Anti-Israel or Pro-Palestine? Signs on Wall Make Troublesome Claims

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: IlyaHaykinson
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: IlyaHaykinson

Last week, the Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) posted a sign on a wall they built outside the Dobbs University Center (DUC) stating “ISRAEL IS AN APARTHIED STATE.” In addition to the previously cited misspelled version of the word “apartheid” on the second sign created, the sign contained a series of short essays, blurbs and charts describing various aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict, specifically focusing on the Israeli military effort in Gaza that took place during the summer of 2014. These essays listed many of the perceived injustices that Israel is committing against Palestine, then ultimately called upon the reader of the sign to spread awareness about the conflict and specifically mentioned the role of the United States as a major financial supporter of Israel, implying that the United States has had a role in committing these injustices as well.

On the night of Sunday, Feb. 22, a group of Emory University students dismantled this sign. In response, Emory’s Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair sent a campus-wide email describing the important nature of “vigorous debate” on campus. As an individual, I do not claim to represent any group of people on either side of this debate. However, I do feel obligated to point out certain aspects of the sign that I feel to be both offensive and blatantly misleading due to the selective nature in which the ESJP presented information and the intentionally biased framing of certain opinions as truths.

First, such an overtly abrasive remark made about Israel in such a public area of campus is hardly the justified voicing of an opinion or the beginning of constructive dialogue. This sign was nothing short of a direct attack on a nation that many Emory students call home, and many others identify with as a symbol of their faith.

I would urge the administration to acknowledge the potentially harmful nature of this sentiment and encourage students with opinions on both sides of the issue to voice those opinions less offensively in the future. The terms “Pro-Justice in Palestine” and “Anti-Israel” need not and should not be synonymous, as it is possible for students to advocate for the human rights of Palestinians without framing their concerns in a way that comes across as a direct attack against Israelis or the Israeli government.

In addition to carrying a message that was unnecessarily inflammatory, the sign was also misleading. The biased nature in which ESJP glossed over some aspects of the conflict and blatantly omitted others would have made it impossible for a reader of their sign to form a coherent, unbiased opinion on the issue.

The most egregious example of this that I have committed to memory (the sign is, at this point, unavailable to consult physically) is the way that the authors of the essays in question described the organization Hamas.

When describing Hamas, ESJP failed to identify it as a terrorist organization despite the fact that the rockets they fire at Israel often target purely civilian areas and structures without any military significance. Although the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-rocket defense system, is effective in intercepting almost all of the rockets fired by Hamas, many Israeli civilians still face the daily reality of international terrorism as Hamas’ rocket fire forces them routinely to run for bomb shelters.

To put this state of constant fear in perspective, during the 10-year period of 2004-2014, Hamas fired a rocket into Israel every seven hours on average.

Furthermore, ESJP described Hamas as “seeing violence as a means to an end.” The “end” that the ESJP failed to specify in this essay is the complete genocide of the Jewish people, as explicitly stated in Hamas’ charter:

“The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews (and kill them), so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones.”

This is not a statement specific to Israel; this quote comes from Article 7 in the section of the Hamas covenant titled the “Universality of Hamas” and is quite literally a call for a global Jewish genocide.

The Israeli armed response to what can only be called international terrorism has resulted in large death tolls in the Gaza Strip, as the essays on the sign pointed out. The writers of these essays, however, failed to mention the reasons behind the large civilian death tolls in Gaza. Hamas places their stores of rockets and other weaponry inside of civilian structures such as homes and hospitals to discourage the Israeli armed forces from bombing these weapon caches, essentially creating a human shield of innocent people to protect weapons the government intends to use in terror attacks. In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warns civilians in areas that are going to be bombed ahead of time through both airdropped fliers and direct phone calls, urging them to vacate the premises, a practice that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and United States Army General Martin E. Dempsey said “went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” The Hamas government, on the other hand, urges these civilians to stay and die in order to try to protect their weapons caches.

In other words, Hamas directly encourages the martyrdom of its own citizens.

The situation in the Gaza Strip is unconscionable, and the Israel-Palestine conflict has displaced many innocent people and led to the deaths of many others. This is a human-rights travesty, and the rest of the world must unite to bring those responsible for it to justice. The entity at fault here, however, is not the IDF that aim to protect Israeli civilians from rocket strikes and secure a safe future for the Israeli people.

The entity at fault is the ruthless terrorist organization whose policies have led to the virtual suspension of international aid into Palestine. The same group who uses funds to construct illegal tunnels across Israeli borders and purchase weapons, as opposed to build much needed schools and hospitals for its citizens. The government that encourages women and children to die in order to protect their rocket caches. Justice in Palestine is an admirable goal, but it will not be accomplished through spreading hate for Israel. The rest of the world can begin to help the Palestinians once the government in charge in the Gaza Strip is not composed of genocidal, self-serving terrorists.

If ESJP truly wants to see fairer and safer conditions for the Palestinian people, they might do better in the future to try to inform the student body about the conflict fairly as opposed to posting blatantly offensive and misleading anti-Israel propaganda on Emory’s campus. If campus groups present information in this manner, Emory students can be unified in their desire to see the removal of Hamas as a governing power and protection of human rights in Gaza without becoming bogged down in an argument where students feel they have to either protect or condemn Israel.

Tyler Zelinger is a College sophomore from Commack, New York​.