Students met on the Circle on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in a peaceful protest to call for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza. A ceasefire would mean an end to the bombing of Palestine, southern Lebanon and Yemen by Israel and the United States.
Ellie Crane, a sophomore public policy leadership major who organized the event, hoped to raise awareness of the rising death toll resulting from the conflict.
“Our goal today was to make this (issue) visible to everyone,” Crane said. “In the Oxford metro area — even in Memphis — there have been a few protests in the past month but nothing recently, so I wanted to keep people talking and thinking about it.”
This protest comes on the heels of two other protests on campus and in the Square in 2023. Crane explained why she believed a ceasefire is vital given the immense loss of life and constant violence in the region.
“We’ve seen time and time again in history that suffering does not end with more suffering,” Crane said. “History will repeat itself unless we reroute it, and misery will not answer for misery.”
The area of conflict is known as the Gaza Strip, a small territory of only 139 square miles that lies between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea. The territory is one of the most densely populated regions in the world with over 2 million residents.
The State of Israel declared war in the region in retaliation to attacks on the Israeli southern border on Oct. 7, 2023, by Hamas, which has held political power in Gaza since 2007. The initial attack by Hamas on Southern Israel resulted in the death of an estimated 1,400 Israeli citizens.
Since Israel’s declaration of war against Hamas in the region, more than 26,600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, as reported by an NBC News article..
“I think we have to see that violence is not going to solve this,” Crane said. “The deaths we’ve seen on both sides are all horrific, but there is action that is needed on both sides to end the violence and loss of life — to return hostages to their families and to create a peace system that will not lead to more violence in the region.”
Some students at the event questioned why the United States is among the few nations not calling for a ceasefire.
“If we consider ourselves a beacon of democracy and a light for the world to see as an example of diplomacy, we cannot continue to be the only ones left in this world saying ‘no’ to a ceasefire,” Ami Ba, a freshman public policy leadership major said. “We need to join the rest of the world calling for an end to action. If we don’t, we are going to enable a humanitarian crisis that will leave hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced and dead.”
Other students at the event realized the value of voicing their opinions. Sebastian Markowitz, a junior dietetics and nutrition major, shared how he saw the protest as a vital part toward change.
“That is how change happens, it doesn’t matter about war, gender, equality — whatever it’s about, change happens when you have a voice,” Markowitz said. “That is what is so good about living in America, we get to voice our opinions and petition for change.”
Crane thanked the University of Mississippi and the University Police Department for their surveillance and protection at the event.
“The university was really receptive to it,” Crane said. “UPD has been receptive and reiterated that they are here to protect us and our right to free speech as well as making sure everyone is safe. They reiterated their respect for me and the event time and time again so that has been really positive.”
Crane also urged students to be observant of the conflict and support calls for a ceasefire in any way they can.
“I think we have a responsibility to know and to not turn a blind eye when things like this happen; we need to face the hard things,” Crane said. “Do whatever you can, the great thing about social media is that you don’t have to donate. You can just share posts and make a difference. It’s a hard thing to start a conversation about, but once you do we can have meaningful, needed conversations with each other.”