May 9, 2024 - News

CWRU encampment rallies in support of Rafah

A "free Palestine" flag waving in the setting sun.

Students and community members at a rally in support of those in Rafah at CWRU. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

On the 10th consecutive day of a pro-Palestinian encampment at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), more than 200 students, faculty and community members rallied in support of Palestinians in Rafah, where Israel launched an offensive this week.

The big picture: Many of the students' most pointed barbs were reserved for CWRU president Eric Kaler, who affirmed this week that the university would not divest from companies with financial ties to Israel.

Driving the news: The demonstration began at Wade Lagoon on Wednesday evening and featured a series of speakers as it coursed through campus.

What they're saying: Jumaa Baker, a medical student at Case, called out members of the American medical profession for their silence and hypocrisy.

  • He noted that the American Medical Association condemned Russian attacks on civilians and health care facilities in Ukraine as "unconscionable" in 2022, but has been silent on Israel's attacks in Gaza, where there is no longer a single functioning hospital in the north.
  • "If this white coat is selective in its morals," he asked, "is it not just fabric?"
Rallyers marching at Case Western Reserve University in support of Palestine.
The march moves through Case's campus. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Catch up quick: Tensions have escalated this week between Kaler and student demonstrators.

The other side: In a letter to the university's Board of Trustees on Wednesday, the suspended student group Students for Justice in Palestine issued a declaration of no confidence in Kaler.

  • "His current actions and past actions have demonstrated a clear pattern of anti-Palestinian racism and bias against Palestinian advocacy," the letter read, "which we view as antithetical to CWRU values."
A sign reading Eric Killer with "Kaler" crossed out.
A sign captures the encampment's sentiment for CWRU President Eric Kaler. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Zoom out: In a joint statement Wednesday afternoon in response to the spray-painting incident, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and police chief Dorothy Todd said city police were ready to assist, but urged Case to recognize protesters' First Amendment rights.

  • "We implore CWRU leadership to think about how the decisions they make and the actions they take — especially against those who are abiding by the law — will influence some of the progress we have collectively made as a city," the statement read.
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