AUSTIN (KXAN) — As tensions continue to rise overseas between Israel and Palestine, the impact continues to be felt locally.
On Oct. 12, a University of Texas at Austin student organization called Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) came together in strength, though with heavy hearts as more people die in the Israel-Hamas war.
PSC said as it met, three middle-aged men entered Welch Hall and began harassing the organization.
“What’s the problem?” a PSC member asked, as he stood in front of the door where the organization held its meeting.
“There’s no problem, I’m just saying you’re a f—ing terrorist,” a man responded. “I’m just saying you’re a f—ing terrorist, that’s it,” the man went on to say. “No violence.”
PSC said it was meeting to talk about the history and context surrounding Palestine and Israel when the men who don’t attend UT confronted them.
“We weren’t trying to push like a narrative on who’s right, who’s wrong,” Ammer Qaddumi with PSC said. “We’re just trying to tell the story of our struggle, our truth.”
Their truth was met with anger. Cell phone video shows one of the men tossing fliers toward the students.
“They’re trying to intimidate us; they’re trying to elicit a response from us,” Qaddumi said.
PSC said it even got a message from one of the men beforehand.
“There were students who were not involved with our event… who they also began harassing,” Qaddumi said.
One of those students was Nick Pantaleoni, who took a video on his phone further away. He said another female Palestinian student hid behind him, afraid of what might happen.
“It was definitely a bit off-putting, considering I just didn’t think that would happen here at UT,” Pantaleoni said.
Joe Kotinsly is a historian at St. Edwards University in Austin. He considers himself an expert on the Middle East. In fact, on Oct. 18, he said he would give a public lecture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His goal is to educate people on what’s really happening to reduce ignorance.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, we saw similar upticks in violence against Arab communities, Muslims in general, and also amongst Israelis as well,” Kotinsly said. “That’s what we’re witnessing right now. …At the end of the day, prejudice is a result of ignorance. So for that reason, I encourage everybody to become as informed as possible on divisive conflicts.”
Protests in support of both Israelis and Palestinians continue. PSC said it plans to keep doing educational events.
“Situations like this don’t intimidate us,” Mohammed Zakzok with PSC said. “We know we’re signing up for.”
UT hasn’t put out a statement specifically addressing this incident, but told KXAN that “UTPD looked into the matter and found no criminal offense.”
Still, PSC said it still wants to take legal action. The Texas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is also calling for the men in the video to be arrested.