After learning about air strike attacks on Israel last week, members of Bearcats for Israel and Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) planted around 500 small red flags along the Spine to represent each rocket launched from Gaza. The display was met with criticism from some students, with roughly 50 of the flags being removed.
Jonah Maryles, BUZO public relations chair and a sophomore majoring in art and design, said putting down the flags aligned with the organization’s goal of educating people on Israel’s political climate.
According to its webpage, Hillel at Binghamton’s Israel organization, Bearcats for Israel, encourages and empowers students to create a stronger connection with Israel. Amanda Cetina, engagement chair for the organization and a freshman majoring in human development, said she was distraught upon learning about the rocket attacks, and knew she wanted to do something more productive than just share posts on social media.
Throughout the event, several different groups of students approached Cetina and other demonstrators to argue. One of these groups removed several of the flags.
“No one wanted to talk to me,” Cetina said. “They wanted to insult me and make me afraid, and at some point, we were too afraid to be out there alone. When people started ripping up our flags, it was a scary reality that people just felt like they could take our property and do what they wanted simply because they disagreed.”
Benjamin Carleton, president of Bearcats for Israel and a sophomore double-majoring in political science and linguistics, said a majority of passersby were either in support of the display or were apathetic, but those with opposing views were readily hostile.
“I would say the worst part was that most people didn’t really want to have a dialogue, they didn’t care about what we had to say — all they wanted to do was scream,” Carleton said. “The fact that people who have never met me or any of my board members already harbored so much hatred for us is really disheartening.”
When one less-confrontational group of protesting students came carrying bundles of removed flags, a video taken by a member of Bearcats for Israel captured the ensuing conversation.
“It’s irresponsible to be conveying only one side of the story,” one of the protesters said in the video.
The group of protesters, as seen in the video, agreed the conversation about the Israeli-Palestine conflict is an important one to have, but said not representing attacks from Israel on Gaza was starting the conversation “slanted.”
When Pipe Dream reached out to the protesters in the footage, they declined to comment.
Cetina said she wanted to have a dialogue and receive productive feedback, but the way the students handled it was inappropriate.
“One girl said she doesn’t feel rockets are a good metric for displaying the conflict — and I’ve been thinking about her point ever since,” Cetina said. “She brings up valid concerns, and we could have had a calm and rational conversation about that — but tearing up our flags is not the way to start a conversation.”
Jacob Kerr contributed reporting to this article.