When will you care?
Walkout for Gaza emphasized personal responsibility in international humanitarian issues
by allister white, contributor
“10,000 DEAD & MORE INJURED. WHEN WILL YOU CARE?” In a university-wide walkout on November 2, demonstrators carried signs in support of civilians in Gaza.
Posters and social media posts leading up to the walkout shared the message, “Stop the Siege.” This message was highlighted in speeches made to begin the event. Delivered by leaders of the student group, University of Regina Students for Justice in Palestine (UR Students for Justice in Palestine), speeches demanded an immediate ceasefire.
Speakers also called for the University of Regina (U of R) to acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians, offer students protection from acts of prejudice, and to end any university investments, direct or indirect, in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Walkout organizers focused on the ongoing communications shutdown, and lack of food, water, medical supplies, and electricity for civilians in the Gaza Strip. They cited the primary motivation for the walkout as the targeting of Palestinian civilians. Ad Hika, an organizer, explained that the event was about spreading awareness and “pressuring leaders to take action.”
Since October 9, Israel has enforced a complete siege on Gaza, affecting more than two million people.
Since 1948, Palestinians have been oppressed and displaced from their homes by various means, as outlined by author Simha Flapan in “The Palestinian Exodus of 1948.”
Closely following the beginning of the October 9 siege, Israel issued an order for over one million people living in the northern siege area of the Gaza Strip to evacuate south. The order has been impossible to comply with. A press release from United Nations on October 30, 2023, reiterated that while under relentless bombardment from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “no place is safe in Gaza.”
Many signs at the walkout pointed to genocide. “Half of Gaza is Children and 40% of them have been KILLED. It doesn’t affect you?” urged one, while another stated, “
War, Conflict, Apartheid, Genocide.”
The United Nations press release stated that 3,200 children were killed in Gaza within three weeks, which “exceeds the total number of children killed in conflicts in each of the last four years worldwide.”
The UR Students for Justice in Palestine was created to stand in solidarity with civilians in Palestine, and the group fully invested itself in planning for the student walkout. Anzel Omar, an organizer, explained that the student-led initiative received planning assistance from both the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) and faculty members at the university.
“In terms of support, it’s been pretty good,” said Omar, and “communication played a big role” in the group’s ability to plan the walkout.
Support for the walkout came in different forms. Students and faculty participated by walking, chanting, and attending the speeches held in the Administration-Humanities building. Some carried signs and banners, while others bore handmade pins.
Guest speakers included Emily Eaton, Geography and Environmental Studies faculty member at the U of R, and Andrew Stevens, Business Administration faculty member and City of Regina councillor.
Stevens emphasized that “what you are doing [as demonstrators] is important.” He added that participants in the walkout “recognize the injustice of settler violence committed against Palestinians in the West Bank,” where “there is no Hamas,” stressing the distinction between the Hamas, a Palestinian militant organization, and Palestinian civilians.
Speakers to the United Nations Security Council on October 30 also emphasized that civilians in Gaza must not be collectively punished for atrocities committed by Hamas, urging a ceasefire.
Further, Stevens discussed the “refreshing” history of robust activism in the student and faculty bodies of the U of R, which he called alive and well. “These are also institutions that should empower students to challenge the world as it is,” he said. Stevens believes that the university ought to “create spaces in which to […] demonstrate against injustices, here and abroad.”
Stevens added that student activism does not end with the university. “You need to take aim at a political establishment here in Saskatchewan […] that is effectively giving a green light to the [IDF] brutal assault on Palestinian people,” he told protesters, reminding them that “political parties in opposition and in government have dodged important questions about Palestinian human rights.”
On November 4, UR Students for Justice in Palestine took their activism a step further with a second protest in support of a ceasefire held at Speaker’s Corner in Regina.