The Executive Editors and News Editors of The Olaf Messenger decided to dedicate this week’s news section to coverage of community reaction to the Israel-Hamas War. Our coverage’s aim is not to explain the Israel-Hamas War in detail, but to recount reactions and events in our community. Our objective is to provide unbiased reporting that accurately reflects thoughts and opinions of various members and organizations of our community, its also important to note that St. Olaf responses have predominantly supported Palestine. We acknowledge that there are many different perspectives on the conflict, as our community is made up of a diverse group of individuals. The Olaf Messenger extends our condolences to those who are directly affected by these recent events. Campus resources and information about bias reporting can be found here.
Northfielders gather near Dutch Creek Farms to protest President Biden and call for ceasefire, Photo courtesy of Augustus Lehn
All around the world, people have spoken out in various ways against the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Northfield is not an exception. Northfielders for Justice in Palestine/Israel (NJP/I) programmed events such as teach-ins, protests, and vigils for locals to attend in order to further educate themselves on the subject.
“Our main aim is to educate and inform Northfield and the surrounding area about the ongoing occupation of Palestine and to advocate peace and justice for all people who live in Palestine and Israel,” said St. Olaf College Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and member of NJP/I Edward Langerak in an email to The Olaf Messenger.
Since 2007, NJP/I has hosted events to raise awareness for the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Through speaker events, film series, an annual Nakba remembrance event, and special events such as dinners and fairs, the organization hopes to educate the Northfield community about the ongoing occupation in Palestine. Currently, the group is advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza to allow medicine and food to come into the area. They have continuously called government officials and local representatives as well as held a “A Silent Vigil of Lament for Palestine and Israel” on Nov. 4 at Bridge Square and a Bannering event on Nov. 2.
Both Langerak and St. Olaf College Professor Emeritus of English Jonathan Hill have written letters to the editors of Northfield News “expressing our abhorrence of the terroristic cruelty of Hamas toward civilians, and also our abhorrence of the disproportionate destruction from the Israeli military,” said Langerak in an email to The Olaf Messenger. Hill is also a member of NJP/I.
Beyond NJP/I, local Lutheran organizations and churches have participated in the community conversation. St. John’s Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (WELCA) hosted a speaker event, “Hope is a Muscle in the Midst of Struggle,” with Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a nonprofit organization working to aid those affected in the Middle East and promote peace. The event told the stories of current college students at Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the impacts of war on their lives, and dehumanization. “If [the Israeli state] is going to dehumanize our Palestinian friends, how are we going to rehumanize them?” said Bright Stars of Bethlehem Director Kris Ducett in her presentation.
On Nov. 1, locals, as well as students from St. Olaf and Carleton, protested President Biden’s visit to Dutch Creek Farms. “To hear all of these voices, many from students, screaming at the most powerful man in the country because we wanted our voices heard and we know in our hearts that this is genocide and Biden has not condemned what is happening, was incredibly moving and powerful,” student protestor Augustus Lehn ’26 said in an email to The Olaf Messenger.
Carleton College Students for Justice in Palestine and St. Olaf Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized student involvement in the protest. At Carleton College, the conversation around SJP’s involvement has largely surrounded claims of anti-semitism. In a letter posted on Instagram to the Carleton community, the Jewish Students of Carleton (@carelton_jsc) wrote: “The antisemitism we’re seeing, including from people on our campus, frightens us.”
On Oct. 20, the Carletonian published an article on campus response titled “Jewish students voice concerns over rising antisemitism on campus.” The following week, on Oct. 27, a Viewpoint (opinions) article titled “Zionism is not a bad word” was published. “Israel-Palestine: It’s a matter of journalistic integrity” was published on Nov. 3. The article critiqued the Carletonian’s previous coverage. “No one has said anything about Palestinians, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) or rising Islamophobia: the Carletonian has sent a hostile message to such voices through its biased reporting,” Cecilia Samadani said in the article. Two other articles discussing the violence in Gaza were also published in the issue.
Though responses have been varied throughout the Northfield community, the safety of civilians have been at the forefront of all engaged in the conversation.