In my time as a student at FIU, I have always felt that our institution and my classmates are innovators, forward thinkers, and leaders of tomorrow. However, attending an event hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine at FIU this past Monday afternoon made me think otherwise. This was the group’s first event in over a year and I was cautiously curious what they would have to say. SJP presented a slideshow of skewed statistics and hypergraphic imagery meant to evoke a sense of peril in the conflict. Throughout the event, they made their opinion very clear: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is 100% the fault of Israel.
As president of ShalomFIU, FIU’s Israel culture and education club, I seek to educate the student body about Israel and simultaneously promote understanding and cooperation to work towards a peaceful future for people living in Israel and the surrounding areas. I wish SJP had the same goals. The conflicts of the Middle East, especially something as long standing and multifaceted as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the greater Israel-Arab conflict, cannot be simplified into a powerpoint of “we’re right and they’re wrong”, which is exactly what SJP attempted to do.
Over the duration of the event, Hamas (the terrorist organization that controls and terrorizes Gaza and Israel) was not mentioned once. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its dark history of terrorism was not mentioned once. The West Bank based terror group, Islamic Jihad, was not mentioned once. The Palestinian Authority’s budget to pay terrorists and their families was not mentioned once. The hateful incitement and demonization of Jews in Palestinian textbooks was not mentioned once. The employment opportunities that Palestinian Arabs have in Israel and the West Bank were not mentioned once. The lack of true freedom within the Palestinian-controlled territories was not mentioned once. But what’s worse than all of that– a proposed measure of hope for peace and justice was not mentioned once.
When we host an event through ShalomFIU, we ensure a portrayal of hope. Our programs are meant to include messages of coexistence, mutual understanding, compromise, peace, and justice. That is how, we believe, you build trust. That is how, I believe, you build relationships. That is what Shalom is all about. Hence why we call ourselves Shalom FIU. “Shalom” in Hebrew and “Salam” in Arabic means hi, bye, and peace or completeness. It is an all-encompassing word that brings together people regardless of their race, color, or religion in the aim of having a more in-depth dialogue about how to move forward with peace and justice.
To say all this does not mean that Israel is perfect, in fact it’s far from it. But that doesn’t mean it is justified for SJP to distort the facts and brainwash the student body. They deceive lay students into believing this conflict is black and white; Israel is Goliath and Palestine is David. It was indeed both ironic and bizarre that having sat for an hour at an event hosted by “Students for Justice in Palestine” the idea of “justice” had not been discussed once.
I asked the board of SJP a simple question: “Being that we are talking about two peoples that are neighbors and are going to continue being such, what in your opinion, is the step that needs to be taken towards peace and justice?”
While they did not answer my question directly, someone sitting nearby who identified themselves as Palestinian said “I am very glad you asked that. The thing is that the issue is not really about Israel and Palestine. The issue is with Zionism itself.”
Zionism, by definition, is the right of the Jewish People to live freely, safely, and have self-determination in their ancient homeland. By no means is Zionism’s existence at the expense of Palestinian Arabs, nor has it ever been. Though the opinion of this student, implicitly endorsed by the rest of the attendees at the event make it clear to me: SJP believes in justice, but only for the Arab and predominantly Muslim citizens of the Palestinian Authority. Theirs is what I would call a fragmented justice, a zero-sum game where either the Israelis win or the Palestinians win, but never both. This sort of “justice” is no justice at all.
ShalomFIU seeks to educate and engage in dialogue so in our small way we can eliminate the notion of this zero-sum game. We are Zionists we are proud of being Israel activists. We are also pro-Palestinian, and we believe that justice for both people does not have to come at the expense of the other. I only wish that SJP saw it the same way.
Contributed by Meyer Grunberg, president of CAMERA-supported group ShalomFIU.