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OU professors, student leaders call for peace in Israel

The long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine has intensified following an attack committed by Hamas in Israel Oct. 7. 

The attack was carried out as a part of a much longer conflict between Israel and Palestine. Amnesty International, a human rights–watching organization, labeled Israel an apartheid state and said their system of domination against Palestinians is a crime against humanity, according to a report.

At least 1,400 Israelis were killed by Hamas during the incursion and more were taken as captives, according to a Washington Post report. The Israeli government responded by formally declaring war on Hamas and firing artillery on Gaza.

The report, which was published Oct. 17, included that Israeli artillery strikes have killed 2,778 people in Gaza and wounded 9,900 others, according to Palestinian officials.

Loren Lybarger, a professor of classics and religious studies at OU, said the land has always had various religious groups living in it, which has caused long-standing religious competition. 

“When the Byzantine Christian empire existed, they expelled the Jews from Jerusalem. When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, they allowed the Jews to return and really saw themselves as reestablishing the religion of Abraham,” Lybarger said. 

Lybarger said both Israeli and Palestinian lives have been lost in the conflict, and neither side should be minimized or dismissed. 

“Hamas now is the face of the Palestinians, and this is deeply unfortunate in my opinion. You don’t get to claim the moral high ground of international law and international conventions and then immediately carry out a massacre of civilians,” Lybarger said. “(You) immediately cede the moral ground, relinquish it, forfeit it when you do this sort of thing.” 

Molly Cohen, a junior studying communications and president of OU’s Chabad, said she went on her birthright trip last year and visited Israel for the first time. She said she felt a connection to the land, especially because she was there during Hanukkah.

Cohen said it is hard not to feel helpless without a clear solution to the conflict apart from faith. She said conversations on social media have oversimplified an incredibly complicated issue.

“The main message, which is what most people want … is just peace, and just so we can all get along,” Cohen said.

Lybarger said the reason Hamas committed the attack was because of the failures of international diplomacy, the failure to establish a meaningful, viable Palestinian state and the failure of the Biden administration to take the Palestinians seriously. 

The Post was not able to reach The Muslim Students Association at OU for comment at this time. 

Tom Hayes, a professor of film at OU, organized a pro-Palestine protest in the middle of the intersection of Court Street and Union Street Wednesday. He stood in the middle of the intersection carrying the Palestine flag to spread the “Free Palestine” message. 

“This is something that lives in me. These are my friends. I just don’t know what else to do besides at least hold the flag for these people,” Hayes said. 

He reiterated prior sentiments about wanting shared democracy and peace for all. 

“It's time for the United States to have an even-handed single foreign policy,” Hayes said. “If we stand for democracy, then we should stand for democracy and human rights for Palestinians, just as we do for Israelis, just as we do for American citizens. We should have one foreign policy for every human being on this planet.”


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