This article is a response to Joshua Seed’s piece from September 19 commenting on our recent meeting. Mr. Seed’s claims in the article are decontextualized and simply wrong. That meeting featured an important and educational talk providing conclusive evidence that Israeli soldiers have routinely used Palestinian civilians as human shields since the Second Intifada, rather than the other way around as the Zionists claim.
In the alternate reality invented for his article, Mr. Seed presents himself as an open-minded Israel sympathizer eager to challenge his own preconceptions and acquaint himself with the Palestinian perspective. In reality, Mr. Seed is a committed right-wing political activist, one of approximately 50 nationwide Emerson fellows who receive a stipend, training and other resources from the far-right lobby group StandWithUs in order to, in their words, “become an elite cadre of leaders on college campuses…and bring Israel’s message to their campuses.”
Closely affiliated with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and far-right associates, StandWithUs promotes “Israel’s message” by, among other things, bullying liberal pro-Israel group J Street with what its leader denounced as “thuggish smear tactics.” Their primary objective is to counter (read: slander) the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement and groups such as SJP that support it. We repeat, Mr. Seed is a paid operative of an ultra-right organization, and the various things they expect in return for their patronage include writing “articles for local and campus media outlets.”
Now that readers are aware of the fully disingenuous nature of Mr. Seed’s engagement, we are happy to describe the “incident” as it actually occurred. In the midst of the talk delivered by a Jewish graduate student, Mr. Seed – known to all SJP members as a closed-minded political opponent – conspicuously stood up to leave the room. The speaker asked him, “Was it something I said?” At that point, a few people in the group started smiling and chuckling at his inability to present a counter-argument as a known pro-Israel apparatchik. Mr. Seed quickly replied that he was going to the Shabbat services on his way out. A few of those chuckling continued doing so—again, not because of the services, but in the type of triumphant expression of solidarity that all groups would feel when a hostile political opponent abruptly leaves an event unable to formulate any substantive counter to its successful presentation. Most people in the room would’ve barely noticed the entire exchange, but Mr. Seed, unable to marshal substantive arguments at our event in front of its modest audience, found something to take out of context in an attempt to discredit our entire group in front of the much larger Pipe Dream audience!
Let us conclude by putting the big picture back in context. We, as SJP members, respect all religions. In fact, at our GIM’s we emphasize strict regulations that lead to the definitive termination of any member who utters any anti-Semitic remarks. Mr. Seed’s insinuation of anti-Semitism is a red herring from the long-standing Israeli government playbook that seeks to defend Israel by smearing its critics. This allows pro-Israeli groups to change the conversation by putting Israel’s critics on trial; thus they can avoid the onerous task of having to defend outrageous Israeli crimes.
Mr. Seed also bizarrely accuses us of exclusivity when that is exactly what BUZO and other Zionist organizations on campus stand for. They reject any dissent, an example being Benjamin Sheridan, who made national news after being asked to resign from a Hillel subsidiary group after organizing a screening of the documentary Five Broken Cameras.
Conversely, SJP welcomes all students and faculty members who support BDS, regardless of gender, race, creed, or ethnicity. However, we do not focus our attention on endless debate and bad-faith dialogue with disingenuous political activists such as Mr. Seed, as we strongly believe that racism and genocide should be laid bare, not debated. We’re primarily devoted to presenting the facts on the ground. When Palestinians are suffering the direct, residual, and routine effects of occupation miles away, we at Binghamton University should be more interested in alleviating that suffering than distorting the facts. Instead of the Zionist students nervously laughing, shouting and smiling in protest of a memorial vigil for Gazan children, they should come to terms with the legitimate facts on the ground. Instead of maligning us, they should dissociate themselves from all crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli government. Perhaps then we can live up to the noble ideal of peaceful co-existence.
– The Executive Board of Students for Justice in Palestine