New York University Students Upset at University’s Response to Israeli-Hamas Conflict

October 17, 2023 – Washington Square Park: Pro-Palestinian protests filled Washington Square Park Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Andy Harris)

Amidst the Israeli-Hamas conflict in the Middle East that has prompted global responses, New York University students have vocalized their anger towards the university’s response that seem to lean toward support for Israel.

“They are very obviously leaning towards Israel. I feel upset,” said a senior at NYU, who chose to remain anonymous, citing the tensions the war has caused on campus. “But what do you expect from NYU? In the end, NYU has a Tel Aviv site they’re investing in.” 

“NYU is maintaining the status quo,” said another anonymous NYU student.

The ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israeli forces has been a topic of tension for many years, especially as Israel and Palestine continuously suffers through the loss of thousands of lives because of the ongoing war. 

On Oct. 7, the Hamas launched a surprise assault that killed at least 1,400 Israelis

Recently, an NYU law student, NYU Law School Bar Association student president Ryna Workman, had a job offer from an international law firm rescinded due to her comments regarding the Hamas’ attack on Israel. 

“I want to express, first and foremost, my unwavering and absolute solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression toward liberation and self-determination,” wrote the student in a school newsletter that was then posted on social media. 

“Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary. I will not condemn Palestinian resistance,” she wrote.

NYU law students have made known their support for Workman.

“The violence is due to the occupation of Palestine. The bar association is looking to remove her and she also lost her job at the law firm. Freedom of speech was violated and the response from the law school was not good. They gave a very pro generic response in support of Israel” said an anonymous NYU law student.

“She’s being punished for simply supporting Palestine, it’s retaliatory,” said another anonymous NYU law student.

“The law school statements and NYU threatens to investigate students who use free speech. This is a violation of the constitution, tactics of intimidation which violates academic freedom” said another anonymous NYU law student.

In response to the Hamas’ attack on Israel citizens, Israel has cut off food, water, fuel and electricity to Gaza. Now, humanitarians are calling for urgent aid of supplies to Gaza.

Here in the U.S., lawmakers in New York and on Capitol Hill have expressed their support to Israel, with Governor Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden planning visits to Israel to show their support

However, not all lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed their support for Israel. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 12 other House democrats have called for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

At NYU, President Linda G. Mills, was recently inaugurated as the first woman to lead the university.

After the Hamas’ attack on Israelis, on Oct.8, President Mills released a statement on Israel. In the letter, she acknowledged the violence caused by the Hamas. A few days later on Oct. 12, a security notice went out to NYU students during a pro-Palestinian protest.

“The President is ignoring Palestine,” said an anonymous NYU student. 

“The investments that the university hold and the board of trustees, are highly invested and in favor of Israel” said another anonymous NYU student.

NYU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine then released a statement concerning President Mills’ response to the Israeli-Hamas conflict. 

“NYU is once again demonstrating profound disregard for the well-being and rights of NYU’s Palestinian students and families. This is further exemplified by the continued presence of NYU Tel Aviv – as mentioned in the statement – and its complicity in the ongoing occupation,” the statement said.

The student organization also mentioned the blatant erasure of the experiences of Palestinians and makes no mention of the violence against Palestinians within the days before the Hamas’ attacks on Israelis. 

The Israeli-Hamas conflict has heightened tensions across college campuses in New York City, with NYU being one of the universities impacted. Across the street from the Bobst library, a pro-Palestine rally was held at Washington Square Park. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” shouted protesters throughout the rally. 

“You can’t just take someone’s land and buy people off,” said a protester at the rally. 

Pro-Israeli protesters also attended the event, waving the flag of Israel, heightening tensions even more.

On the same day, another security e-mail was sent out to NYU students explaining NYU’s commitment to freedom of expression and ways to stay safe during a demonstration. 

Just yesterday, Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City was the target of a rocket strike, killing hundreds of people. 

As the fighting continues, NYU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, alongside many other NYU students, are joining protests across the city and calling their congress members to demand a ceasefire. There is another planned protest on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in Astoria, Queens.

NYU student Joseph Ferraro contributed to this article.