Monday will mark the third time this semester that a soldier speaks in favor of the Israeli army on our campus. This is a disturbing trend, particularly considering that the latest visit contained nothing short of hate speech, which sadly went ignored by our campus community.
We must remember what soldiers represent, because it is not peace. They cause destruction, displacement, devastation and death to those deemed “enemy,” even the innocent. The horrific, unjust and merciless crimes against European Jews cannot serve as a perpetual excuse to continue inflicting settler colonial policies and, consequently, suffering upon the Palestinian people. We as a community tacitly support this by hosting events in which Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers speak and minimize the suffering they’ve inflicted.
Bringing IDF soldiers to this campus latently demonizes Arabs. Racism against Arabs and/or Muslims represents the last form of “acceptable” bigotry in our society. Anyone, for example, that described a rising number of Latino babies as a threat to white civilization would be widely perceived as a far right extremist and racist. It’s difficult, to say the least, to imagine a speaker with such views being invited to our campus.
And yet, somehow Israeli soldier Yishai Goldflam could imply to a room full of students this March that Arab babies in Israel represent a ticking time bomb and a demographic threat to Jewish rule. Worse still, he managed to do so while successfully coming across as a pragmatic moderate, both during the event and in subsequent press coverage.
While anyone calling for the U.S. to be a “white state,” or the U.K. to be an “English” state, would immediately forfeit their place in the political mainstream, in Israel your ticket of admission to the mainstream is adherence to a “Jewish state.” In reality, that is not a state in which Jews can live as equal citizens, but a state in which Jews have the right to rule, and to implement discriminatory laws and policies to achieve that end — in other words, an apartheid state.
Goldflam portrayed himself as a man of “compromise,” and spoke with pride of his role in preventing a soldier from stealing a can of Coke in Gaza, while ignoring that under international law no Israeli soldier has any business being in Gaza in the first place. This is not to even speak of his bizarre statement that the IDF did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties during Operation Cast Lead (even while admitting to hundreds of civilians killed, though denying that more credible estimates are much closer to 1,000, as noted in the Goldstone Report).
This Monday, Zionists will make yet another attempt at swaying the student body — this time transparently with an event titled, “When Disaster Strikes, Israel is There.” What about the disaster and devastation caused by Israel? By constantly barraging the student body with biased, positive news about Israel, the campus is whitewashed with one side of a complex and largely negative saga.
At last Monday’s event, students did not receive “the honest truth,” a “pro-people” perspective, a “win-win vision” or any of the other catch phrases that Goldflam employed. Rather, they received the usual misinformation of the Israeli propaganda machine, along with the racism that it entails. It is our genuine hope that this Monday’s event is more equitable.
We call upon Zionist organizations to stop bringing soldiers to this campus, for their presence mobilizes student support for an apartheid regime. The Jewish community on this campus is large, diverse and productive. Many Jewish organizations partake in social justice initiatives and good works projects. These are the sorts of events that are useful and representative of what the Jewish people have to offer.
Racism and suffering should be condemned loud and clear. Here in Binghamton, Zionism’s dominant voice is eroding potential for dialogue and amplifying a defensive, misinformed narrative to students. We as university students must shun prejudice and fight to end the national imperialist policies that abet Israeli Apartheid. We will only be able to move toward extinguishing human misery if we all register that Palestinians are in fact just as human as the rest of us.
— Tyler Albertario is a senior majoring in political science. Julie Quinn is a senior majoring in history.