The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Israel-Hamas war: campus developments

Continuing coverage

SJP holds Palestine vigil 

Students and community members join UVM Students for Justice in Palestine for a vigil at the Davis Center Amphitheater Feb. 13. (Gavin MacNeille)

UVM Students for Justice in Palestine held a Vigil for Palestine on Feb. 13 at the Davis Center amphitheater.

Participants placed small Palestinian flags in the ground nearby.

“We came here tonight without any sort of plan of what to say,” said one speaker about five minutes into the vigil. “What more is there to say?”

Speakers at the event said that people have a responsibility to take action in opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“We see what our tax dollars are being used for and we will not sit idly by as these atrocities are committed in the name of peace,” said one speaker.

Another speaker at the event said that fellow students support Israeli genocide and target them for opposing it.

We have watched our university fund this genocide while they give no support, no compassion, no words,” they said.

The vigil concluded around 8:40 pm.

“The vigil showed that the free expression of ideas and viewpoints in a safe and respectful environment is a vital part of our campus community, in keeping with Our Common Ground values of Respect and Openness,” stated Adam White, executive director of University communications, in a Feb. 16 email.

Hillel holds memorial service for Israel

A participant speaks at Hillel’s Shloshim Memorial Service for Israel at the Davis Center on Nov. 7. (Andrew Gould)

UVM Hillel hosted a Shloshim Memorial Service for Israel on Nov. 7 at the Davis Center amphitheater.

At the service, participants read prayers and spoke about the Israel-Hamas war. Matt Vogel, executive director of UVM Hillel, led a moment of silence and read the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Shloshim, which is Hebrew for “thirty,” is the first month of mourning following a funeral in traditional Jewish custom, according to JCFS Chicago

The service took place one month after the Hamas attack out of Gaza on Oct. 7, the deadliest attack on Israel in decades, according to an Oct. 7 AP News article.

Sophomore Rachel Trokenheim said that she attended the event because she felt it was important to be with her community and to say the Mourner’s Kaddish in the presence of others.

“Judaism follows this really uniform tradition of mourning where being with your community is so important,” she said.

UVM cancels in-person lecture with award-winning Palestinian writer

Read the full story here.

Mohammed El-Kurd, an award-winning poet and journalist, was scheduled to speak on the misrepresentation of Palestinians in the US on Oct. 26 in UVM’s Livak Ballroom, according to an event poster.

On Oct. 21 at 6:55 p.m., El-Kurd’s guest lecture, organized by the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series, had its venue on campus rescinded by the University according to an unsigned email from the UVM Division of Safety and Compliance.

“Our safety and security concerns extend beyond the date of the event to secondary impacts to our campus affiliates that are foreseeable,” the email stated. “Therefore, the event will not be held on UVM’s campus.”

Safety and security decisions are made internally, stated Adam White, executive director of University communications, in an Oct. 24 email. White did not comment on specific safety concerns or foreseeable secondary impacts.

The Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series, a nonprofit organization, brings speakers to the UVM campus to provide radical perspectives on social, ecological and political concerns according to the organization’s website.

Fred Magdoff, a lecture series board member, believes that the claim of safety concerns is most likely a cover for the UVM administration to get out of a situation that they did not want a part of. 

“They really didn’t want the speaker to come,” said Magdoff. “There’s no way I can prove that. But it’s just my gut feeling that that’s the case. They were not happy.”

UVM Union of Students, UVM Young Democratic Socialists of America, UVM Amnesty and UVM Students for Justice in Palestine organized a protest in response to the University’s acts of censorship, according to an Oct. 23 UVMUS Instagram post.

“This is part of a broader pattern of racist behavior by UVM administration towards Palestinian students and activists, as well as the weaponization of antisemitism against those who speak against genocide,” UVMUS stated in an Oct. 22 Instagram post.

On Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m., students and community members gathered outside the Waterman building to protest the University’s cancellation of the lecture.

Approximately 100 people attended the protest, according to a post on UVM SJP’s Instagram page, with some attendees carrying flags as well as signs calling for Palestinian freedom.

Hillel event explores two narratives of Israel-Palestine  

Approximately nine students took part in an event at UVM Hillel Oct. 26 titled “Roots of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Dual Narratives Approach.”

The event started at 7 p.m., the same time Mohammed El-Kurd’s talk started. The timing was not chosen to coincide with the talk, according to Matt Vogel, executive director of UVM Hillel.

Vogel distributed 20-page documents containing narratives from both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. Material in the document was sourced from “Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine” and “Parallel Realities: A Jewish/Arab History of Israel/Palestine” according to a footnote.

Students read the source document for about 45 minutes. After that, Vogel led a group discussion on the reading.

A common theme in the conversation was the complexity of the historical roots of the ongoing conflict. 

Vogel has heard from Jewish students who have fears for their safety because of their identity every day since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, he stated in an Oct. 26 email.

Jewish groups or people were not responsible for the University’s decision to cancel the El-Kurd lecture, Vogel stated in an Oct. 23 post on Hillel’s Facebook page.

“Hillel understands the event was cancelled by UVM’s Division of Safety and Compliance and we believe students have a right to live, learn, and work in a safe and secure environment,” Vogel stated in the email. 

Vogel stated that the community is still grieving, mourning their dead and praying for people held in captivity.

“Hillel at UVM holds empathy and compassion for the Israeli, Palestinian, Druze, Bedouin and other communities in the region impacted by war and terror,” Vogel stated in the email. 

“We firmly believe that every Jewish student deserves a supportive and safe Jewish community where multiple and fluid identities can thrive,” Vogel stated in the email. “Students have a right to believe in Zionism and we believe students have a right to believe in anti-Zionism.”

Andrew Gould and Emily Kobus contributed to this report.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Gould, News Editor
(He/him) Andrew Gould is a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Springfield, VT. He started at the Cynic as a news reporter. In high school, Andrew worked for and later ran his school’s audio/visual production team. In his free time, Andrew enjoys running, skiing and photography. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Andrew.