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Chicago students mark 76th "Nakba" amid protests against war in Gaza

Chicago college students mark 76th "Nakba" amid protests against war in Gaza
Chicago college students mark 76th "Nakba" amid protests against war in Gaza 01:52

CHICAGO (CBS) – As Jewish people around the world celebrated Israel's independence day this week, for Palestinians, it marked what is known as the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," when more than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948 to make way for the state of Israel.

It was a moment in history with ramifications that are still being felt today amid the war in Gaza. Students in the Chicago area observed the 76-year mark of the Nakba on Wednesday, including a walk-out at DePaul University.

Roughly 100 students walked out at around 3 p.m. and converged on the school's quad where they held a rally. The site is also where a pro-Palestinian student encampment was set up, one of the last remaining in Chicago.

The DePaul students rallied for two separate causes. They said the first was in response to the university president's refusal to continue negotiations with the group that's called for the university's divestment from weapons manufacturers, among other things. The other cause was for the university to observe the Nakba, known as a day of mourning for Palestinians.

Palestinians believe Israeli statehood amounted to a seizure of their homeland, leading to endless conflict in the region for decades. The latest chapter of that conflict is proving to be the bloodiest, sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks on Israelis by Hamas.

"This is not just something that just started," said Henna Aiyash, a student organizer. "There is family history to it and a lot of us are still suffering from it 'til this day."

While students at DePaul held a moment of silence, faculty at the University of Chicago held a teach-in of the Nakba to highlight what they described as the decades-long struggle for Palestinian life, dignity and return to their land.

"The moment and appetite for this knowledge is absolutely immense," said University of Chicago Professor Uday Jain. "We're in a historic moment in the history of the world, the history of the American empire and we're in a moment where we're seeing the beginning of its end, and so as educators, we want to do all we can to make sure that Palestinian freedom...happens in our lifetime."

Despite the negotiations stopping between DePaul University leadership and students, the student group said they feel like they were making an impact with their movement. The university announced it would cancel its annual end-of-year FEST due to the protests.

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