Open Letter: Palestine-Israel Conflict

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The following statement does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or feelings of all writers of the Gleaner: Rutgers-Camden Student-run newspaper

Editors of the Gleaner

I write this letter with the utmost respect to everyone reading. I also want to open this letter with thoughts and prayers for victims of bloodshed across all nations. No one should face such acts of terrorism.

I hope you all can join me in condemning violence, brutality, and ruthless aggression. This includes condemning organizations such as the KKK, the Proud Boys, the Taliban, Hamas, and more.

The purpose of this letter is to address the statements made by Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis and Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway. I, along with many students, feel completely torn at the statements sent out to the Rutgers community on October 9th and October 11th.

Chancellor Tillis and President Holloway released statements about the tragic losses in the Middle East. Chancellor Tillis wrote that there was “shocking and tragic loss of life across Israel and Gaza.” President Holloway also wrote about the “horrific attacks and tragic loss of life in Israel and Gaza.” Hollway further described the acts of terrorism by Hamas, such as holding Israeli hostages.

Tillis and Holloway, however, failed to mention the tragic suffering of Palestinians. They only spoke about Israeli casualties, not Palestinian fatalities. Both failed at the time to condemn terrorism in Gaza and Israel.

On October 18th, in a message readdressing the issue of failure to mention Palestinian lives lost, President Holloway commented after attending a student vigil held by the Muslim community that “many in our community have told me they feel unheard and unsafe. Let me be clear: I have heard you, and I am committed to your safety.”

What is happening in Palestine and Israel?

The first statements released to the Rutgers community failed to acknowledge the tragic history of violence on both sides. More specifically, the statements failed to address the horrors Palestinians have been subjected to since 1948.

In 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were illegally kicked out of their homes for Israeli settlements. This violence led to the permanent displacement of more than half of the Palestinian population. This “Palestinian catastrophe,” also known as the Nakba, became the first example of the physical erasure of Palestinian land by the Israeli government. Many Palestinians believe that this was also one of the first examples of Israel’s program of ethnic cleansing against Palestine.

Since then, Palestinians have been subjected to laws similar to apartheid, as stated by Amnesty International. This includes the shutting off of access to electricity and water, air strikes on the Palestinian-Egyptian border to block incoming food and supplies, making Palestinians walk through military checkpoints, and illegally killing and torturing Palestinian civilians under the guise of combating terrorism.

Palestinian and Israeli Casualties

Prior to Hamas’ recent attacks, casualties in Palestine and Israel since 2008 were as follows: Palestine has had over 6,000 civilian deaths. This includes an estimate of over 1,000 child (i.e., every human below the age of 18) deaths. Israel has had approximately 300 civilian deaths, with 25 of those deaths being children. 

Death tolls have continued to rise following this recent war. The Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on October 10th resulted in over 1,417 deaths; these fatalities include over 447 children and 248 women. Furthermore, at least 6,268 people were injured in the bombardment, including 1,531 children and 932 women, according to some of the sources listed below. Many hospitals claim that most fatalities are innocent civilians. Since their October 7th attack, Hamas has reportedly killed over 1,000 people.

The losses on both sides are horrific. However, it is unjust to only address one side of casualties while the other is ignored.

Who is Israel fighting?

Israel’s main focus is to eliminate the terrorist group Hamas. Hamas is an Islamist political and military group that aims to push the Jewish state out of illegally occupied Palestine. This group was formed in 1987, after the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Since then, Hamas has attacked Israel with numerous acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings and advocating for the expulsion of Jews.

However, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continuously killed thousands of civilians under the false guise of combating terrorism. This includes killing innocent Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and even Jews. The number of casualties proves that Israel attacks Palestinian civilians more than actual Islamist terrorists.  

Furthermore, many Palestinians believe that civilians in Gaza are treated by the IOF the same as Hamas. Since Hamas is mostly based in the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have unfortunately killed many civilians, mistaken (or regarded) as terrorists. Over 5,000 civilian deaths were reported as caused by Israeli offensives (3,000 of those deaths were from Israeli airstrikes). 

