The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Israel-Hamas War Sparks Large Protest in Newtown

Protest photo by Emily Saab

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters clashed down the street from Bucks County Community College, prompting road closures and strong police presence on the scene on Jan. 17.

A pro-Palestinian march, with around 50 attendees, began in the Newtown Shopping Center before winding through the streets of Newtown Township and Borough. The group rallied and members gave speeches in the parking lot. Some held signs with anti-war slogans, Palestinian flags and wore the black and white keffiyeh headscarf which has become a symbol of support as the war rages between the Palestinian Sunni Islamist militant group Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in 1997, and Israel.

While the group marched down Durham Road and shouted “Free, Free Palestine,” they were met with more than 100 members of the Bucks County Jewish Community, according to The Jewish community waved Jewish and American flags while shouting, “Bring them home,” referring to the hostages taken by Hamas during the attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The cross-border attack by Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, injured 6,900 and took 250 hostages who were mostly civilians. Some 400 of those murdered and kidnapped were attending the Nova Music Festival in Israel.

Israel formally declared war on Hamas after the attack and started bombarding Gaza with airstrikes. Since the start of the war, more than 28,000 people have been killed, around 1,410 Israelis and more than 26,751 Palestinians. Roughly 11,500 of the victims were children,  according to an article on

As the conflict grinds on, the emotional toll is especially heavy for some people in the Bucks County community.

Larry Kanner, a Jewish gentleman who was present at the protests, said, “It’s been extremely emotional for me. I am a child of survivors of the Holocaust… my mother was in hiding through the war and my father was in concentration camps. On my father’s side, he was the only survivor…”

He added, “I was raised with an incredible sense of tolerance, and he raised us with the very strong belief that we don’t blame the children for the sins of their parents. At the same time though, we did grow up with the notion that it (the Holocaust) could happen again if it was forgotten. Now looking at Oct. 7, it’s horrifying because it showed that these things can happen again.”

Kanner detailed an experience of anti-semitism that his son had experienced since the onset of the war. When riding the subway in New York, a man wearing the Palestinian flag approached and hovered “brazenly” over him, calling him a slur only to finish off the offense by saying “I could smell you from a mile away.” All because his son, who was quietly reading, was openly wearing a Magen David (a Jewish star).

Kanner stressed that “politically when it comes to Israel I’m very moderate, I am very much against the current government… but I can still feel for Israel because they feel truly threatened. I’m not going to tell you that everything that Israel has done is right, the bottom line is that civilians are dying. That is terrible. That is a terrible situation.”

Shaheer Salam, a student at Bucks County Community College and a member of Bucks’ Muslim Student Association, said, “It affects me quite a lot considering that so many of my brothers and sisters from Palestine are going through so much while I’m not feeling any of the physical effects of the violence that is happening over there. Although there have been real cases of violence between the American people, Palestinians and Muslims in general here, like people being attacked and killed, I know that that fear can’t even amount to what the Palestinian people feel every day.”

“I do feel grateful but at the same time,” Salam said. “I shouldn’t be the one to deserve all the things I have, especially when they are fighting so hard for basic freedom. This conflict has most definitely changed my life.”

He added, “I know now where certain companies and organizations stand. I’ve stopped going to Starbucks, McDonald’s and all these places that I know fund violence. This conflict goes beyond Oct. 7, it has existed for generations and years upon years, yet only now it is coming to the spotlight. Now people realize how serious it really is, people are using their voices to do what is right.”

Forbes reported that McDonald’s and Starbucks are among the U.S. companies most impacted by calls for boycotts following the Israel-Hamas war. McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said protesters claimed the company was supporting Israeli soldiers, despite the firm having issued no statements of support.

Since the Hamas Oct. 7 attack, social media has played a major role in sharing and spreading information, and the dominant way for most of the world to engage in the war. According to an analysis by Humanz, 7.39 billion posts with pro-Israeli tags and 109.61 billion posts with pro-Palestinian tags were published on Instagram and TikTok, since Oct. 7.

“I just want answers,” Salam said. “And I want to know why the government (Israel) feels as though their actions are okay… Palestinians don’t have an army or anyone to protect them, Hamas doesn’t speak for everyone…I do feel scared for the future of my people.”

Elena Solovyeva, a Bucks English major said, “I’ve been very privileged to not be affected by it (the conflict) as much as someone who lives in Israel or Gaza but I have been really stressed about it. I’ve been turning to praying, even though I’ve never found myself to be religious. I try to do my best to educate myself on both sides and also speak to people who are being directly affected by this.”

Kanner and Salam both agreed that a solution would only come from an empathic and open-minded conversation. Salam said, “There is a solution, but only if everyone, all the countries, come together to figure it out. We need to stand to end genocide, stand together. We agreed on The United Nations for a reason. United is being together. When one person or one country suffers, we all suffer. Why is death so normalized?”