I’m tired. Tired of spewing facts that fall into empty places, hearing statistics from the “other side” that can be easily contested with facts of my own. It is not a game, this back and forth, and it needs to end. I have spent today, the day after the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction bill went before Central Student Government, wondering what this movement is all about. What are those in the pro-Palestinian community at the University trying to accomplish?
The recent pro-Palestinian activities on campus, the mock eviction as well as the divestment campaign, have created an environment that dehumanizes the Israeli narrative and allows for no middle ground.
I am pro-Israel, meaning I believe Israel as a country has a right to exist. But still I have many deeply felt problems with its government and its laws. These movements have made it hard for me to come forward and admit that, without fearing I will look like I am demonizing the country I love. Why is that?
Because these movements, very intentionally, create no space for those on both sides to come together in conversation, ask questions and try to understand the issues more deeply. Some people in the pro-Palestine community on campus have said they will not talk to us, those in the pro-Israel community, because we are oppressors. I want justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis. I don’t believe that those are values an oppressor possesses. I cannot take away the title that I am given by others, that is in their power alone. But I do ask that those in the pro-Palestinian community who say or believe these things, to think about what you are making me into when you deny me the right to tell my story and when I ask to hear yours.
I am sad that it has come to this. I do not want to have to play this game, to share my story of hurt in such an impersonal way, in order to try and balance the sides. Comparing battle wounds for the eternity of our lives, showing our pain and the blood of our brothers and sisters to one another doesn’t do any justice to them, this dire situation or us. But the conversation on campus has been so terribly biased and one-sided that I feel I have no place to share a story, the narrative of a close friend who was on the Israeli side. This is a small attempt at showing that there are two sides, both of which deserve to be listened to and heard.
Growing up my family had very little connection to Israel. We were good friends with only one family that lived in the land. In 2001 the husband and father of that family was shot and murdered by a Palestinian sniper while driving his car down the highway. Let me add, it was a highway within what is agreed upon as Israel, not the West Bank or Gaza Strip. He kissed his wife that morning, maybe he even forgot, and just like that he was gone. This man was pro-peace, pro-two-state solution and was against the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It may seem like a sad coincidence that the only family we knew in Israel was affected by this war, but unfortunately that is not the case for either side.
I’m not trying to get even. The stories we tell, the experiences we’ve all had, are just snippets of the immense pain that this warfare has brought to both sides. Justice is not about getting even. If we are killing and continuing this war in the hope that there will be a time when both sides feel that they have found justice through bloodshed, that time will never come. But if this is about peace then let us hear those stories, to humanize one another, feel pain together and begin to understand. Those shared experiences will help us make change together.
If both sides are really searching for peace, then there is no need for two sides, no need for those who are “pro” and “anti” to make their claim before CSG. Peace is something that can bring us all together — it is not polarizing.
For many, joining the BDS movement or mock eviction campaign was done not because of a personal connection to the land or its people but through a dedication to social justice and human rights. But, social justice can only come about through hearing both sides and by believing in and valuing peace. The recent pro-Palestinian movements on campus do not share those same values. The BDS campaign is not trying to see the humanity in all other human beings but rather to erase the humanity of one very specific group of people, those on the pro-Israel side.
If there were a pro-peace movement on campus that brought together people from both sides to join in conversation, to really talk, to honestly admit wrongs as well as hopes for the future, then that is a movement I would support.
I would like to believe, I need to believe, that I, along with Zionists and Palestinians alike, do not want to walk the land of Israel, or Palestine, and wonder how many flowers growing here are thriving because the blood of both peoples have nourished its roots. I don’t want to see trees and ask them what horrors they have witnessed, look up at the sun and see it shining down on a place that is hopeless and filled with hate.
If we want peace, truly want peace, let us show it in our actions by coming together, not apart, making space for one another, understanding that it takes sacrificing a bit of ourselves and our land to allow both peoples to live in their space. For me, it is about loving Israel and believing I can accept anyone that loves that same land too. It won’t be easy for either side, but it is the only hope I have. This is why I will never support a movement that pretends to be about human rights when really all it does is continue to show that it is okay to hate rather than to try to come together and understand.
Elena Potek is an LSA sophomore.