On Wednesday evening in the University Union, Cal Poly’s South West Asia North Africa Club (SWANA) hosted a candlelight vigil to honor the lives of Palestinian civilians killed during the Israel-Hamas war.
The war began when the militant group Hamas attacked and killed more than 1,400 people in Israel on Oct. 7, according to CNN. Israel has since declared war on Hamas and fighting has continued in the region since the attack on Oct.7.
The conflict escalated over the past weeks and caused fatalities on both sides, as international news outlets report live updates. Mustang News reported on last week’s student led events in reaction to the war.
The vigil provided Cal Poly’s Palestinian community a safe space to grieve and mourn, an anonymous graduate student who helped plan the vigil told Mustang News. The student asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“The last couple weeks have definitely been some of the hardest weeks for Palestinians,” the graduate student said. “This vigil was our way of showing Cal Poly and its community that no matter how hard people try to erase Palestine, we will always stand in solidarity and support one another.”
This conflict hits close to home, Cal Poly alumnus Bassem Wehhab, the son of Palestinian immigrants, said.
“It’s very frustrating to hear about these events in the Middle East because unfortunately, all Palestinians have gotten used to this kind of war,” Wehhab said. “My parents lived in Palestine and were forced to immigrate here because of the wars in the 1960s and ‘70s, and now Palestinians are suffering again. History is repeating itself.”
Cal Poly alumnus and former president of the San Luis Obispo branch of the NAACP Reverend Stephen Vines said in order to make change, everyone must show support.
“This tragedy is occurring, and nobody is doing anything to stop it,” Vines said. “There is this environment of apathy and that’s not ok. We need to take action to make a difference.”
One of the best ways to help from afar is through financial support, the graduate student said. However, she also said spreading awareness and practicing empathy for those whose family and friends are affected are alternative ways to help.
“For those who are not in a place to provide financial support, showing up and simply listening is just as important,” the graduate student said. “Although you might be educated on the subject, your peers might not be. Spread the word and be there for the people that need support.”
She added that this war does not simply concern Israelis and Palestinians, but everyone.
“At its core, this war is a human rights issue,” the graduate student said. “There are Israeli citizens that have been kidnapped; there are Palestinians who are suffering without food and water and there are parents on both sides begging for their kidnapped children to be returned home. No one wins in this war, and everyone has a responsibility to do whatever they can to help.”
This is an ongoing story. Mustang News will update this article as we receive more information. If you have a story you’d like to share with Mustang News related to the Israel-Hamas War, please DM us on Instagram @cpmustangnews.
Editors Note: This story was updated on Oct.19 at 1:56 to provide original context of Mustang News’ and the Associated Press’ previous reporting. This story was also updated on Oct.26 at 9:47 a.m. to correct language consistent with Mustang News’ other reporting on the ongoing war.
Editor’s Note: Mustang News is referring to the ongoing conflict as the Israel-Hamas war based on the Associated Press Stylebook recommendations for the conflict.