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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Palouse joins pro-Palestine protests

By Rachel Sun The Daily News and Northwest Public Broadcasting

Students at Washington State University and the University of Idaho this week joined growing campus protests across the country calling for a cease-fire in Palestine and for their universities to divest from corporations with financial ties to Israel.

Health officials in Gaza have reported that about 34,00 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, according to the Wall Street Journal. The United Nations estimated in March that 13,000 children had died, and last month the UN reported 10,000 women had been killed.

In March, MSNBC reported that more children had been killed in the span of four months in Gaza than in four years of war globally. At least 97 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, along with almost 500 health care workers and 196 aid workers.

Connor Luce, a first-year mechanical engineering student at WSU, helped organize his campus protest.

“(WSU’s) money is still being invested in companies that are actively facilitating the ongoing genocide and apartheid in Palestine,” Luce said, “and they’ve not done a damn thing.”

Petitions from the WSU and UI groups are online asking the universities to divest.

Organizers said calls for divestment at both universities were modeled after similar resolutions adopted by universities to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.

Nick Koenig, a doctoral researcher at UI, said organizers personally read the 1985 resolution adopted by the university’s board of directors that stated no funds managed by the foundation would be invested in companies doing business in South Africa unless those companies subscribed to racial fairness and equality.

“This is something we can do today,” Koenig said. “It is a method that the University of Idaho has done in the past, and they have to do it now.”

Students also called on politicians representing them to end their support for Israel’s military campaign.

One student organizer, who declined to share his name, specifically called out U.S. Senator Jim Risch for voting against a cease-fire and blocking $75 million in food aid for Palestinians, alongside Texas Rep. Michael McCaul.

That student led a chant, joined by a few dozen protestors:

“Jim Risch, Jim Risch, where’s your heart? How many Gazans did you starve?” students chanted. “From Palestine to the Philippines, end the U.S. war machine.”

Justin Vo, a fourth-year architecture student at WSU, said he felt compelled to protest because of his family’s experience during the Vietnam War.

“My family has been suffering from that war for so long,” Vo said. “It has been curating a sense of humanity in me, and a recognition of why America should never repeat such a tremendous mistake like that.”

Sullivan Abrams, a freshman political science major at WSU, came to the protest with a sign that said, “Never again, for anyone.”

“I’m Jewish,” Abrams said. “I have been raised with a lot of talk about genocide and human rights. I think that it’s especially important to show up for Palestinians, and (talk about) the genocide that is going on in Gaza.”

Abrams said he believes that accusations of antisemitism toward pro-Palestinian protests are a gross misunderstanding of what the movement represents.

Antisemitic incidents have risen in the U.S. since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Abrams said that antisemitism needs to be called out. But, he said, support for Palestinians is not antisemitic.

“There’s people I know in my community that seem to see the younger generation coming together for Palestine as some sort of, like, massive uptick in antisemitism,” he said. “While there has been that, I think that correlating the two is dangerous for anybody involved.”

Arabella Laras, a 20-year-old WSU sophomore, said she had been using her social media to help raise money for people living in Gaza.

“They are just 19 years old, or younger than that,” she said. “And that (makes me feel) so bad. Like, when I’m just here studying and enjoying my life, and on the other side of the world my peers are suffering. They don’t have food, they don’t have anything for breakfast, and basically they have nothing.”

Seyi Arogundade, a first-year journalism and political science double major at UI, spoke against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and criticized the legislature and student government for not doing more to divest from it.

“An entire nation, people and culture is being wiped away,” she said. “There are people who stand by and say nothing and do nothing. And that is not right.”

Roughly 85 to 100 people joined the protest at WSU, and several dozen joined the protest at UI. No counterprotesters were present at either.

Sun may be contacted at or on Twitter at @Rachel_M_Sun. This report is made in partnership with Northwest Public Broadcasting, the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

This story was changed on May 7, 2024 to correct estimates of Palestinians killed in the conflict in Gaza.