Examining the Israeli-Palestinian Divide at PaliHi

The author interviewed students at Palisades High School about the ongoing war against Israel and Hamas that started with a terrorist attack on Israel on October 7.

By CHAZ PLAGER

On October 7, 2023, a terrorist attack on Israel by the radical Palestinian group Hamas set off one of the most major wars in recent memory. Though it may be halfway across the world, the effects of the war have spread even as far to the students at Palisades Charter High School.

And if there’s one thing about Pali’s students, it’s that they never shy away from making their voices heard. Students on both sides of the conflict are doing what they can to further what they think is right: let’s take a closer look at what they’re doing.

There is absolutely no shortage of pro-Israel clubs at Pali High. From Zionists for Zion to Chabad to the Jewish Student Union (JSU), Jewish students feel extremely safe both speaking their mind and participating in Jewish activities.

JSU towards the beginning of the conflict, posted pictures of Israeli hostages around the school with the caption “Bring them home!”

Chabad will, every Friday, set up a table outside Pali where students can receive Tefillin, as well as news about Jewish outreach events at the Chabad synagogue.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Chabad has begun to hold more and more public events, hoping that the festivities will soothe the hearts that ache for their countrymen in Israel.

Rabbi Sholom Diskin can often be seen around Pali, hoping to spread the good word through bagels and lox. More information on Chabad can be found on their website (click here.).

“We’re proud of who we are,” says Pali senior and activist Sharleen Tala. “We have no reason to run or hide from this fight. Israel our homeland will prevail.”

Tracking down those who support Palestine proved far more difficult. Several students who I had heard were involved with the movement refused to answer me, on the suspicion that I would either make their names known to the public or that I was a “Zionist plant” trying to report them to the school administration.

Apparently, both of these things are common occurrences to students who support Palestine. Those who were willing to provide a quote asked to have their names censored.

“Look, I’m not saying I support Hamas. Nobody does,” said one Pali junior. “But you have to understand that what happened on October 7 is the natural result of years and years of animosity built up ever since Israel stole the Palestinians’ land from them. We need a ceasefire now.”

Another student called Israel’s actions in the Gaza strip a “genocide,” claiming that Israel knew that the terrorist attack on October 7 would happen and is using it as justification to eliminate the Palestinian people. “Justice must be done. A ceasefire must be called!”

This is all well and good. However, there is extremely concerning rhetoric from students on both sides that kept cropping up, and that I’d like to take a moment to address.

On the Palestinian side, certain students were not only calling for a ceasefire, but the dissolution of the state of Israel; claiming that since the Israelis are on stolen land, Israel ought not to be recognized as a legitimate state.

Were this to happen, thousands of Israeli citizens would be displaced, and there would no longer be a home for the Jewish people. This is harmful rhetoric which sounds as bad as it would be in reality.

On the Jewish side, I heard something that greatly concerned me. At a Jewish Student Union meeting, I showed a group of students an image that the IDF recently came under fire for: several Israeli soldiers smiling, posed next to children’s toys that are spattered with bullet holes and smoldering.

I showed students the picture, then asked them if they thought Israel was not doing what it could to protect Palestinian civilians and innocents. To which one of the students responded, “I don’t understand. Hamas loves to celebrate when they kill our children. Why shouldn’t we?”

I’ve been interviewing people for a long time, which is why I make no exaggeration when I say this is the single most shocking quote I have heard.

More shocking still, a few of the students next to them nodded in agreement. This kind of attitude is absolutely abhorrent, and everyone who shares it cannot be allowed to share a space with other activists.

Israel, who is trying to defend itself, should not operate under the idea of “eye for an eye,” but rather do what is best for its country while minimizing civilian risk. To say it’s okay to kill children is unacceptable, and it’s bizarre that it needs to be said.

As protests continue to rage around the world, the outcome of the conflict remains unclear. One thing remains certain, however: as long as the bad faith actors continue to be a part of their respective movements, those few bad apples can and will spoil the bunch.

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2 Responses to Examining the Israeli-Palestinian Divide at PaliHi

  1. ANNINE MADOK says:

    Excellent article. Thank you.

  2. Trish Sobul says:

    So well said, and well written. An eye for an eye gets us nowhere. It’s an infinite loop. Land and resources have always been the cause of war. Zero sum is not the way to lasting peace. Only civil dialogue, with respect for the other can bring the sides closer. Hatred built over decades does not resolve over night. Starting with these young people? ..Good idea.

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