The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


Challenges and Unity: The Gaza-Israel Conflict Creates a Battlefield for East Students

Asher Boiskin
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., delivers a speech to community members at Temple Beth Sholom on Tuesday.

The Palestinian terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, Hamas, initiated a surprise attack against Israel this past Saturday, launching thousands of rockets towards Israeli towns. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly responded with a war declaration, directing the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to strike suspected Hamas targets in Gaza. Diplomatic backing quickly rushed in for Israel, and the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom collectively signed a historic joint-resolution condemning Hamas and offering their united support to Israel. The Gaza-Israel conflict has since claimed thousands of lives and enveloped millions more.

But as the turbulent war rages on in the Middle East, a distinct, yet fervent, digital battlefield has also begun to emerge. According to reports from social media companies, posts and hashtags related to the Gaza-Israel conflict have witnessed an unprecedented surge. At Cherry Hill High School East, students have also joined the conversation, actively utilizing Snapchat, Instagram, and various other social media outlets to discuss the conflict, creating a virtual front that’s hitting close to home for many students and fueling anxiety and social division.

On the “Class of 2024 Campus Story,” a public Snapchat platform exclusively accessible to East students, though not associated with the school, one student recently posted videos that starkly depart from the typical content shared on the forum. The videos, which were posted earlier this week, negatively portray the IDF, introducing a contentious and divisive element to a forum traditionally reserved for lighter student updates. In a similar vein, another student utilized the forum by posting a donation link for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, accompanied by the message “support the truth” — a message some believe politicizes an organization that explicitly describes itself as having “no political affiliation or purpose.”

In another disheartening turn of events, some students resorted to the “Class of 2026 Campus Story,” a forum akin to the one previously mentioned, to perpetuate deeply antisemitic stereotypes. In one particularly disturbing post, a student shared an image depicting a large sum of cash dollars, accompanied by a vulgar and hateful statement: “W2mm all the Jews could suck this d*ck.” Another post by a different student depicted an individual holding money near their crotch, with comments that included “#freepalestine” and “these jew n**gas could suc ma d*c w2b.” In yet another post, one user posted a picture of a naked child, whose genitals are visible, peeing on an Israeli flag. The post potentially violates child pornography laws, considering the sexually suggestive nature of the image. Eastside has included these asterisks to avoid promoting and perpetuating the offensive and hateful language that the Snapchat users included in their posts.

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In a private Discord server, which includes some of the same East students with access to the “Class of 2024 Campus Story,” this disturbing trend has similarly taken root. On Monday night, some individuals in this digital space made insensitive jokes about death tolls in the ongoing conflict, with references to both Palestinian and Israeli casualties. One user escalated the insensitivity by sharing a screenshot of a Google Form survey that inquired, “Does Israel deserve it?” All six respondents unanimously answered affirmatively.

On Instagram too, East students from all four grades have been actively expressing their opinions on the conflict. In support of Israel, some students have utilized their Instagram Stories to share posts from sources like the local Jewish Federation, the organization Stand With Us, the account Jewish Lives Matter, and political figures who endorse Israel’s position, including President Biden. The Cherry Hill East Jewish Student Union (JSU) also joined the discourse, urging students in an Instagram post to “support each other” and utilize their “strong, powerful voices… to bring awareness” to the conflict.

In a show of support for Palestine, some students have used their Instagram Stories to share links to fundraisers aimed at assisting Palestinian communities. Others have shared posts from sources like the account Muslim News, the nonprofit organization Institute for Middle East Understanding, and messages from Palestinian activists. As of publication, there have been no Instagram posts from the Cherry Hill East Muslim Student Association (MSA) regarding the Gaza-Israel conflict, though one leader from the MSA has expressed a potential plan to post about it. Numerous students, spanning those in support of Israel, those in support of Palestine, and others whose perspectives lie in between, have also posted on their Instagram Stories calls for de-escalation of the crisis.

This all comes at a time when the alarming presence of antisemitism, islamophobia, and various other forms of hate has become increasingly prevalent at East. In a comprehensive survey conducted by Eastside, encompassing the responses of over 350 students last year, a staggering 35% of students indicated the existence of a racist environment at East, while an additional 24.9% expressed feeling unwelcome in their school environment. In private conversations held with school administrative officials on Monday, student leaders from both the JSU and MSA conveyed their concerns regarding this school environment, especially in light of the recent conflict.

Yet with more and more students turning to social media to discuss the conflict, it’s now infiltrating the physical realm at East, signaling the need for more concrete actions beyond conversations with school administrative officials. In an interview Eastside held with JSU leaders for this article, JSU disclosed that they recently relocated their meeting venue due to security worries for club members and attendees. This relocation for security reasons marks an unprecedented step for JSU, and one that was not taken lightly.

“Some students have faced physical threats and endured antisemitism recently, partly because of what’s happening on social media,” the President of the JSU told Eastside, in an interview on Tuesday.

“There is racism occurring,” the Co-President of the MSA also told Eastside, in an interview on Tuesday. “I can confidently say that our greatest fear as students is coming to school and being called terrorists due to the actions being carried out in the Middle East, by both sides.”

“Over the past few days, I’ve heard very insensitive comments around the halls of East… they add to the feelings of dread I have about the entire conflict going on,” one Senior further told Eastside anonymously, fearing potential backlash for providing a public statement.

In a Facebook post within the “4 Education Transparency – Cherry Hill, NJ” group, one community member detailed some of the threats and hate speech that many students are worried about. She described East students allegedly celebrating the conflict with chants of “F*** Israel,” and other harmful comments. In another post within the same group, the same community member appealed to parents to consider homeschooling their students, pointing to safety concerns at East, which she characterized as being “infested with Hamas PLO activists [who] celebrate Jewish genocide… and bully Jewish students.”

Thankfully, there are tangible steps that can be taken moving forward to forge a safer and more inclusive environment at East. In an address delivered to an audience of over 1500 community members at Temple Beth Sholom on Tuesday, Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., underscored the importance of unity and collaboration, stating that “we all have to work together” to improve our community. This crucial first step is something that East needs to continue to take into further account.

Both JSU and MSA leaders are in accord. “We need to respect each other… [and] we cannot allow this conflict to disrupt our lives at school, so coming together to respect one another as human beings is the best thing that can happen right now,” the Co-President of the MSA said in the same interview mentioned earlier.

“We want all students to respect each other, which will help create a safer school environment. It’s one of our core values. But this cannot be done without zero-tolerance of all hatred,” the President of the JSU said, making a similar statement to the Co-President of the MSA.

With this first step in mind, the question of how exactly to create a more inclusive and stronger community is one that administrators need to address with immediate attention. Issues regarding hate speech within the school should be addressed even more swiftly and decisively, because the safety and inclusivity of students is paramount.

Hate in all forms has no place in our community.




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About the Contributor
Asher Boiskin
Asher Boiskin, Eastside Online Editor-In-Chief
Asher Boiskin is a senior and one of Eastside’s Online Editors-in-Chief. He loves participating in Model United Nations conferences, reading nonfiction, watching Netflix, and competing in trivia competitions. Outside of Eastside, Asher serves as President of the History Club and school-wide Vice President.

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    ESTHEROct 16, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    It is so sad and scary to see that in the USA in 2023 there is a fear of one community against another! How is it that children are afraid to go to school because other children will harass them with bullying and anti-Semitism? where are the parents where are the teachers Where is the management? Where is the Cherry Hill community? I saw the video where a group of children attack another group. When did the parents who immigrated to the USA because it symbolizes freedom of race, religion and sex allow themselves to behave like one of the thugs and force their beliefs on us and which is full of hatred and racism?!!!