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Over 250 community members gathered in front of Van Pelt Library on Oct. 18 for a vigil supporting Palestine. Credit: Ethan Young

Student organizers released a statement clarifying their chants made at a pro-Palestine march after misinformation spread online alleging that the phrases used were calling for "Jewish genocide."

During Monday's rally, which Penn Against the Occupation organized in conjunction with faculty members, attendees marched down Locust Walk multiple times while waving Palestinian flags and chanting phrases in solidarity with Palestine.

On Oct. 17, Jewish Breaking News posted on Instagram a video which displayed text alleging that students chanted, “We want Jewish genocide” during the rally. The post includes a video of the march, with the caption calling out other chants used by attendees. The video quickly circulated on social media within the Penn community and beyond — receiving over 17,000 likes in less than 24 hours.

In a statement posted on Instagram on Oct. 18, PAO said that attendees were chanting “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” and did not use the phrase, "We want Jewish genocide.” Multiple staffers for The Daily Pennsylvanian who attended the event confirmed this.

The Anti-Defamation League also published a blog post debunking the allegation that the protestors used the statement, "We want Jewish genocide."

In its statement, PAO wrote that this misinformation detracts from their accusations of Israel's "ongoing genocide" in Palestine, adding that more than "3,000 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded due to the constant bombardment of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza." PAO also wrote that the Israeli government was violating international law by cutting off of access to food, electricity, and water in Gaza.

At the time of publication, Hamas has taken nearly 200 Israelis hostage, and over 1,400 people in Israel and 3,478 people in Palestine have been killed in the ongoing conflict. 

“This post is spreading blatant disinformation, and it is dangerous to spread false narratives about the protest,” the PAO statement reads. “PAO unequivocally stands with Palestine in the face of ongoing genocide committed by the Israeli goverment [sic], which has been assisted by other Western allies like the United States.”

PAO also clarified the other chants that they used at the walkout, which include, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has go [sic] to go” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

Some critics argue that the latter phrase insinuates a desire to eliminate the state of Israel and its people, while proponents say that the line asserts the boundaries for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

According to an article from the ADL in 2021, "the sensationalist use of the term genocide in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only inaccurate and misleading, but it serves to demonize the State of Israel and to diminish recognized acts of genocide."

At Monday’s rally and walkout, more than 100 members of the Penn community gathered outside Van Pelt Library, expressing their support for the Palestinian people and voicing their concerns over Penn President Liz Magill's second statement about the ongoing violence in the region. A line of over a dozen counter-demonstrators waving Israeli flags and news articles about the conflict, including the hostages held by Hamas, assembled across from the rally.

An individual was seen tearing down posters of missing Israeli citizens and pushing a bystander and was taken into custody on Monday. DPS later confirmed that the individual — who is not affiliated with Penn — was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.

Additionally, other videos of individuals tearing down posters of Israeli hostages on Locust Walk have circulated on social media. DPS directed the DP to the University's Poster Policy in a response to a request for comment.

Penn's poster policy for outdoor areas details that "groups should restrict posters to kiosks," and "mounting of posters or use of paint on walls, sidewalks, trees, benches, or other surfaces not intended for posting is prohibited."

On Oct. 18, Magill sent a third statement to the Penn community since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, condemning hateful speech amid campus demonstrations for both Israel and Palestine.

This statement came after over 250 community members gathered again in front of Van Pelt Library for a vigil and walk out event in support of Palestine. Pro-Israel demonstrators were also gathered and stood quietly as the demonstration was being held. A separate, unconnected group of Israel supporters joined later, and some of those participants actively engaged with the attendees of the pro-Palestine rally.