Tensions flare during pro-Palestine rally on University of Washington campus

Anger over the Israel-Hamas war is spilling over to Washington State, with activists on both sides facing off at the University of Washington.

The school was already mourning the death of former international relations PhD student Hayim Katsman, who was working on peaceful resolutions to the Palestinian conflict when he was killed. The moments of friction were evident during a pro-Palestine demonstration on Thursday. 

Hundreds of Palestine supporters gathered at UW’s Red Square for a "Day of Resistance."

"The fact that Palestinians have been living under terror regime of occupation for over 75 years. These moments are a manifestation of this oppression. It is the oppressed fighting the oppressor," said Bissan Barghouti, who spoke at the pro-Palestine rally.

For decades, a complicated conflict has come between the two Middle Eastern powers. Israel has occupied Palestinian territories since the Six-Day War in 1967, the longest military occupation in modern history.

"I think it’s just hard to see, especially because they’ve been fighting for 75 years and there’s no end to it. I think that we’re just tired of fighting," said Christina, a rally participant who has relatives in Palestine affected by the battle.

War erupted after Hamas, a Palestinian militant organization governing the Gaza Strip, and largely recognized as a terrorist organization, launched terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

The deadly turmoil claimed the lives of thousands of people on both sides, including the Israeli relatives of UW student Nina Carmeli.

"[They] went missing for four days. They were found on Tuesday murdered. No one had found them for a very long time," said Carmeli, appalled by the rally. "I don’t know if it’s okay to come here and say that you're pro-resistance, when that resistance is killing your own people as well as the people in Israel. I know there’s a lot at stake."

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Tensions in the Middle East boiled over among spectators a few times during the rally. Event organizers say they do not support Hamas, but say they support Palestine defending itself during war.

"This is actually a Palestinian resistance fighting against oppression over 75 years of secondary colonialism and occupation," said Barghouti. "We are here to uplift the Palestinian right of return and land back. We believe in their self-determination."

With so much innocent bloodshed in the battle, supporters of Israel questioned if a rally promoting resistance was the appropriate response.

"I have family that’s gone. Like, it’s okay to want change, to want peaceful change, to want development, progress. But it can’t come as a result of rapes, of people being beheaded, of kids dying. It can’t be a result of that," said Carmeli, who is also a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel.

During an annual address, UW President Ana Mari Cauce answered a question about the pro-Palestine rally on campus. Cauce condemned the Hamas attacks on civilians and condemned messaging that supported violence against civilians. Cauce said the university reviewed promotions and flyers of the rally prior to the event, and did not see any messaging that would prevent demonstrators from exercising their right to protest. 

Cauce explained the university would focus energies on students, faculty, staff and all people from all sides of the conflict who were hurting.