This past Friday, ahead of a planned airstrike, the Israeli government ordered all of Northern Gaza to evacuate to Southern Gaza within 24 hours; hospitals were given only two hours’ notice to evacuate. As evacuations were ordered, internet connections in the northern regions were shut off by Israel. 

Palestinian civilians must migrate to southern Gaza as airstrikes continue to hit. Shutting off the internet in Gaza will make it difficult to document the ongoing war. Furthermore, only allowing hospitals to evacuate patients who were just bombed is an attack on medical care. 

We must not ignore the number of casualties on both sides. Just as we speak up for Israeli and Jewish victims, we must also speak up for Palestinian victims.

Why am I writing this letter?

I understand that not everyone will share my opinion. However, I do hope this letter provides more nuance than was not present in Chancellor Tillis’ and President Holloway’s initial one-sided statements. 

I am hurt by what the Rutgers administration has done prior to the most recent message released by Holloway. Tillis and Holloway failed to first address Israeli terrorism against Palestine. In order to condemn terrorism, you must condemn all acts of terrorism—not just those of Hamas. 

My opinion is this: I am for Palestinian liberation. I advocate for Palestinians, both displaced and those still living in their home country. As the daughter of Afghan refugees, I understand the pain of not being able to return to your home country due to an illegal occupation. 

I need to emphasize this: advocating for Palestinian liberation does not make you a supporter of terrorism.

I am against terrorism. Terrorism is the reason why I cannot live in my motherland. Why would I support any terrorist group, let alone Hamas? Why would I support a group similar to the Taliban in ideology? It’s a shame, though, that declaring your support for Palestine will make you appear as a terrorist sympathizer.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one who deals with this. The communities of Muslims, Middle East and North Africans (MENA), and South Asians always tend to defend themselves in the same way. More importantly, anyone who advocates for Palestinian suffrage suffers from these accusations. This is the reality that millions of us live in.

As Malcolm X famously said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Last Words

I urge Chancellor Tillis and President Holloway to read this letter with an open mind. I hope this letter provides a better understanding of why students, including myself, feel distraught.

Once again, I am writing this letter with the utmost respect to all of those reading. I pray for both innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilians right now. 

Join me in advocating peace, liberation, and the condemnation of terrorism and apartheid. 

Yours Truly,

Feroza Aziz


Israel’s military checkpoints: ‘We live a life of injustice’, Accessed 12 October 2023.

Baba, Anas, and Chao Deng. “Israeli Strike on Gaza’s Border Crossing With Egypt Disrupts Aid Flow.” Wall Street Journal, 11 October 2023, Accessed 11 October 2023.

“Data on casualties | United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory.” OCHA oPt, Accessed 11 October 2023.

Elkahlout, Ghassan. “Dozens killed while fleeing Gaza homes as Israel conducts ground raids.” Al Jazeera, 13 October 2023, Accessed 14 October 2023.

Griffiths, Martin. “About the Nakba – Question of Palestine.” the United Nations, 16 May 2023, Accessed 11 October 2023.

“Hamas in Their Own Words.” ADL, 5 February 2011, Accessed 11 October 2023.

HAMS, MAHMUD. “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.” Amnesty International, 2021, Accessed 11 October 2023.

“Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity.” Amnesty International, 1 February 2022, Accessed 12 October 2023.

“National Counterterrorism Center | Groups.” National Counterterrorism Center | Groups, Accessed 11 October 2023.

Neuman, Scott. “What to know about Hamas, whose militants attacked Israel from Gaza.” NPR, 12 October 2023, Accessed 12 October 2023.

“Palestinian death toll from Israeli attacks on Gaza tops 1,400.” Anadolu Ajansı, 12 October 2023, Accessed 12 October 2023.

X, Malcolm. “Malcolm X on racism, capitalism and Islam | Race Issues News.” Al Jazeera, 21 February 2022, Accessed 14 October 2023.

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