Standing in solidarity with Israel: Addressing campus discourse around Zionism

Note: When this piece was written, its original purpose was as an op-ed for the Record. In order to gather signatures as a show of support and solidarity, the author has circulated it around the campus community.

We, representing a wide range of opinions and speaking as individuals, not as representatives of student groups, faculty departments, ideologies or our wide variety of identities, denounce the growing attempts on campus to delegitimize Israel or compare it to an apartheid state. We stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people and against the way Israel is portrayed that delegitimizes differing points of view and, consequently, the state’s right to exist.

We share a commitment to a two-state solution with a Jewish, democratic Israel living peacefully beside a democratic Palestine. We do not see how anyone who claims to support the two-state solution to bring peace can delegitimize one national movement or another.

We urge supporters and critics of Israeli policy to hold their discussions with the following points in mind:

● The State of Israel fulfills the Jewish people’s national aspirations in their ancestral homeland. This affirmation acknowledges the Jews as a people united by a common past, culture and language rooted in their homeland, the land of Israel.

● Israel is a democratic state that promises to offer all its citizens, including Palestinian and Arab Israelis, “full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions,” as Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees.

● Affirming Israel’s and Zionism’s legitimacy and acknowledging Jews’ historic claim to their land does not negate Palestinian claims to that same geographical space. History is complex. A peaceful solution requires compromise from both sides regarding what they consider their legitimate national and territorial rights.

Starting passionate, critical and hard-hitting discussion when discussing Israel, Zionism and the Middle East requires recognizing the following dangerous arguments:

● Denying Israel’s right to exist, as well as delegitimizing the Zionist movement and Jewish State: Assaulting Jews’ legitimacy as a people, Jews’ valid claims to the land or Jews’ right to national self-determination in Israel crosses the line from legitimate criticism to an aggressive historical negationism. Labelling the founding of Israel a colonial enterprise distorts the meaning of colonialism and negates the Jewish people’s ongoing relationship with the land of Israel.

● Demonization: Equating Israel and Zionism with the 20th century’s worst racist ideologies, such as South African Apartheid or Nazism, or treating Israel as uniquely cruel in order to deny it moral legitimacy, is not only demonstrably untrue but inflammatory and incompatible with aspirations for peace and mutual respect.

● Double standards: Calling Zionism – but no other national movement – racism, holding Israel and its army to artificially high standards by which no other nation or military is judged or subjecting Israel to disproportionate criticism while not denouncing similar acts in neighboring countries are all acts of bad faith.

We regret to note that, among others, activists in the SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] and BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movements repeatedly make these dangerous arguments, crossing over a line from legitimate criticism of Israel to menacing and pernicious claims whose subjects cross into the realm of anti-Semitism. We condemn those who reject the state of Israel entirely rather than debating one policy or even a group of policies, instead suggesting that Israel is fundamentally illegitimate.

We urge honest critics of Israeli policy to keep the debate focused on the actions and policies of all the participants in the conflict rather than Israel’s essence or Israel’s right to exist. We welcome forthright and tough judgement of Israeli policy and government, but we rebuke those who would delegitimize or demonize the Jewish state.

We proclaim loudly and for all to hear that the voices of some members of this community will not be silenced. The College’s commitment to academic freedom and diversity does not stop at this controversial topic, and we invite critical commentary and free expression on both sides of this issue.

We are not shielding Israel from any or all criticism, and certainly there are grievances that must be addressed. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a nuanced and complex situation, and we welcome productive bilateral discussion and two-sided dialogue that avoids these three Ds: delegitimization, demonization and double standards.

We hope this statement of solidarity can foster a better dialogue on campus about both this critical issue and other controversial discussions of our time. We recognize that the College we call home is only as powerful as the academic freedom that it expresses, and our personal and intellectual growth only occurs through a continued commitment to free speech and academic discourse.

Solly Kasab ’21 is from Great Neck, N.Y. His major is undecided. 

Signees supporting this statement are listed below in alphabetical order:

Ilana Albert ’21
Papa Freduah Anderson ’21
Roberto Aponte ’18
Daniel Astudillo ’21
Chris Avila ’21
Molly A. Berenbaum ’21
Jared Berger ’21
Matt Bock ’20
Adam Böcker ’20
Karl Böcker ’18
Cooper Ogburn Bramble ’20
Jacob Broude ’18
Erin Cohn ’19
Jackson Corrigan ’21
Alexander Cowen ’18
Oriana Cruz ’21
Beau David ’21
John J. DiGravio ’21
Max Everett ’21
Devin Flynn ’18
Michelle Garcia ’21
Tomer Golan ’18
Rebecca Gorelov ’18
Diego Guimaraes-Blandon ’18
Benjamin Hearon ’20
Christopher Heckelman ’21
Magnus Herweyer ’20
Luke M. Higgins ’18
William B. Howie ’20
Ethan Hyatt ’21
Charles Ide ’20

Andrew Kamian ’21
Solly Kasab ’21
Evan Kauffmann ’21
Peter Knowlton ’21
Justin Kwon ’21
Kevin LaFleche ’20
Lance Ledet ’21
Jacob Lezberg ’20
Christian Lockwood ’20
Christian Maloney ’21
Jack McGovern ’21
Priscilla Mercado ’21
Sam Meyerson ’21
Jack Murphy ’21
Eshaan Patel ’21
Max Plonsker ’21
Mack E. Radin ’19
Sara Shamenek ’20
Amanda Shapiro ’21
Sam Stark ’19
Kasey Stern ’21
Noah Street ’21
James Sullivan ’18
Sarah Sutton ’21
Alexander Szrol ’21
Isaki Wada-Law ’21
Benjamin Weber ’21
Mason Wong ’20
Zachary R. Wood ’18
Patrick Zhuang ’21
Professor Christopher Gibson, Political Science
Professor Robert Jackall, Anthropology & Sociology
Professor Eric Knibbs, History
Professor Karen Kwitter, Astronomy
Professor Michael J. Lewis, Art
Professor Steven Miller, Math/Stats
Professor Jay Pasachoff, Astronomy
Professor Mikael Svensson, Economics

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