To the Editor,
In “March out, soldier parade: the IDF brigade” the authors demonstrated once again that members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) present a biased, one-sided and inaccurate depiction of the Middle East while claiming that those who disagree with them do not have a right to present alternative viewpoints.
First, no one, whether Jewish or not Jewish, has the right to tell any Jew how to express his or her Judaism. Saying that Jewish organizations’ priority should be to partake in “social justice initiatives and good works projects,” because these are the sorts of events that “the Jewish people have to offer,” is extremely insulting, and is reminiscent of a time when Jewish freedom of expression was restricted. Such a blatant denial of Jewish right to self-expression, and attempt to dictate where Jews can be “useful,” will not be tolerated. Jews are free to express their Judaism in whatever way they please, whether through social justice initiatives, adhering to Halacha (Jewish law), or connecting with Israel, the Jewish State.
The authors suggest that Israel should not exist as a Jewish State. Just as Germany is the nation-state of German people and France is the nation-state of the French people, Jewish people have the right to have their own state. Equal rights for all citizens is not precluded by the Jewish character of the state. Denying the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state, while affording other peoples this same right, is discriminatory. We affirm that treating the Jews differently than any other people is anti-semitic.
The fundamental obligation of a state is to protect its citizens’ lives. When Israel is bombarded with rockets, or inundated with suicide bombers, it seeks to defend itself. Some may disapprove of its methods and tactics, but asserting that all Israeli soldiers are racist, is incorrect, and offensive. Just as no one should claim that all Palestinians are terrorists, lumping all Israeli soldiers (and therefore citizens) together is fundamentally inappropriate.
The premise of Friday’s op-ed is hypocritical. The authors lambast the campus for being one-sided, yet ask to silence all Israeli soldiers’ voices. SJP calls for a wider range of perspectives, while simultaneously trying to drown out opposing voices. This exemplifies the very whitewashing and bias they supposedly disdain. We will continue to assert our right to free speech and discuss, learn about, and engage with Israel. Pro-Israel groups on campus recognize the complexities of the current situation and we will continue to advocate for dialogue on this campus. The authors’ implication that we do not “register that Palestinians are in fact just as human as the rest of us” is a false and baseless claim. SJP, however, consistently ignores Israel’s positions and concerns.
Furthermore, the authors’ usage of the word “Zionists,” demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Zionism. Zionism is the belief in Jewish self-determination. Zionists are a large group with diverse opinions on how to enact Jewish self-determination. Being a Zionist does not imply a hatred for Palestinians or support for every Israeli policy. Therefore, using “Zionists” as a dirty word is degrading and glosses over out the immense diversity within Zionism.
Finally, the authors claimed that the Holocaust serves “as a perpetual excuse to continue inflicting settler colonial policies and, consequently, suffering upon the Palestinian people.” To our knowledge, no Jewish or pro-Israel organization on campus has ever used the Holocaust to justify causing harm to Palestinians. The authors’ statement, coupled with Asad al-Ghalith’s comment at a recent SJP event comparing the intentional mass murder of more than six million Jews to the treatment of Palestinians, falsely demonizes the State of Israel and the Jewish people. While it is legitimate to express concern about the treatment of Palestinians (as many Israelis do), comparing Israelis to Nazis crosses the line between political debate and hate speech. Using the Holocaust as a means to political ends dishonors the millions of victims of Nazi oppression. This is inexcusable.
We see double standards through the hypocrisy. We call on students, faculty, and the administration to recognize and condemn the article’s untruths and hypocrisy. Furthermore, we call on Tyler and Julie to recognize and apologize for the anti-semitic nature of some of their comments, and their argument’s hypocritical nature.
This op-ed was written as a joint effort of numerous, proud Zionist students and is affirmed by:
Belle Yoeli, Class of 2014, President of Hillel – The Jewish Student Union
Max Bartell, Class of 2016, President of Bearcats for Israel
Yael Rabin, Class of 2014, President of Binghamton University Zionist Organization
Ilan Benattar, Class of 2014, President of J Street U Binghamton
Jacob Dorfman, Class of 2014, President of Maimonides
Lucy Schwartz, Class of 2014, President of Chabad
Gregory Flax, Class of 2015, President of Alpha Epsilon Pi
Professor Jonathan Karp, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Judaic Studies
Professor Bat-Ami Bar On, Chair of Judaic Studies
Editor’s Note: The guest column, “March out, soldier parade: the IDF brigade” to which this Letter to the Editor responds, can be found here.