What is it about protest that has everyone so scared? Unlike many of the people who have been talking about the protest that happened on November 5, I was at the entire event. I saw the attempted refusal to allow the protesters into the event and the early end to the event due to members of the administration becoming too worried for the safety of everyone to allow the event to continue. I have good relations with the staff members who I knew at the event, and I believe that their worry came out of their position and need to keep everyone safe in a situation they saw as unpredictable.
But when it comes to so many other people, why can’t they handle the protest that happened? Why have the protesters been subject to verbal attacks? Why have Jewish students been called traitors to their religion for criticizing Israel? Why has one of the protesters been compared to Hitler for his statement which said that “until all people are truly liberated, I cannot stand with the state of Israel”? I will attempt to answer each of these questions.
Firstly, I believe that there are people who cannot handle the protest because the community they have been so comfortable in is under attack, and there is a fear that the status quo may be in danger. To the people who believe that they were being attacked by the protesters I say, you don’t have to like it or agree with it, but I suggest that you get used to it. I certainly don’t see an end to it. The administration can try and put rules around protests, but they won’t work. You cannot control protest, and you cannot hope to contain it. Imagine if you could tell protesters that they can protest as long as they are not disruptive. Would any protests have ever succeeded? Protests do not fall into the spheres of your control; what you can control is your reaction. Instead of attacking protesters, try talking to them and understanding their protest and educate yourself through conversation (this message also goes to protestors who should be fully educated about what they are protesting). I guarantee that you will not find true understanding by reading Facebook posts. Educate yourself.
Next, why have students who protested been the focus of verbal attacks? My answer, again, is that people are afraid, and they do not know how to handle their fear except by lashing out. This is an immature action by those who have chosen to respond in that way. There are people who felt that the protest was an attack against them; there are fewer people who decided that they would respond via threatening messages. To the few who did respond that way: you have weakened your own point. I include the guest speaker from the event, Assi Azar, in that category, because his social media response shows a very common statement that I believe to be untrue. He claims that there were anti-Semitic comments made. There weren’t. Anti-Israel comments were made, but anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism is not the same thing.
This brings me to my next point: why did Azar call a Jewish student who opposes Israel a traitor to their religion? If you were not raised Jewish or in a Jewish area, or if you were not raised Israeli, it is very likely that you have no idea why this comment was made. I was raised in a conservative Jewish household in multiple Jewish communities as an Israeli living in the diaspora. When you are a Jew growing up in America you are most likely taught that Israel and Judaism are so strongly intertwined that an attack on one is an attack on the other. This message is reinforced in synagogues, Hebrew schools, day schools and youth groups. All Jews, regardless of their location in the world, are taught that Israel is the one place in the world that they can always call home. It is the one place where we will always be able to escape anti-Semitism, which has been proven true many times. For the many Jews who grow up in that environment, it is rare for us to be taught any narrative of the Palestinian people, or where they play into the story.
The story of Israel and Palestine is one that would take many more words than a year’s worth of Quindecim articles can hold, and so I will not dive into that topic here, but if you are interested in a discussion, I am open to having one.
If I critique the American government, no one will call me anti-Christian (you could argue that the U.S. isn’t a Christian country, but let’s be real: it is). Yes, the voices of these protesters were very loud, and several of them identify as anti-Israel, but that does not mean that they stand against a religion. Israel was almost in Uganda (if you didn’t know that now is another good time to educate yourself). So, don’t tell a student (or anyone for that matter) that they have betrayed their religion because their political ideologies so vastly differ from your own. When you call someone a traitor, don’t be surprised when that person, or group of people in this case, turns more against you more than they already were.
Finally, in response to the person who compared one of the protesters to Hitler and said that the blood of Jewish children is on his hands: ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS!?!?! To that person, who is not a Goucher student (just a random Facebook follower of the guest speaker), you disgust me. You disgust me as a Jew, you disgust me as a student of The Holocaust, you disgust me as an Israeli and you disgust me on the most basic level of humanness. People like you are the reason that so many people on college campuses (this one included) are terrified to share their opinions. They are scared of people like you.
I will start ending this article with a few statements about myself. First is that you may think you know my opinions by reading this article, but if you haven’t had this conversation with me, then you have no idea what I believe, so don’t kid yourself into thinking you do. Second, I encourage you all to avoid the pettiness of social media arguments.
I will end by quoting an article that I wrote for the Q last year about a very similar overall topic: “Goucher, please don’t listen and accept. We are on a campus where it is very easy to be educated about an issue that you may not know a lot about, but recognize your sources. If you are asking a fellow student (myself included) or a faculty member, there is going to be a bias behind their words.”
A final note to the administration: Your fear of this conversation actively stops students from being able to productively engage in this topic. For longer than any current student has been here, the conversation around Israel and Palestine has been attempted to be swept under the rug, and student attempts to have the conversation have been strongly discouraged. I say that from my experiences last fall semester. Instead of making new rules around protest, try making a space for dialogue. This conversation will happen with or without you. If you support us as much as you claim, then help us.