Conflict in the Middle East and how American Universities react

By Grant Goodfellow,

On Oct. 7, 2023, Israeli Civilians were attacked by Hamas. According to NPR news, around 1,400 people were killed in the Oct. 7 attack. Additionally, many civilians were taken hostage by Hamas.

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Darcy Metcalfe spoke about the complexity of the situation and history behind it.

“The conflict on that land is so historic,” Metcalfe said. “It’s so rooted in history.”

Hamas is an Islamist military and political organization based in the Gaza strip, which is a Palestinian territory located along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Many conflicts took place between Israel and Hamas since Hamas has taken control in 2006, and the attack on Oct. 7 is the most recent in a long history of conflict and tension.

Israel responded with swift military action following the attack by bombarding the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and the Israeli military has begun a ground offensive. According to the Associated Press, as of Nov. 5, nearly 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip and over 24,000 have been injured. Due to Gaza’s extremely young population, around 40 percent of the fatalities have been children.

Conversation and debates occur about Israel since it was officially declared a state in 1948. While many people may be familiar with recent events, the history of the disputes regarding this land go back thousands of years.

Chris Caldwell is the Senior Director for the Buford Center for Diversity and Service at UF. The Buford Center works to educate people about global diversity both on campus and in the surrounding community. On Oct. 27, the Buford Center hosted a Campus Conversation in Jazzman’s Coffee Shop about the situation in the Middle East.

“I think [Campus Conversations] gives us the space to be able to think about what we can do to positively address what’s going on as American citizens,” Caldwell said. “The two central foci were to recognize humanity and figure out some solid solutions.”

Campus Conversations take place about once a month by the Buford Center, which are intended to let people engage in civil discourse about various topics.

“The campus conversations are oriented towards bringing folks in and letting them talk,” Caldwell said. “Also trying to highlight, identify, and then celebrate shared humanity.”

Although Israel is more than 6,000 miles away, many students still feel the effects of the fighting. Magdelyn English, a sophomore at UF, shared that her mother was planning on traveling to Jerusalem but had to cancel her trip due to the current situation.

“I feel 100 times better that she cancelled it,” English said. “I appreciate that my mom is going to be safe.”

College students across the United States have been outspoken about their opinions on the topic. Many protests occurred on college campuses. Columbia University suspended two groups of students for violating campus rules during protests.

“There’s been a lot of hate crimes and hate speech directed towards either Palestinians or Jewish people on certain campuses in the United States,” Metcalfe said. “I just encourage students to realize the overall humanity involved and if what they’re saying and doing is contributing to the good of humanity.”