By: Nathaniel J. Greene, Community & Culture Reporter

The recent surge in student protests against the Israel-Hamas war has been gaining momentum across the United States, primarily inspired by demonstrators at Columbia University. These student-led movements are calling for universities to sever ties with companies that support Israel’s military efforts in Gaza and, in some cases, divest from Israel entirely.

Recently, at Columbia University, hundreds of New York City police officers were deployed to manage the situation as dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters continued their demonstration on campus. Similarly, at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, police in riot gear cleared an administration building, resulting in 25 arrests. Yale University faced a similar scenario, where authorities dismantled a protesters’ encampment after issuing final warnings. Other institutions like Harvard, Princeton, and Brown have also experienced significant protests, with university authorities taking various measures to address the students’ demands.

Houston Students Join the Movement

Houston students have now joined this nationwide movement, adding their voices to the growing call for justice in Gaza. A May 24 briefing organized by Houston Ethnic Media brought together student leaders from Shift Press, Rice University, University of Houston, and Students for Justice in Palestine. Moderated by Chris Johnson from Impact Houston Live, the panel included Uyiosa Elegon, Ahad Adesanya, Jade Madsoup, and Reyna Valdez, who shared their perspectives and answered critical questions about the protests.

Panel Discussion Highlights

The panel discussion began with Elegon, Co-Founder of Shift Press, who emphasized the deep concern among young people for the plight of Palestinians.

“Young people care very deeply about this issue because they have access to the real history of oppression of Palestinians, particularly in occupied Palestine and across the world,” Elegon stated. He highlighted the irony of the U.S. government’s substantial financial support for Israel while neglecting domestic issues like student debt relief. “They say they can’t wipe out student debt, but they can give way more money than it costs to support a genocidal regime.”

Valdez, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Houston, provided historical context for the student movement.

“The student movement has been a vital part of the Palestinian liberation movement for decades. SJP chapters have existed since the 90s, ensuring their fight for liberation is visible on U.S. campuses and worldwide,” Valdez explained. She stressed that the current surge in activism is not a sudden interest but a culmination of years of building resistance against the occupation.

Adesanya, also from the University of Houston, shared his personal journey into activism.

“I was a COVID freshman, and when I got to campus, I wanted to get involved in more radical organizing. SJP was the only real space for directly impacting the university and the larger world,” Adesanya said. His involvement in divestment campaigns opened his eyes to the broader issues of oppression and inspired him to continue advocating for change.

Jade Madsoup, a photographer and student at the University of Houston, drew parallels between the Holocaust and the current situation in Gaza. “People ask what you would do if you were alive during the Holocaust. This conflict shows who would actually do something about it,” Madsoup remarked. His passion for justice is driven by a desire to prevent history from repeating itself.

Young activists are demanding accountability and justice, uniting as a generation unwilling to remain silent in the face of oppression and determined to make a lasting impact both on and off-campus.