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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

MCSG debates resolutions discussing Israel and Palestine

MCSG debates resolutions discussing Israel and Palestine

On Thursday, Nov. 16, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) held their weekly meeting, largely focused on discussing and voting on two resolutions pertaining to the Israel-Hamas war.

Before the discussion, President Mariah Loeffler-Kemp ’24 addressed the discussion that was going to take place.

“Most people are choosing not to have these conversations … on our campus, the big adults are not having these conversations … but we’re going to be having a real conversation with different perspectives and identities about what is going on both inside and outside of our college bubble,” Loeffler-Kemp said. “We need to make sure that we’re approaching each and every one else with kindness, love and care.”

Before the resolutions were introduced, Gabe ’25, a member of Mac for Palestine, a coalition of students advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza that is not a Macalester-sponsored organization, shared his opinions on both the conflict and the resolutions. Gabe, who chose to have his last name removed from the record due to safety concerns, stressed that he was representing his own views, not the views of the org. 

In his remarks, Gabe explained the reasoning behind expressing solidarity with the civilians of Palestine and thus the importance of the push to end the study abroad program in Israel. He asserted that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa support Israel’s violence in the region and do not provide a safe space or productive learning environment for people from different backgrounds and ideas. 

“Arab students’ speech is repressed at Hebrew University of Haifa, and there isn’t really an open conversation on either of the campuses,” Gabe said.

Gabe also explained that it is important to respect each other in this meeting, even those with different viewpoints. 

“I hope that this room honors that everyone who disagrees on this topic still cares about one another,” Gabe said. 

The Legislative Body (LB) then moved on to hearing the two proposed resolutions. The first resolution, Resolution 13, was proposed by Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) Chair Tristain Niedzielski ’25 and Student Organizations Committee (SOC) Chair Mikayla Giehler ’24. 

The resolution included an acknowledgement of Israel’s unjust attacks against Palestinian civilians and Israeli universities’ complacency and justification in the state of Israel’s actions. It continued to ask Macalester to discontinue study away programs at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa and request that no students or organizations be punished for demonstrations on campus. 

“This request was already voiced in a petition circulating around Macalester, which was signed by over 480 students,” Niedzielski said. “Resolution 13 supports the points mentioned in the petition asserting how Macalester continuing to promote the study away programs in the apartheid state, which is actively committing genocide, directly contradicts with values of internationalism, multiculturalism and social justice.”

As soon as there was a motion to pass Resolution 13, Niedzielski motioned to amend Resolution 13 to include a new statement condemning Islamophobia and antisemitism. The  amendment passed and debate moved to the entire resolution. 

The discussion started with Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) Chair Eliora Hansonbrook ’25 speaking in opposition to the resolution. Hansonbrook stressed that for her, the resolution was deeply anti-intellectual. She argued that this resolution limited students’ ability to freely choose to learn and explore new ideas. 

“With Resolution 13 calling upon the college to cease exchange programs towards Israel, the legislative body would be endorsing an anti-intellectual movement with all the moral authority of a book burning,” Hansonbrook said. “Israel is not perfect, but the application of this measure uniquely seems both unjustified and contentious.”

Then, Junior Class Representative Cooper Glick ’25 defended Resolution 13. 

“I do not think the resolution prevents students from studying in Israel at all.” Glick explained. “If they want to find a study away program that doesn’t already have a partnership with Macalester, they are able to do so.” 

Glick also brought up questions about why the resolution only pertained to Israel and not study abroad programs in other countries that have committed human rights violations. They emphasized that students should critique any institutions that they feel support human rights violations, not just ones in Israel.

After more discussion, a student, who wished to remain anonymous for personal safety, expressed their perspective that the resolution’s definitions used to describe the violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict were wrong. 

“[The resolution] ignores the very true reality that Jews need to defend themselves when they are attacked … we have been attacked by Hamas, an organization that wants to kill all Jews,” the student explained. “This resolution is based on the idea that there is a genocide and that there is an apartheid, which are two concepts I deeply, deeply disagree with.”

Niedzielski responded to students’ worries with their reasoning using two definitions to describe the conflict. 

“The UN classifies Israel as an apartheid state. It is also classified as an apartheid state by numerous international human rights organizations,” Niedzielski said. “As well as the terminology of genocide, which is becoming more and more commonly used by international human rights organizations [in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict].”

Following a few more statements from students on both sides, Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman, Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life, gave a statement about the resolution that focused  on her dissent with the specific action taken by removing the study abroad program.

“I am deeply proud of Jewish Macalester students who are advocating for the safety and dignity of Palestinians knowing that our own humanity as Jews is deeply entangled in that conflict,” Kippley-Ogman said. “To build a just future in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River … required engagement between our people. Those who want to visit to be a part of the story and for Macalester students who are about the current reality, [the study abroad program] is an opportunity to learn and work alongside Palestinian and Jewish people.”

After more debate over the resolution, it passed, with 14 in favor, eight against and one abstaining.

Next, Resolution 14 came up for discussion. Introduced by Hansonbrook, this resolution looked to acknowledge the Israeli civilians killed by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. Immediately after the discussion was opened, Niedzielski motioned to change the statistic of how many were affected to include 11,000 Palestinian civilian deaths, including 4,700 children and 1.5 million displaced persons. After some discussion, this amendment passed and debate moved on to the resolution in its entirety. 

Due to time restrictions, the group voted to table the conversation and vote until the next meeting to allow for more time for discussion and debate. 

The remaining time in the meeting was spent discussing updates for the different committees and liaisons. Notable updates were FAC approving a few more requests from different orgs, SOC’s continued planning for an org check-in day and AAC planning to have a conversation with Vice President for Administration and Finance Patricia Langer regarding the Barnes & Noble College textbook contract. 

Finally, the LB chartered the new organization Central Americans for Empowerment. The purpose of the organization is to promote education on Central American identities. 

“We decided that we wanted to first and foremost promote education on indigeneity and Central American communities through fun activities and other events,” Damaris Zamora-Aguilon ’26 explained.

After a vote from the LB, the org was voted to be chartered. 

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