson, said the groups wanted to cause disruption to draw attention to their cause by hosting the rally in the afternoon while many students were on campus and traveling between classes.
The same organizations hosted a vigil in solidarity with Palestine in October, The Towerlight reported.
The crowd made their way from Tiger Plaza to West Village Commons chanting rally cries like “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” After looping the West Village lawn, they headed back to Freedom Square to hear speeches.
“We’re here to call for a ceasefire, and then hopefully in the end, end up with a Palestinian liberation,” Haytham Monssa, a member of the Society of Arab Students, said in an interview. “That’s the final goal.”
The October attack came from the militant arm of Hamas, the governing body of Gaza since 2007 whose stated goal is Palestinian liberation and confrontation of Zionism.
The U.S. labels Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Israel declared war on Hamas last month, and has “vowed to destroy Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip,” the Associated Press reported.
The siege imposed by Israel for the past 25 days has left an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians displaced, a UN official said at a Security Council meeting Monday. More than 3,000 children have been killed, including in areas of Gaza that were designated as safe zones.
Refugee camps, hospitals and U.N.-run schools and shelters have been hit by Israeli airstrikes, according to the Associated Press.
“We want to bring awareness to specifically the area Gaza in Palestine that’s being bombarded with bombs and Israel is trying to wipe out,” Bacha said. “We wanted to bring attention to the university that we don’t want them investing any money that is used towards funding genocide.”
Rafiki Morris, a member Black Alliance for Peace, was invited to speak at the event. The Black Alliance for Peace “seeks to recapture and redevelop the historic anti-war, anti-imperialist, and pro-peace positions of the radical black movement,” according to its website.
Morris called for an end to Zionism, differentiating between Zionism and Judaism.
As the speeches went on, one Jewish student, Noah Davidson, stood watching, holding an Israeli flag. He wrote on a Freedom Square chalkboard messages like “zionist and proud,” and “Israel #1.”
Davidson said he believes peace could exist in the region, but it’s dependent on Palestinians learning to live next to a Jewish state. He added that both Palestinians and Israelis must learn to live with each other.
“Hamas terrorists came in, gun blazing, murdering innocent people with no regard for human life,” Davidson said. “It’s not the number that matters, whether it was one person or 1,400 people, Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel does not attack Gaza, nor did it start this war, but Israel will finish this war.”
In recognition of anxiety that a pro-Palestine rally could cause Towson’s Jewish students, Rabbi Alex Salzberg, executive director of Hillel, the on-campus Jewish group part of a national organization, informed the group Tuesday about the event.
His message invited students to the Hillel Lounge above Newell Den and discouraged people from counter-protesting the event.
“We need to stay above the fray, and focus on rallying our own internal community support, and engaging the neutral bystander on campus; arguing with our haters and detractors won’t serve any positive purpose,” Salzberg wrote.
Isabella Mooney and Tyler Story contributed to this article.