Campus protests against Israel often target foundations. College students find other ways to make noise

While universities across the country have made headlines this year for student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, local college students haven’t seen the same attention. Because of the geographic location, often smaller student populations, and many commuters, student gatherings can slip by unnoticed.

And unlike universities, most community colleges don’t have large endowments. Their schools also typically don’t have the same high-level research contracts to do work that could benefit Israel’s war effort, which was one reason the recent strike by faculty at the University of California. So even if their schools aren’t doing much, many students are speaking out simply because they’re passionate.

Some schools have money

Pasadena City College operates a nonprofit organization that raises and receives funds for the benefit of college students.

Staff Delivery manthe university’s online news publication, found that the PCC Foundation has investments in ExxonMobil, RTX Corp (Raytheon Technologies) and Lockheed Martin.

All three companies are helping Israel in the war in Gaza. ExxonMobil supplies fuel to the Israeli army, RTX helped create Israel’s Iron Dome weapons system, produces rockets and bombs, Lockheed Martin has been supplying weapons to Israel for over 20 years.

What the PCC Foundation does with its $60 million — half of which came from a 2021 gift from Mackenzie Scott — has alarmed the school’s Anti-War Club, which held its first of many protests last year. Club regularly organizes strikes, protests, and vigils on and off campus.

Alex Boekelheide, a spokesman for Pasadena City College, said the data published by The Courier is outdated and the current investments are in highly diversified mutual funds, not individual stocks.

How students use their voices

Students at universities that have minimal or no financial ties to the war in Gaza continue to make demands.

Long Beach City College hosts protests and one-day altars on campus. Cerritos College Humanitarian Club organized protest in early May to inform other students about the war. Santa Monica College offers a club called Students for Justice in Palestine and a club called Students Supporting Israel. Both clubs have organized events this semester, but no fights have been reported.

At East Los Angeles College, 22-year-old Rin Sanchez organizes protests where students can talk about the war in Gaza. They say that if East L.A. College — the largest in the Los Angeles area in terms of student population — can pass a resolution demanding a ceasefire, which has importance in itself.

Sanchez held his second event of the semester this spring at the campus Free Speech Area. The sophomore wore a white keffiyeh draped over his shoulders, complete with watermelon earrings — a symbol that is now synonymous with solidarity for those in Palestine.

Sanchez grew up hearing their father talk about fleeing El Salvador because of the 12-year civil war. They said that although they had never experienced it, they knew the pain of insecurity in their home country.

Karma Aguilar, a student at East Los Angeles College, attended the protest this spring to “show up and meet people in the community.”

“I was hyper-fixated on Palestine and its history,” Sanchez said. “The more I read, especially about the Nakba, the more I got angry and radicalized about Palestine. And when I saw that USC and UCLA were organizing their camps, I thought, ‘I’ll do my part, but for ELAC.’”

About 25 community members, professors and students gathered around Sanchez and his bullhorn, declaring the protest an “open mic night,” calling on students to voice their opinions in front of the group.

ELAC student Hassan Tehfi said that 18 years ago, when he and his family were in their hometown in southern Lebanon, Israeli bombs fell on them. They fled from house to house, facing near death every day. After two weeks on the run, Tehfi and his family were able to escape to the United States.

“I’m just trying to give everyone an idea of ​​how Palestinian families and children feel every day, from the day they’re born to the day they die,” said Tehfi, a kinesilogy student. “I only experienced it for two weeks. And thank God it was only two weeks. I want everyone to feel what the Palestinian children feel.”

There is no official club at East LA College for Sanchez to represent, but the school hopes to form one this year.

Sophomore Anthony Gomeztagle said he was pleased to see students talking about the war in Gaza.

“I didn’t know there were any events going on on college campuses,” he said.

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