The entire world seems to be consumed by the Israel-Hamas conflict. And at Lehigh, tensions are high.
Several weeks ago, the Editorial Board remarked how quiet the campus had been on the issue. We speculated that students were either too wary or too lazy to make their voices heard in meaningful ways.
But things have changed. Perceptions and emotions have evolved.
On Nov. 9, the Student Political Action Committee and Lehigh4Palestine organized a demonstration on the STEPS lawn that garnered hundreds of attendees. For almost two hours, the crowd heard from speakers, marched up the hill with signs and recited chants.
Following the event, there was a backlash from Jewish leaders on campus and university administrators who criticized the use of language they deemed antisemitic. At the same time, there’s concern that some forms of scrutiny may simply demonize one side of the issue and rhetorical intention is being misinterpreted.
These reactions are not unique to Lehigh. It’s important to realize that both islamophobia and antisemitism are rising worldwide and both can be felt within the student body.
We’re continuously working to report with fairness, accuracy and accountability as tensions and emotions are high — and fairly so. Amid all that, we’re also still learning about this war as the events unfold, just as our community is.
We’re not full-time, professional journalists either, but we are passionate, sympathetic and empathetic student journalists always putting our best food forward.
Our top editors have worked tirelessly to update this story as it unfolded before us and as we dedicated ourselves to raising the voices of our shared community.
In navigating how to best cover and explain content, we highlighted diverse sources, while acknowledging it won’t please everyone.
We’re here to gauge the temperatures on our campus.
This means having challenging conversations among ourselves and extending grace to one another as we learn what’s best for our newsroom and community.
In a previous editorial, we argued that we needed to be wary of a chilling effect that prevents people from learning and asking questions. In another editorial, we praised Helble for displaying empathy toward both Palestinian and Jewish students.
Today, we are skeptical of President Helble’s Nov. 12 email regarding language used during the event.
“Although Thursday’s student-organized demonstration supporting Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire was peaceful, some instances of conduct and signage displayed during the demonstration ran counter to our Principles of Our Equitable Community and contained antisemitic statements and language,” Helble wrote in the campus-wide message.
Condemning language before a wider conversation and analysis, and while only alluding to the words themselves, might not be helpful as we attempt to learn from the voices of all people. But this isn’t to say that the chilling effect is confined to those who lend themselves to the Palestinian cause.
Drawing clear distinctions of hate and prejudice is uncertain at this time. As such, The Brown and White doesn’t see fit to offer a comprehensive, all-knowing answer on how to solve a conflict that is rattling the world. And we don’t think it’s responsible for our community to be so polarizing either.
We must allow ourselves to be in this limbo as we start safe, widespread and inclusive conversations.
As students, including us burgeoning journalists, we need to be willing to see how our words and actions affect others. No matter how much people are hurting, no one should deny the suffering and anguish of other people. We must work together to harbor safe spaces of expression.
We hope to see Helble’s Community Conversation on Nov. 20 as another positive step in this mission, and we hope to see you there.