7 Steps Away From “Freedom and Equality”

December 16, 2013


molly rosen

Molly Rosen

Tuesday morning, 12/10/13, thousands of University of Michigan students in various dorms across campus woke up to a mock eviction notice from the University of Michigan Housing Department. It said:

If you do not vacate the premises by 13 DECEMBER 6 PM, we reserve the right to demolish your premises without delay. We cannot be held responsible for property or persons remaining inside. Charges for demolition will be applied to your student account.”

(See below for notice)

This notice was followed with a Michigan Daily Viewpoint explaining the mock eviction as “a tool of political satire intended to emulate a situation that thousands of Palestinians confront on a regular basis.” The viewpoint called for university students to “join and support the BDS movement” against Israel. Both the notice and article addressed some very controversial topics in an extremely offensive, aggressive, illogical, and factually incorrect manner.

This campaign was launched by S.A.F.E. (Students Allied for Freedom & Equality), a student organization at the University of Michigan that vows to only engage in peaceful and constructive actions. The Mock Eviction campaign broke the peace of mind of thousands of students on campus and was only constructive in tearing communities and individuals at the University apart.

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The mock eviction campaign took 7 steps away from “ Freedom & Equality” on campus:

1. University Rules Were Broken

The University Housing Department’s long-standing solicitation policy that bans non-dorm residents from handing out material to spread awareness was violated. On Tuesday, the department sent an email that condemned the organization for violating such policy and invading students’ personal space. The email emphasized that, “students who received this message did not have the ability to choose whether to engage in this conversation.” At the moment it is unclear what reparations SAFE will face for violating such policy, if any at all.

2. Emotions Were Abused

Putting fake eviction notices in the dorm rooms of innocent students is not only a direct violation of such policy, but an infringement on student morale as well.

3. Intellectual Openness Was Disregarded

The mock eviction created an emotional stir for those who are both educated and uneducated on the topic. The campaign manipulated unknowing students by neglecting key facts and evidence while leading them to believe the Arab-Israeli conflict is one-sided and has a clear right and wrong. If it were, wouldn’t it have been solved years ago?

4. Eviction Notices Misrepresented the Issue

The eviction notice reads, “Eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under oppressive Israeli occupation for no reason other than their ethnic background.” This neglects the fact that homes given such eviction notices are illegally built. Israel, like every other government, “has zoning, municipal, and other laws regulating construction” that they must enforce. Israel is not targeting specific families because of ethnicity and race, but rather Israel is upholding their law as every other nation has the right to do. In fact, between 1993 and 2001, Israel evicted far more Israeli homes than Palestinian homes [1].

5. Israel Was Incorrectly Accused of Apartheid

Apartheid is a state where national law intentionally segregates and discriminates against citizens by race. The eviction notices referring to “Israel’s apartheid policies [are] against the Palestinian people [and] are in gross violation of internationally recognized human rights” is factually incorrect. The State of Israel is a Democracy that prides itself on racial equality, ethics, and human rights for all, “enshrined in Israel’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence.” To call Israel an “Apartheid” state is to desecrate Nelson Mandela’s struggle [2].

6. Divestment Was Called For

S.A.F.E.’s viewpoint called for the BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—Movement to commence on campus. They described it as “nothing controversial” and a pure attempt to “elevate human rights” on campus. BDS calls for the university to divest “from Israel [which] would mean divesting from companies that have explicit ties with and profit from the Israeli occupation—companies that engage in selling military technology that aids and facilitates violence against civilians, operating racially segregated bus systems, and providing services to illegal settlements” [3]. This movement is indeed extremely “controversial”, as divesting in Israeli companies would push society backwards—all cell phones and laptops contain Israeli technology.

7. Campus Organizations Were Pulled Farther Apart 

U of M students have taken tremendous steps towards focusing on peace initiatives and collaboration over the past years. What’s sadder is that those who worked hard to engage with students behind the mock evictions were verbally attacked and demonized…and felt betrayed. Facebook and Twitter posts displayed harsh attacks against students who expressed dismay. Campus list serve blasts sent out by SAFE abused university list serve privileges with hate speech and biased information.

A Call For Freedom and Equality On Campus:

Together, we handled our emotional responses by joining in a productive dialogue, reflecting on our thoughts, feelings, and utter confusions about how our University of Michigan community was lessened. We wrote articles and corrected misinformation about Israel on Facebook and Twitter, and voiced our concerns to our elected student government representatives and campus administrators.

Moving forward, I am eager to begin next semester and continue our efforts at peace, our efforts in collaboration and dialogue, and our efforts to maintain a SAFE campus where intellectual openness and respect is valued and upheld.

This piece was originally published on 12/16/2013 in the CAMERA on Campus blog, in Focus. Molly Rosen was a 2013 CAMERA Advocacy and Leadership Training Mission to Israel Trip Participant. She is currently a University of Michigan senior, majoring in Judaic Studies and Political Science.

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