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Harvard Pro-Palestine Student Groups Hold Visibility Week for Thousands of Deaths in Gaza

Demonstrators roll up a more than 140-yard-long canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in the violence in Gaza.
Demonstrators roll up a more than 140-yard-long canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in the violence in Gaza. By Frank S. Zhou
By Madeleine A. Hung and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Hundreds of Harvard students and affiliates called attention to Palestinian deaths amid the ongoing violence in Gaza during a week of visibility hosted by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Graduate Students 4 Palestine.

Throughout the week, organizers and participants wore keffiyehs — traditional Palestinian scarves. For 11 hours on Tuesday, 26 people stood on the steps of Widener Library and read aloud the names and ages of Palestinians who had been killed.

Across three days — Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday — roughly 100 organizers and Harvard affiliates wrote the names and ages of Palestinians who died on a large piece of canvas in Science Center Plaza. By the end of the week, the canvas was around 140 yards in length, with the names of 6,679 Palestinians written on it, according to a PSC organizer.

The PSC and GS4P organized the week of visibility in response to the deaths of at least 10,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by the Islamist militant group Hamas. At least 1,200 Israelis have died since then, and Hamas has taken more than 200 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

The organizations also hosted a film screening, a day of mourning, and a phone banking event during the week.

On Wednesday in Sever Hall, roughly 100 Harvard students and affiliates attended a screening of “Tantura,” a documentary film that takes place in the Palestinian village of Tantura during the 1948 Nakba — the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” describing the exodus of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes during the Arab-Israeli War.

The next day, roughly 115 Harvard students and affiliates, dressed in all black for a day of mourning, gathered on Widener steps and took a photo for Keffiyeh Thursday — an ongoing campaign by the PSC.

The PSC and GS4P hosted a phone banking event on Friday at Sever Hall for participants to call their representatives to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

As people continued to fill the canvas with names of Palestinians at the Science Center Plaza, they drew a mix of criticism and support from passersby.

Yotvat Marmor, an Israeli tourist, said the war is “not black and white.” Meir Marmor, her husband, said he felt “sad” for the protesters, who he said were “misinformed and confused.”

“You see good young people with good hearts, thinking they’re doing something for the benefit of preventing ‘genocide.’ But what they’re really doing is they’re supporting an organization in Hamas that shares zero of their values,” he said.

The PSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The organization has previously stated that it “staunchly opposes all violence against all innocent life” in an Oct. 11 post on Instagram.

Henry B. Yang ’26 said he went to talk to some of the organizers because he was “curious.”

“For what they believe in, they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone into the public eye, putting themselves at risk,” he said. “I think that’s very admirable.”

“I’m always willing to learn about things that are going on, especially with people that have direct connection to those things,” Yang added.

Fraisse Vincent, a tourist visiting from France, called the politics of the war “difficult,” but supported the protesters.

“They have a right to do that, and it’s a normal reaction to be against this terrible war,” Vincent said. “What can I say?”

Correction: November 13, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the phone banking event took place at Smith Campus Center. In fact, it took place in City Hall.

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at madeleine.hung@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at joyce.kim@thecrimson.com.

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