Students for Justice in Palestine: At the Wrong Side of the Fence

April 22, 2011
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My boyfriend is an Israeli citizen. He follows daily Israeli news and sometimes shares his personal experiences about growing up in the modern Jewish homeland. Consequently, I have become much more aware of the dialogue and broadcasts surrounding Israel. I have explored different opinions and sources for a better understanding of Israel’s relations with the Palestinian refugees. I quickly learned that once one puts their toe into the Google search engine and types “Israel and Palestine” into the search bar, that person inevitably starts to learn more about the sizzling affair that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the grievances of each of the two main viewpoints: “Pro-Israel” and “Pro-Palestinian”. Curious to learn more from my peers rather than an unsympathetically bright computer screen, I looked to the Arizona State University campus to find a club or two which might objectively edify me on both sides of the conflict. Unfortunately, one organization has a viewpoint towards the issue that may be summed up this way: Israel is like Freddy Krueger on steroids, taking immense villainous joy as he steals fresh falafel from Palestinian children before drop kicking them into a concentration camp.

The ASU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a national campus-based movement sympathetic (as anyone should be) to the plight of the Palestinian refugees, is directly responsible for presenting such a polarizing view to their fellow ASU students. Through direct conversation with one of the officers of SJP, I received a profound revelation from him that Israel’s status in the world is that of a “lunatic state” run by “Zionists” who have a “conspiracy to enslave the masses and rule the world”.

Hmm, I wonder, does using such incendiary terms lead to objective discussion, or to a close minded, “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” mindset?

One of the club’s events for the year was promoted by use of a graphic image on the front page of the club’s official website. It publicized an event featuring a Pro-Palestinian speaker entitled “Hedy Epstein: Auschwitz Survivor- Never Again For Anyone.” Underneath the main title are two pictures side by side. The left one is a striking image from a Nazi internment camp and the right-hand one comes from who-knows-where. The image on the left has a crystal-clear historical interpretation: there are guards in the picture, overseeing a single file line of head-shaven people wearing rags. These people definitely are not heading to a building housing their nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. The context of the right-side image confuses me: a group of well-dressed people freely migrating somewhere, without the peering eyes of oppressive guards, on a road in the open country. I can only venture to guess that these people must be refugees heading to the Israeli-Freddy-Krueger controlled concentration camp because of how similar the features of this picture are to the one on the left!

And one more tiny detail: Hedy Epstein is not an Auschwitz survivor. She left Germany in 1939 for England before the systematic murder machine of the Nazi regime was fully in place, delivering millions of people by train into concentration camps. I thought a person had to be, specifically, in Auschwitz in order to be liberated from Auschwitz?

The strange thing is, when I politely presented my qualms about this advertisement to an SJP officer on a Facebook page promoting the event, he deleted my post. I, being in a state of shock combined with my slightly hot-headed personality, accused him of censorship. He spit back in a private message that he did not have time to “linguistically argue” with me before he gave me the most inspiring and life-changing counsel: “Sasha, your [sic] at [sic] the wrong side of the fence”. Which fence? The fence separating the desire to explore truth (and love for correct English grammar) and the desire-to-promote-events-by-using-emotional-buzzwords-like –“Auschwitz”-to-attract-potential-attendees-with-an-outright-lie?

Additionally, SJP constructed a wall this spring that was displayed on Hayden Lawn as part of an international movement called “Israeli Apartheid Week.” I shook my head every time I walked by, because I felt such a heavy and negative energy listening to the shouting, the crying, the arguments, and expletives being tossed back and forth between the members of SJP and other students on campus who are sympathetic towards Israel.

I hope that in the future, Students for Justice in Palestine can create events that encourage open discussion about the conflict, and acknowledge that there is more to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than crying Palestinian children who just got their hummus taken away by Freddy Krueger. Israeli children have also had their hummus stolen by Palestinians. Until SJP can responsibly represent the issue instead of stirring up the emotions of students with inflammatory rhetoric, I think I will stick “at” my side of the fence.





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