Ada Hepner

A Letter to the Editor is a column written by a writer not affiliated with Pipe Dream, sent in for publication in response to a column or article previously published. In this case, this is in response to Theodore Brita’s 10/16 column.

Theodore Brita wants more people and governments to recognize the “Palestinians’ struggle for freedom.” This is a broad phrase. What means and ends does it entail?

Perhaps by “Palestinian struggle,” Brita refers to the rhetoric of our local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) protestors, who chanted slogans such as “from the river to the sea” and “long live the Intifada.” I in no way believe that SJP protestors are morally equivalent to Hamas, nor do I accuse all SJP protestors of genuinely advocating an ethnic cleansing of Israelis or Jews from the Levant. However, as a Jewish student hearing these slogans, I cannot help but associate them with the beliefs and actions of Hamas. “From the river to the sea” recalls the words of the Hamas Charter, which describes a future Palestinian state as exclusive to a Jewish one. And when I hear “long live the Intifada,” I think of the indiscriminate violence perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian cause during the Second Intifada and beyond — suicide bombings, rockets targeted at civilians and, presently, according to the IDF, sickening displays of rape, decapitation and immolation and the kidnapping of innocent Israelis and foreign citizens.

Brita does not define the ends of the Palestinian struggle, which is a careful omission — if those ends are consistent with the updated Hamas Charter of 2017, the end of the Palestinian struggle is the non-negotiable destruction of Jewish presence in its historic homeland. I am aware that Brita explicitly disagrees with Hamas. His article decries both Hamas’ war crimes and the conflation of Palestinians with Hamas. He therefore seems clearly uncomfortable with the current means and ends of this “Palestinian struggle,” as he defines by omission.

Then what does Brita want promoted? It seems that Brita sees “the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom” as a historical narrative that he wants more broadly accepted, one that flattens a highly complex ethnic history into a “colonial genocide.” Brita defines colonialism, or a “typical colonial dynamic,” as a dynamic between two nations with a “disparity in power,” which is definitely true between Israelis and Palestinians. However, a disparity in power alone does not constitute colonialism. Colonialism requires a homeland external to the colony, which the colonizers could feasibly call home. This is not true of Israel, Israelis and Jews. Brita cannot avoid the anti-Semitism of the colonial narrative he unwittingly parrots — denying the Jewish connection to our historic homeland, denying our right to live as expressly self-sovereign in said historic homeland and denying any difference between Jews and the white Europeans who oppressed and continue to oppress us.

The end of human rights violations against Palestinians will only come about through forcing both groups to recognize the basic human dignity of the other. In my opinion, the most effective methods for this change are not through violence or policy but through grassroots educational efforts from organizations such as Shorashim in the West Bank and the Adam Institute in Jerusalem, which bridge the divide between Israelis and Palestinians on the ground.

The linguistic frameworks surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as indigeneity and colonialism, are often fraught and ill-defined. Even so, as exemplified in Brita’s article, these frameworks often hold undue weight in proving moral claims about the conflict and can impede a solutions-oriented approach. A nuanced view of the conflict must involve deep research and empathy, not mindless labeling.

Ada Hepner is an undeclared sophomore.