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Students Protest Hillel’s Guest Lecturer

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

By: Barbara Kay and Jennifer Ward

A group known as RTC (Raise the Consciousness) at Purchase organized a “Die-In” to protest Hillel’s guest lecturer Bassem Eid, a Palestinian pro-Israel political commentator, on Nov. 7 (Photo by: Barbara Kay)

Following the announcement that Bassem Eid, a Palestinian self-proclaimed human rights activist and political commentator, was coming to the Purchase Humanities Theater to lecture on Nov. 7, a group known as RTC (Raise the Consciousness) at Purchase held a “Die-In” to protest the event, hosted by Hillel.

“Eid has for years masqueraded as a ‘Palestinian rights activist’ but in reality shows unconditional support for the Israeli occupation and blames the Palestinian people for their own oppression,” posted the @rtcpurch Instagram account. “His views do not represent the students at Purchase College and we will not be manipulated by his deceitful grift.”

A “Die-In” is a form of peaceful protest where participants lay on the ground “feigning death” as described on the @rtcpurch Instagram account. These are normally used to draw attention to unjust killings, in this case, a call for a cease-fire in Gaza to end Israeli occupation, according to RTC.

According to University Police Department (UPD) Chief Dayton Tucker, an estimated 100 protesters filed into the Humanities Building and sat on the floor of the Humanities lobby while Edison Diaz, a sophomore acting major, began with a statement acknowledging the safety of the protestors, as well as condemning Hillel’s choice of Eid as a guest lecturer. Eid is a commentator for Israeli radio who also makes videos for PragerU, a conservative media outlet.

Hillel did not respond to The Phoenix’s inquiry.

“What we’re doing isn’t exclusive to just the Palestinian peoples’ struggles, even though it is the precedent right now, but also to raise the consciousness for the liberation of all folks,” Diaz said. “We’re standing against American imperialism, rising fascists, and an active genocide of the Palestinian people.”

The protestors came with Palestinian flags and a white sheet with red hand prints reading “10,492 DEAD” (Photo by: Jennifer Ward)

About four protesters came bearing faces covered in fake blood to commemorate lives lost in Palestine, while others came with Palestinian flags, and a white sheet with bloody handprints stating, “10,492 DEAD.”

In an opinion piece for Fox News and in a post on X on Oct. 17, Eid wrote, “Take it from a Palestinian refugee: Israel’s Gaza invasion is necessary and welcome.” The post from @realbassemeid continued, “The unforgivable brutality Hamas just displayed against Israelis is what our population has experienced from Hamas for the past 16 years.”

As Diaz began to read off a list of names the Gaza Health Ministry provided of civilians who have been killed in Palestine, the protestors started to feign death. Diaz and Sadie Lopez-Reiss, a junior political science major, took turns reading off the names for the rest of the protest.

Edison Diaz (left), a sophomore acting major, holding hands with Ian Justino (right), a senior film major, as Diaz reads off the names of Palestinians who have been killed (Photo by: Barbara Kay)

“You’re all making such a difference,” taunted Rachel Klein, the executive director of Hillels of Westchester, as she took pictures of the protestors while Diaz tearfully listed the names of teenagers and children who have been killed. “This is unacceptable,” Klein told UPD at the front door.

There was a heavy UPD presence at the protest, Tucker stated there were seven officers and a community officer. There were also two police cars parked next to the Humanities Building, officers at the doors, and escorting people who came in attendance to the lecture to the theater. The protest was peaceful and did not require UPD intervention.

During the reading of the names, a UPD officer walked through the protestors lying on the ground to throw out his Starbucks coffee cup in a trash can next to Lopez-Reiss who was reading off the names. This comes following a recent boycott of Starbucks and other major companies.

Klein and Diaz have had a previous discourse about Israel and Palestine. This includes when Diaz stated his support for Palestine at a previous Hillel-organized event. Following this incident, Klein emailed Diaz in hopes of meeting up for coffee to discuss their feelings regarding the war. According to Klein, Diaz never attended, which led to Klein sending Diaz an email expressing her disappointment.

Klein stated in the email, “I must admit I was surprised when you accepted, and confirmed, my invitation to meet over coffee as two people in pain, yet safely 5,000 miles away from the heart of this war. I was not surprised when you did not show. It would have taken an open mind, open heart, and willingness to learn through discomfort for you to show up.”

In this email, Klein also offered to introduce Diaz to Eid, as well as Mohammad Darawshe an Israeli politician, and Huda Abu Arqoub Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). Klein described them as, “Palestinian peacebuilders and people [she] considers friends.”

The protest ended at 8 p.m. and protesters went to the Social Sciences Building for a screening of Palestinian films by Abu Hamdan and Elia Sulieman, hosted by the Media-Studies-Anthropology club.

While leaving Humanities, Ian Justino, a senior film major, led the participants in a chant through a megaphone. “We are not going to go quietly,” stated Justino. Chants included “SUNY Purchase you can’t hide, you’re endorsing genocide” and “free free free Palestine.”

One of the many signs held up by the protestors. (Photo by: Kaelin Martin)



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