Will the Israel-Hamas war impact how, if VCU students vote in November?

Illustration by Layla Hajigurban.

Peggy Stansbery, Executive Editor 

Palestine is on some students’ minds as the 2024 presidential election on Nov. 5 approaches, according to a previous article by The Commonwealth Times.  

Some students disagree with how Israel has treated Palestinians throughout the Israel-Hamas war and the United States’ involvement in it by sending weapons to Israel, according to the article. 

The U.S. has sent more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel under an Obama-era military agreement since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, 2023, according to The Washington Post. The agreement, signed in 2016 and running until 2026, committed the U.S. to give the country $38 billion in arms over those 10 years, according to The New York Times. 

The Israel-Hamas war started when Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel. In response to the attack, the Israeli military has carried out air and artillery strikes on Gaza killing more than 33,000 Palestinians as of April 5, according to the BBC

Some Americans have felt frustrated with President Joe Biden’s ongoing support for Israel during the war — and one with a high death toll, according to ABC News. 

There have been reports from across the country of people voting uncommitted in the Democratic primary and hesitating to or planning not to vote for Biden in the election because of his administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, according to articles by ABC News, The New York Times and The Guardian.

Second-year sculpture student Rocky Albright said they plan to vote, as it’s their responsibility to do so, and will most likely vote for Biden. But Albright has heard people say they don’t plan to vote because of the Israel-Hamas war; those people have also said if people vote, then they don’t care about the issue. 

The conflict has made Albright question voting because they are not OK with the Israel-Hamas war. They are vocal about their disapproval and have attended protests, but don’t think abstaining from voting is the solution and are unsure of what the real impact is, they said. 

“It’s not like the other candidate has said that they’re going to do anything that’s going to result in an outcome I want for this situation either,” Albright said. 

Albright wants to choose the candidate who will ensure things don’t get worse in terms of other important issues impacting the lives of Americans as well, they said.  

“I think the worse things get here, like issues for us, the harder it is for us to do something and expend our resources and energy on really, really, really important issues that are happening across borders and outside of the United States,” Albright said. 

Albright said they feel interested in the sentiments of people who say they plan not to vote at all because of what’s happening in Gaza. 

“It’s something that I’m curious about because this issue is really important, but I’m wondering, are there other ways we can extend that pressure without putting a lot of people here at risk at the same time?” Albright said. “How can we simultaneously help both situations? Because I think it’s something where you can’t prioritize with these things because everything is so important.” 

Albright said they want to talk to more people to find solutions.  

Interdisciplinary studies graduate student Shawn Williams said she is unsure about voting in this presidential election as she feels disillusioned with electoral politics. 

“Being pro-Palestine and everything, the two-party system is not working for me,” Williams said. “Trying to just figure out what is the alternative, if there even is an alternative.”

For Williams, Donald Trump is super republican, right-wing and conservative, and then Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are “cops” giving money to Israel, she said. Williams doesn’t know if she would vote third-party as she needs to research the candidates before submitting a ballot to ensure it’s in her right consciousness and aligns with her morals. 

Williams said she doesn’t think it’s about her fear of a Trump or Biden presidency, but about how prepared she feels to combat either option. Her reality has “sadly” not changed since Biden became president, and under his presidency, there has been COVID-19 running rampant, Black Lives Matter protests and money sent to Israel. 

“As a Black transgender woman, I try not to live my life in fear, but my life is oftentimes surrounded by that fear,” Williams said. 

Fourth-year media production student Kelly Ntambwe said she plans to vote, as it’s her civic duty, but is unsure which candidate she will vote for. She said she voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election but needs to research more before deciding if she will again. 

Ntambwe said she isn’t very well versed in the Israel-Hamas war, but is considering it when deciding on who she will vote for. She said she cares most about who the candidates will put in charge of education and what they will do for people of color and marginalized communities.

“But then, I also have to think about the way Donald Trump handled the country when he was president,” Ntambwe said. “Do I want more of that? It’s just really hard to pick when either way bad things will happen.” 

Ntambwe said she doesn’t think Trump would handle the conflict in Gaza any better. 

Third-year mechanical engineering student Julian Sasso said he doesn’t know who he will vote for but plans to vote because “it’s a right that was given to me, and I wouldn’t want to waste the sacrifices that got me the opportunity.”

Sasso is considering voting third-party because both Democrat and Republican feel too extreme, as he is not far left or right, he said. 

Sasso said he thinks the Israel-Hamas war matters, but it won’t make a major difference in how he votes. Sasso’s main concern when deciding who he will vote for is student loan forgiveness.

He hopes people do what he does and get involved with politics because people need to know what’s going on, Sasso said. 

“I think the political system would look a lot differently if more people took it more seriously,” Sasso said. “But that’s easier said than done. Whoever is listening, take politics seriously, just a little bit of research can go a long way.”

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