We are writing this letter commenting on your front-page article “Students for Justice in Palestine, Pro-Israel Group’s Rally on the Spine,” which appeared in last Friday’s edition. We regretfully must point out a disconcerting bias in your overall coverage of our memorial.
That bias starts from the subtitle, which reads “Rally Disrupts First Day of Classes.” (Interestingly enough, the title and subtitle of the article are different on your online version.) Here are several reasons why the piece is biased:
1. Our event was not a rally nor a demonstration. Contrary to the numerous attempts by PD reporters to reference the memorial as such, as well as the SJP member who clearly stressed this point to a PD reporter, this event was a peaceful, quiet memorial for Palestinian children murdered in the aerial bombardment and the land invasion of Gaza over the summer. The memorial involved the reading of their names and brief biographies. It was intended to urge American and international students not to be complicit with this crime (which more than 350 Holocaust survivors called genocide in the New York Times) with either their silence (or ignorance) or through their taxes (Israel receives more than 3 billion dollars in military aid from the U.S. each year). We are not the first group to do this. Students have read the names of those killed on 9/11 and on Yom Ha’Shoah (memorial day to the Holocaust). In your newspaper, those events were not represented as rallies, and neither should our event. To call those events “rallies” would be wrong, as is this callous disregard for the meaning and representation of our event.
2. The claim that we “disrupted” foot traffic on the spine is spurious. We were standing to the side of the walkway, and we made sure not to impede the movement of any student or faculty member.
3. One of the main purposes of going to college is to debate and to entertain multiple points of view. Aspects of the article, seemed to imply, or presuppose, that speech about current events (and in this case memorializing the dead) is inappropriate on a college campus, including on the first day of class. The first day of class is just like any other day; students learn new things, some of which may initially cause discomfort but end up increasing a student’s knowledge of the world. That is why we believe that the memorial was an opportunity that encourages the students to start thinking about the world. It asks them not to be apathetic and engage in what happens in the world as conscientious global citizens. This message resonates with an article “Apathy Preserves the Status Quo” by Kyle Welch, also published in your paper on the first day of class. More importantly, our choosing the first day of class likewise commemorates the slaughter of over 500 Palestinian youth who would, just as us, be attending their first days of school if not for Israeli military aggression.
Of course, PD’s piece is so replete with bias that we can only highlight its most egregious lapses. Despite that, we give PD the benefit of the doubt. And we hope that PD reporters will live up to the standards of serious journalism. Our events will continue as long as injustice in Palestine continues, and they deserve better reporting.
– Shehryar Qazi, Ph.D. candidate in sociology