Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a solidarity vigil at the BU Beach Wednesday night, in response to Israel’s deadly retaliatory strikes on Gaza.
Approximately 200 attendees gathered on the greenspace behind Marsh Chapel, forming a circle around a tree adorned with Palestinian flags, flowers and candles at its base. SJP speakers and students gave speeches and recited personal anecdotes on their ties to Palestine, and thoughts on the violence in Gaza.
“I am really happy to see how many people came out [to the vigil],” said an SJP member, who wishes to stay anonymous for safety reasons, citing doxxing incidents at Harvard University.
Another SJP member said there has been violence that has resulted in many deaths, and students need a safe space to get the help they have not received from the University.
“I think it’s particularly meaningful because in the absence of institutional support, clubs like these, and just generally students who care, have to create spaces of support for themselves,” the SJP member said.
In historic deadly attacks by Hamas — a militant group and United States-designated terrorist organization since 1997 — carried out in Israel on Oct. 7, over 1,400 people were killed, according to the Associated Press. Israel’s response strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed more than 2,700 Palestinians, with an additional 500 people dying in an explosion at al-Ahli Hospital Tuesday, the cause of which is debated.
One speaker took a moment to acknowledge the killing of a 6-year-old Muslim boy in a Chicago suburb. Wadea Al-Fayoume was killed in his home by his family’s landlord, who was charged with a hate crime, according to the Associated Press.
Another student led a prayer in English and Arabic, calling for remembrance of Gazans who lost their lives, especially vulnerable populations. Other students read spoken word pieces and essays on the history of the conflict and their perspectives as supporters of Palestine.
“My family is Lebanese and we side with Palestine, so I’m here for solidarity,” said Yara Eid, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The community coming together for a cause and for people [is needed] right now.”
Many students said they feel BU administration “could be doing more” to support Palestinian students.
“One of the reasons everyone is here is because of BU’s failure to make us feel heard, seen and it makes us feel powerless,” said Faisal Ahmed, a SJP member and senior in CAS, while addressing the crowd.
BU interim President Kenneth Freeman wrote an email to students on Oct. 10 condemning Hamas’s attack on Israel.
“[We] condemn the attack by Hamas on the State of Israel and especially the intentional and large-scale targeting of noncombatants,” he wrote. “The resulting war will senselessly claim innocent victims on all sides.”
Daniel Gergeus, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said he does not think BU is doing enough.
“It feels as though a lot of [BU’s] acts of support so far have been quite one sided,” Gergeus said. “They have been acknowledging the issue but not really acknowledging how multifaceted it is and how historically contextualized it is.”
Freeman also wrote that Dean of Students Jason Campbell-Foster reached out to students from the region and his team “stand ready” to help students from the region experiencing “anguish, stress, or disruption.”
A SJP board member who wishes to remain anonymous said the group aimed to “have a space for mourning and have a space for collective reflection” at the vigil. They cited a need to unite against “dehumanization of Palestine and Palestinians.”
“I don’t think I feel safe [on campus],” said another anonymous SJP member. “I mean, we’re talking about Brown Americans, when have they ever felt safe?”
Speakers said BU students have faced doxxing and safety threats for their association with SJP.
BU SJP students have created an email petition entitled, “Demanding that Boston University Takes Action Now!” The petition aims to “hold the Boston University Administration accountable,” and outlines requests for BU to “identify, condemn, and reject the anti-Palestinian racism, doxxing, and harassment,” that students are facing, among other demands. The petition has over 5,000 pre-filled letters sent, as of Oct. 19.
“I do think it is really meaningful how many people have emailed … to express how disappointed they are in the administration,” said an anonymous SJP board member.
Sneha Jos, a junior in CAS, said she went to the event to reassure Palestinian students that they are not alone.
“I came out tonight because I’ve been really disappointed over the past two weeks at BU’s handling of what’s going on,” Jos said. “I haven’t known what to do with myself basically, I’m angry and sad and all of these things. So after this event, I feel better that a lot of people feel the same way I do.”