Being pro-Israel and anti-occupation are not contradicting views: In order for Israel to be a democracy, Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem must end.
I have felt very alone at Emory on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially this week. I don’t feel welcome by the Zionist organizations, including Emory-Israel Public Affairs Committee and Emory Eagles for Israel, and I don’t feel welcome by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP). The National Students for Justice in Palestine organization’s rhetoric can be anti-Jewish, as they have used phrases like “a cycle of Jewish supremacy” and “[an] apathetic plea to protect Jewish students” in their online newsletters.
J Street is a national organization that self-describes as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” and advocates for a two-state solution. Other campuses have strong chapters that regularly challenge unconditional allegiance for and against Israel. Why doesn’t Emory?
It seems there is no space at Emory for pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace conversations. Instead, we have a shameful lack of dialogue between two polarized groups and a multitude of people who claim to be invested in the Israeli-Palestinian population without listening to what people who live there actually want.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be the leader of Israel, but his government is not what most people in Israel believe in. I have family in Israel who are anti-occupation and pro-Palestinian human rights. Many individuals of diverse backgrounds, including Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, living in Israel and the occupied territories want peace. Many want a two-state solution.
I reject Emory Eagles for Israel’s choice to ignore the occupation and Israeli violence, and I reject Students for Justice in Palestine’s choice to ignore Palestinian violence. I reject the claim that the atrocities in this that of the world should be compared to “those of Nazi Germany’s Jewish ghettos,” as cited in Anthony Wong’s (21C) op-ed. I reject the claim that American Jews should unquestionably support the Israeli government.
These feelings are not contradictory; they are from a pro-peace, pro-two state solution perspective. I do my best to recognize the nuances of the conflict and admit when I lack knowledge. I’m not an expert on the complex history of the multiple groups of peoples involved. I am not sure politically what a two-state solution would look like, but I firmly reject the alternative extremes. I believe that Palestinians and Jews both deserve a homeland and that the Israeli government is violating human rights and breaking Israeli law. Simultaneously, the Palestinian Authority also violates human rights. I believe that for a Jewish, democratic state to exist, a Palestinian, democratic state must also exist.
I am pro-Israel and openly criticize the Israeli government, recognizing that the government is not representing the best interests of its people. I am pro-Palestine but criticize the Palestinian authority, acknowledging there are human rights violations.
If one needs a comparison, I am pro-United States, even though I protest the current American government and many of the systems in place. I still hope for the success of American democracy and still believe everyone who lives here or wants to live here should be able to peacefully.
One must remember that Israeli, Palestinian and people of many more ethnic and racial identities live in this region of conflict. People live and work there every day, and the involvement of the U.S. in their conflict is something I struggle with often. I often disagree with American interference in other countries, but I also believe in transnational defense of human rights.
Education and research are crucial, and it hurts me that so many students don’t see the value in engaging in dialogue with an open mind, especially on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It bothers me that now as the Israel and Israel Apartheid Weeks are coming to an end, the conversation will dissipate.
I was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, and have been back to Israel on multiple occasions. The situation is far more complicated than is insinuated by many students and organizations. I am Jewish and Israeli and American, but first and foremost I believe in human rights. I openly criticize Israel and Palestine and openly support the peaceful success of both.
Naomi Keusch Baker (20C) is from Forest Hills, N.Y.
Assistant Opinion Editor Zach Ball (21C) previously served as president of Emory Students for Justice in Palestine and was not involved in editing this op-ed.