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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane condemns Hamas amid student grief and outcry

A crowd of students gathered Wednesday on Brown Field and marched through campus to Hillel, where they sang and grieved in the wake of brutal weekend attacks against Israel’s civilians. (Courtesy of Gillian Pergament)

Two days after calling Hamas’ attack last weekend in Israel “horrific” and “heartbreaking,” Tulane University President Mike Fitts issued a second statement Thursday evening, this time explicitly calling Hamas a terrorist group. 

On Thursday night, Fitts wrote to Tulane students and faculty over email to address what he called “the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas and their aftermath.”

“I unequivocally condemn the attacks by Hamas on Israel and all forms of terrorism and hate,” Fitts said Thursday. “My thoughts remain with the Jewish community in the wake of these attacks. I grieve with them and all who were shocked, angered and appalled by these atrocities and unimaginable brutality.”

Thursday’s statement came after the university issued another message that expressed grief and pain, but also drew quick criticism from dozens of students, who said the school’s words did not go far enough in support of Israel and against the attacks. 

In its first message, Tulane called the violence and loss of life “heartbreaking.” 

“We are grieving over the truly horrific attacks by Hamas on Israel, and the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza,” Fitts and Provost Robin Forman said on Tuesday. “We want to acknowledge the deep pain and suffering this is causing many members of our community, and our thoughts go out to all members of the Tulane community and beyond who have loved ones impacted by this war.”

Tulane’s two statements came after Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, attacked Israel on Saturday. The brutal killings left more than 1,000 civilians dead in their homes and streets and sent waves of pain and anguish among Jewish people around the world, and also at colleges and universities across the U.S.  

In his latest note, Fitts described a community that is “scared, angry and in pain.” At Tulane, where more than 3,000 undergraduate students are Jewish, Fitts said students have worried about their safety, expressed agony over the brutality of the attacks and fear and outrage over the thousands of lives lost in Israel and Palestine. 

Fitts said all Tulane students studying abroad in Israel this semester are safe. 

Students mobilize

On Monday, students gathered at Tulane Hillel to mourn and grieve. The nonprofit drove some students to Metairie that evening, where they joined a community gathering in support of Israel. 

Hillel students also offered stark messages about the attacks.

In a post, several students called the weekend violence “an attack on the safety and prosperity of the Jewish people as a whole” and “utterly terrifying.” 

On Wednesday, an estimated crowd of 1,000 students gathered in a march from Brown Field to Hillel in support of Israel. Students also stood on Broadway Street near Hillel that evening to hear student speeches, sing, unite and grieve together. 

The group also organized a candlelight vigil to honor lives lost.

Other students expressed safety concerns to the Tulane University Police Department this week, according to a daily activity report. TUPD said it was “conducting additional patrols in the locations of our Jewish community.” 

Universities respond

Tulane’s two statements reflected the careful words universities across the country issued this week. 

Vanderbilt University issued a statement Saturday that acknowledged the grief of its students and also pointed to “the deeply layered and nuanced complexity” of the Israel-Palestine conflict. That statement drew fast critiques accusing it of unfairly giving equal weight to both sides. By Tuesday, the statement disappeared from the school’s website. 

And at Harvard University, where 34 student groups blamed Israel for the killings of its own civilians by Hamas, leaders first issued a statement that toed the conflict’s political lines before issuing a stronger message after criticism from students, alumni and even its former president

In Thursday’s statement, Fitts encouraged Tulane students to unite and support one another. “In times like these, I’m reminded that what I love about Tulane is our caring and supportive culture,” he said. “In the upcoming days and weeks, there will be many opportunities around our campus for us to gather as a community in support of one another. I urge you to take advantage of these, as well as the day-to-day moments that allow us to strengthen our bonds, express our compassion, and hope and pray for a more peaceful future.”

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