STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — University of Connecticut students from both Palestine and Israel have said they’ve seen an increase in hate in recent weeks.
Wednesday, UConn Hillel students planted flags representing hostages held by Hamas, and UConn Students for Justice in Palestine held a walk out to show support for those in Gaza.
One of those 230 flags represents Noar Hamani, who is a close friend of UConn exchange student Hodaya Naor.
“It’s very hard to imagine what she’s going through,” Naor said.
Since Oct. 7, about 1,400 people have died in Israel from Hamas’ attacks, including Americans. The Palestinian death toll from Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Gaza have reached 8,000, according to the Associated Press.
Naor is homesick, currently studying at UConn for the fall semester, but constantly thinking of the dire situation at home in Israel. She said Hamani was taken by Hamas fighters more than three weeks ago.
“I can’t help with nothing, so this is the one thing we can do to help her family know that all over the world people are trying bring her and the other hostages back,” Naor said.
UConn’s Center for Jewish life Hillel said those signs of support have been plagued by an increase of hate.
“I would describe the campus climate right now as hostile,” UConn Hillel President Jessica Baden said.
Baden said she saw a poster Tuesday that made her cry.
“‘Liberation by any necessary’ means, to say, that is basically calling for the killing of Jews,” she said. [It] made me tear up. I took the poster and I was really hurt by that.”
Students for Justice in Palestine said it has also seen hate.
“We don’t support antisemitism, but we’ve had our own fair share of hate,” said a student who asked for her name not to be shared because of repeated threats. “We received a death threat yesterday.”
Her cousin was killed in an Israeli strike, and she hasn’t heard from family in Gaza for days.
Dozens of students marched Wednesday across campus in support of Palestinians and against what they call silence from UConn’s administration.
“We are so frustrated with our administration not saying anything about the ethnic cleansing genocide going on,” the student said.
A university spokesperson said administrators have sent three messages in recent weeks urging students to focus on common humanity.
In a statement to News 8, UConn wrote, “The messages expressed UConn’s desire to support members of our community impacted directly or indirectly by this conflict – including both our Arab and Jewish communities.”
Gov. Ned Lamont met with college security officials on Wednesday to better understand potential threats and how to prepare for the wide variety of them to keep students safe.
UConn Hillel said it’s glad the governor is stepping in.
“Most of our antisemitic incidents have been very tame, nonphysical here,” said Leo Gold, a UConn Hillel member. “When you think about what’s happening at other universities and you think this could be happening here, and we don’t do something to prevent it, that could reach us.”
Since the initial attack in Israel, the Anti-Defamation League has recorded a nearly 400% increase in antisemitic incidents nationwide. Here in Connecticut, the group is expecting a record year for hate crimes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released a public service announcement last week reporting that the agency has seen an increase in threats against Muslim and Arab communities.