Manhattan residents discuss effects of Israel-Gaza conflict and US response

The Democratic Socialists of America held a protest in support of Palestine. The group met in Triangle Park and marched throughout Aggieville. (Photo courtesy of Justin Yeary)

After the terrorist group Hamas launched an assault on Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli militants responded with a siege on the Gaza strip, leading to a humanitarian crisis with death tolls climbing above 12,000, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health

Michael Flynn, Kansas State professor of political science, said the United States government initially responded by swiftly expressing support for Israel. 

“Over time, it became clear that the Israeli offensive into Gaza was initially taking the form of mass artillery rocket attacks,” Flynn said. “They had very early on ordered essentially half the population of the Gaza strip to evacuate the north and move south.” 

Noah Rude, member of Democratic Socialists of America, said the U.S.’ support for Israel is morally wrong.

“People need to know what’s going on,” Rude said. “They need to know that the United States government is sending billions and billions of dollars every single year to Israel to fund their apartheid system and right now funding genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

Samuel Schweier, junior in political science, said the U.S. decreasing support for Israel would only prolong the conflict and violence.

“We can’t go back and redo what happened,” Schweier said. “I think it’s the U.S.’ responsibility to provide support for a nation that’s been our ally since its founding. We were one of the first countries to align with Israel and we have to support our ally.”

The DSA held a protest Oct. 30 at Triangle Park in support of Palestine and calling for Israel to end the occupation of the Gaza Strip.

“We’re out here to fight for the freedom, justice and liberation of the Palestinian people,” Rude said. “We want the apartheid to end. We want Palestinians to have equal rights as Israeli citizens. We want a ceasefire. We want peace and we pretty much want an end to the conflict.”

Flynn said in the near future, a ceasefire is unlikely.

“[The country of Jordan] has been calling for, at the very least if not a ceasefire, a sort of humanitarian pause to allow a ticket into Gaza,” Flynn said. “So far, the U.S. and Israel have rejected calls for a full ceasefire, because in Israel’s mind that would leave Hamas in a position of power and they could essentially pick up and resume their activities … and so for Israel that is unacceptable.” 

Flynn said the Israel-Gaza conflict became so prominent in America because of the large number of civilian casualties.

“This has already spiraled, and in a way that you fear conflicts will spiral,” Flynn said. “There’s just widespread death, and it’s sort of an overused term but it is genuinely a tragedy.”

Flynn said U.S. government officials slowly began to express concern about Israel’s violence against Palestinian civilians. 

“Increasingly I think we’re starting to see particularly Secretary of State [Anthony] Blinken trying to publicly and privately put pressure on Israel to be mindful of civilian casualties,” Flynn said. “Something like 45% of the population of Gaza are children.” 

Flynn said it is “certainly possible” that the U.S. would later become a target for terrorist attacks by Hamas. 

“Often the intended effect of terror attacks is not the body count,” Flynn said. “It’s the psychological impact and the fear on the broader audience on people in the communities that are targeted. … It’s entirely possible that you know, maybe not in the next week or month, but it’s entirely possible that there are cells that could target the U.S. or target Israeli allies as a way to diminish domestic support in those countries.”

Flynn said social media also played a role in the vast sharing of information surrounding the war.

“Younger people are speaking out more,” Flynn said. “They’re sharing content on social media, which we should always be aware of the provenance, the sort of point of origin of this kind of content because it can easily be used to inflame as well as inform.”

Flynn said the best thing for U.S. citizens to do right now is spread kindness and support for the victims of attacks in Israel and Palestine.

“Advocating for kindness and understanding and patience and trying to build bridges is always a good thing,” Flynn said. “Sometimes in political science it can be hard … because you can seek to understand why actors use violence, but that doesn’t translate into normative approval for violent methods.”

Schweier said the public should point blame at Hamas, not Israel or Palestine. 

“While I think it’s awful of the Palestinians that are having to go through this, I also think it’s awful that the Israelis are having to go through this,” Schweier said. “I think we really need to realize that Hamas does not represent Palestine. It’s a terrorist organization. … Hamas isn’t a friend to anyone. They create tension between the two nations where there could be unity. … That’s why there’s this retaliation, because Israel was attacked by a terrorist organization.”

Some K-State students, like Francis Sheehan, call for the university to take a stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict. 

“I think the university itself could definitely take a few steps,” Sheehan, senior in theater, said. “At the very least, the university has a lot more power than a lot of the individual students. … At the moment, the university isn’t really taking sides which makes sense as an institution, but it’s also cowardly.”

Schweier said calls for the university to take a stance on the conflict are unproductive.

“I think the calls for the university and the U.S. to denounce Israel are not feasible regardless, because we’re such a strong ally of them and we’re at a point where we can’t back out of our alliances,” Schweier said. 

Schweier said it’s more efficient to call for humanitarian aid than to blame organizations.

“Any political issue, try to look at from both a realistic perspective … but also not getting so invested in different viewpoints that you lose the perspective that there’s people on both sides,” Schweier said. “I think the best thing we can do is just rally for support for both of these places and humanitarian relief, and not just pick a side and consider all those on the other side as not human.”

We reached out to K-State representatives for comment.