Some Emory students woke up to find fake eviction notices posted on their doors on April 2. These flyers were posted by members and allies of Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) to raise awareness about forced evictions of Palestinians. The protests were a part of Israeli Apartheid Week, which coincides with Emory’s Israel Week. Emory Residence Life approved the flyers, but they removed those put on students’ doors because they violated a policy against posting flyers on students’ doors without their consent. Nonetheless, the conversation about Palestinian rights is one that must continue.
ESJP deserves credit for starting the discussion. Their notice stated that 27,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed and 160,000 Palestinians have been left homeless since 1967, citing the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions for these statistics. The United Nations estimates that over 60,000 Palestinians are homeless in the occupied Gaza Strip and 70 percent of the population relies on international aid. B’Tselem, an Israeli non-profit organization, states that Israeli authorities have torn down at least 1,964 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since just 2006.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in refugee camps where their movement and access to aid are restricted, which is in violation of international humanitarian law. These are not Hamas-affiliated terrorists; they are real people who have been uprooted from their homes and live in conditions that some even compare to those of Nazi Germany’s Jewish ghettos.
Though Emory Hillel said that they “support the right of every student in our community to express themselves freely,” they also called for the University to “[ensure] the safety our students deserve to feel in their homes.” But don’t Palestinians deserve the same right? If the Israeli community at Emory genuinely supports freedom of speech and individual safety, they need to be self-reflexive and open to conversations about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. These concerns are real because the people impacted by those policies are real. Palestinians have as much a right to feel safe in their homes as Jewish students have a right to feel safe at Emory.
Free speech is highly valued at Emory, as the University earned the highest rating possible from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. This tradition of open expression helps students understand multiple perspectives, and these critical conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are a prerequisite to a more equal and just global society. Emory must not shy away from fostering dialogue about such controversial but important topics.
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.
Anthony Wong (21C) is from Lexington, Mass.
Correction (4/3/19 at 4:25 p.m.): A previous version of this op-ed stated that Emory Hillel confirmed that no Jewish students were targeted by the flyers. In fact, Emory Hillel said that there is no evidence that Jewish students were targeted.