In a continued effort to draw attention to the Palestinian struggle, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a “Walk out for Palestine” Wednesday outside the Library Tower.

Spearheaded by the SJP’s national organization and Dissenters, an anti-militarist movement organization, the walkout called for an end to the siege on Gaza and a stop to United States funding of the war. Following several events aiming to bring awareness to the current and historical crisis in Palestine, the walkout protested the war and called out Binghamton University’s ties to weapons manufacturers. While the rally had a lot of support, comments made at the event sparked backlash among the Binghamton community.

“The event was meant to perpetuate the momentum of the Palestinian cause and stand with our brothers and sisters across multiple university campuses as we speak with the voice of our friends and family hurting abroad,” SJP’s E-Board wrote in a statement.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, over 1,400 Israelis have been killed. In the 21 days of war, more than 7,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to local health officials. In the West Bank, roughly 110 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids. This is a developing situation. For more information, visit AP News live updates.

Among the walkout’s attendees was Sari Al Zerey, a third-year Ph.D. candidate studying material science and engineering, who is from Palestine. He said that supporting the Palestinian cause is not anti-Semitic, but anti-occupation, and elaborated on the suffering faced by those in both Gaza and the West Bank.

“The media tries to show that it started on [Oct.] 7 [when] this actually started in 1948,” Al Zerey said. “So we can’t just say Hamas is the problem, because we have the West Bank where we have a government there collaborating with the occupation — with Israel — and still the Palestinians in the West Bank are being killed every day.”

The walkout was met with campus and community support from several organizations, including Broome County Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, Dissenters at Binghamton and a speaker from the Black Student Union. Organizers invited representatives and attendees to speak, leading to a variety of speeches, either prepared or from impassioned passersby.

Jack Gilroy, 88, of Endwell — a member of Veterans for Peace and a longtime anti-war advocate — encouraged students to continue future protests and reflected on his memories of the decades-long conflict.

“I’m old enough that I remember the whole 75-year history of Israel,” Gilroy said. “When Israel was first created I thought it was just wonderful, after that terrible genocide, that terrible Holocaust, now the people had a place to rest in peace. But what they did was … they went in, dispossessed [the Palestinians], took their land and began massacres over long periods of time. There are tens of thousands of reasons why the apartheid system is a terrible slave-like condition. What the Israelis are doing now is just unbelievable, just beyond the pale.”

Despite the support of local and campus organizations, the demonstration drew a crowd of counterprotesters holding signs and Israeli flags. One sign read “Hamas is worse than ISIS” and eventually drew a response from an SJP E-Board member, who has since stepped down, despite the SJP’s policy of discouraging engagement with opposition.

In a video that has now circulated online, the E-Board speaker can be heard saying “If Hamas is worse than ISIS, then Israel is worse than Nazi Germany.” The comment has received heavy backlash from BU students and community members. Rep. Marc Molinaro, whose district includes Binghamton, released a statement condemning anti-Semitism on BU’s campus and the dangerous remarks made at, what he referred to as, the “anti-Israel” protest.

The counterprotesters had no direct affiliation with the BU Zionist Organization (BUZO), though the club had sent a message to their members reaffirming their policies of non-engagement for those that wished to attend. In response to the viral video, BUZO expressed shock toward both the comment and subsequent applause heard in the clip.

“This isn’t just a divergence in viewpoints,” BUZO wrote in an email. “Such a comparison profoundly diminishes the Holocaust’s atrocities, where 6 million Jews were systematically and brutally murdered. To draw upon such a tragic chapter in human history for political leverage is not only historically misguided but deeply offensive, especially to Jewish students who bear the weight of the Holocaust’s legacy.”

Following the event, discourse has been sparked surrounding the inflammatory statement, which, for some, brought into question the intention of the rally. The SJP expressed hope that the clip would not be the characterizing feature of the event or overshadow the other speakers, and clarified their wish to not make the campus any more hostile or divisive.

“Even though he spoke as an individual, this statement was a highly inappropriate thing for an SJP E-Board member to say in such an assertive position as a rally leader,” SJP’s E-board wrote. “We stand together as E-Board members to represent Palestinian liberation, but also to amend the gap between the two sides and to not contribute to the alienation of any Jewish students on campus.”

The event closed with an invitation for attendees to chalk the Spine with their messages. Although several verbal altercations occurred between rally members and counterprotesters, no intervention was required from Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD) officers, who remained present throughout the event.

“The land of Palestine diminishes and decreases every day,” Al Zerey said. “They put people in jails for no reason, so Hamas is not the problem. Finally, I can just say that we are calling for an immediate ceasefire and to stop arming Israel.”