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The Indiana Daily Student

student life

IU student criticized for TikTok video threatening Palestinian student

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An IU student is facing criticism after posting a TikTok video with remarks many have deemed racist against a Palestinian student.

Hailey Toch, a sophomore in the Kelley School of Business, posted the video last week. Toch – who is Jewish – did her makeup for a night out as she told the story of an encounter between herself and her apartment complex neighbor, a Palestinian student, a few days prior.

Toch said in the video she was getting ready to go to a party when another student knocked on her door. In the video, Toch said the man, who was not identified by name in the video, said he had recently moved in down the hall and wanted to introduce himself.

After he left, Toch said her roommate mentioned he was from Palestine. Toch said she was shocked.

“Literally my jaw’s like, dropping,” Toch said in the video. “He probably wants to, like, kill me right now.”

Toch said in the video if she had known the man was Palestinian, she would not have opened the door for him, let alone have a full conversation.

She said she told her roommate they would never engage with him again. If he ever came near her again, she has pepper spray ready to go, Toch said in her video.

Toch did not respond to requests for comment.

[Related: How diverse is IU’s freshman class?]

The video, originally uploaded to Toch’s TikTok account, was deleted shortly after being posted. Soon after, her Instagram account became private. However, screen recordings of the video uploaded by other users both in and outside of IU have since gone viral on TikTok, Twitter and Reddit, gaining hundreds of thousands of views, response videos and comments condemning Toch’s statements.

IU students have flooded the university’s social media with comments calling for action against Toch, whom they say should be held accountable for racist sentiments. A recent post on IU Bloomington’s Instagram account garnered hundreds of comments questioning what the university is doing to support its Palestinian students.

“Are your Palestinian students safe on your campus?” one comment read.

“Racism has no place on campus and as a school that pretends to be a bastion of equality and respect, it is crucial you don’t allow your students and those in positions of power within your school to go on public racial tirades that make communities feel unwelcome,” another comment said.

“If the college does not do anything about it, it speaks on the rhetoric of the whole institution,” another user wrote.

The Dean of Students Office and IU Bias Response and Education team are aware of the incident and are proceeding in alignment with university policy and procedure, James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Lamar Hylton, vice provost for student life, said in a statement emailed to the Indiana Daily Student on Wednesday. Another statement was posted to IU Bloomington’s Instagram story Sept. 5.

“Indiana University is committed to ensuring all students, staff, and faculty feel welcomed, valued, safe, and supported,” the statement on Instagram read. “In pursuing all aspects of the university’s mission, we hold ourselves and our community to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity. Behavior that involves acts of discrimination, hate, harassment, retaliation, threats, or engagement, has no place in our IU community.”

Toch was a member of Women in Business Technology’s podcast committee, according to her LinkedIn profile, but is currently not listed on the organization’s website. Women in Business Technology did not respond to request for comment by publication, but the organization released a statement on its Canvas website Sept. 8, which said the club does not condone hatred, bigotry or discrimination of any form.

“Our members are held to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity,” the statement said. “Our leadership team is here and ready to work on our continued mission of developing a diverse community of technologists.”

IU Hillel Student President Rachel Applefield said in an email to the IDS on Sept. 6 that everyone at Hillel has been affected by the video, and Hillel will be releasing a statement in the coming days. IU Hillel serves as the campus’ official Jewish Culture Center. 

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also released a statement Sept. 6 calling on IU to take action against Toch. The ADC reached out to IU Provost Rahul Shrivastav and requested a meeting with university officials to discuss how they will foster a safe environment for Arab and Palestinian students, the statement said.

“Such acts of aggression undermine the very foundation of our educational system, and we expect nothing less than a robust response from the university to ensure the safety and well-being of all its students,” the statement read.

[Related: IU offering new diversity certification program]

The incident has raised discussions about anti-Palestinian sentiments in the face of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conflict, which dates back to the late nineteenth century, is ultimately a dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over the Holy Land, a region in the Middle East with historical and religious significance to Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which includes the Gaza Strip and West Bank, found in 2022 that Israel’s occupation of the land is unlawful under international law.

A major point of contention between many Israelis and Palestinians is whether a Palestinian state should be created alongside Israel. Over the years, the dispute has resulted in conflict including protests, riots and violence, and has led to instances of antisemitism and anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

Miral Alabed, a Palestinian second-year master’s student studying international studies at IU, said she felt shocked at how much the video dehumanized Palestinian people and how casually Toch was speaking in the video. She said while it is spread in some mainstream Western media that Palestinian people want to harm Jewish people, it is not true at all.

“It's crazy to see how there’s this hatred when you don’t even know the person,” she said. “You knew his ethnicity, his nationality, where he is from, and you directly linked that to ‘oh, he’s going to kill me.’”

She said she’s gotten glares in the past for wearing articles of clothing that could identify her as Palestinian – such as her Palestine necklace – and Toch’s video confirmed her fears about the potential for violence against her. She said she’s worried the video will inspire others to be violent.

She and other Palestinian students want to speak up for themselves and see Toch held accountable, she said, but there are risks that come with standing up for themselves as minorities.

“Do we have to wait until something bad happens to him?” Alabed said. “Why are we always waiting for something to hurt us for a person to take action?"

Alabed said she was extremely disappointed by the vagueness of the university’s statement and that it was not posted on IU’s permanent feed.

She said the Palestinian community would like to see at least an apology from Toch and the university.

“I want to be able in the future to look back like, I was at Indiana University Bloomington, and they didn’t stay silent on an issue that happened to a Palestinian,” she said. “I want to be proud of that, and at the same time I want to be proud of who I am, and I’m being scared that something might happen to me just because they think this or because they have these stereotypes about us.”

[Related: IU ranked fourth nationally for LGBTQ+ students]

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