As individuals, let alone college students, we have a responsibility to acknowledge foreign ideas and constantly examine our own opinions. Failure to do so makes activism irrational, superseded by ideological commitments to an incomplete set of “facts.”
Sadly, this characterized Students for Justice in Palestine’s performance at Israel Independence Day last week.
By walking among IC students, local community members and young families with duct tape covering their mouths, SJP literally rejected the notion that when it comes to Israel and Palestine, dialogue is what this campus needs. We cannot hide behind the labels assigned to us by our student organizations or certain faculty members who espouse polarization. We must approach the issue differently. Political ideas can be debated; notions of ethnic identity and cultural belonging should be discussed.
If we refuse to listen to the narratives and individual experiences of our peers, then we merely hinder the peace process happening thousands of miles away from our small liberal arts school in this small liberal town. SJP’s intolerant proclamation, “We … refuse to engage in dialogue in which the terms and conditions are controlled and facilitated by groups and individuals whose political decisions we seek to critique…” is an ironically inept form of Palestinian advocacy, ill-suited to the academic ideals IC represents. If Israelis and Palestinians can sit together to try and resolve this conflict — and they do — we owe it to them to try and do the same.
-David Barken, sophomore history major and co-president of Student Alliance For Israel