I first would like to thank the entire Daily Free Press staff for taking the time to write the article entitled, “Students host awareness weeks to address Middle East conflict.”
This week, Boston University Students for Israel (BUSI) held its annual “Israel Peace Week” on campus. Similarly, Israel clubs at universities around the country partake in this initiative to support Israel and its efforts to promote peace in the Middle East.
The goal for this year’s events was “Outreach.” We held events trying to engage other cultural clubs on campus to show that even though we all come from different backgrounds and different communities, we all have something to teach the university. Our highlight event was the Second Annual International Food Festival, which included countries with Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam as majority religions. For the second year in a row, we were able to gather over 250 people to come together and appreciate culture through food. The difference between this year’s and last year’s food festival was that we invited Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to serve food, just as we invited every other club to the event. We did this so that each club could promote peaceful dialogue between our organizations. While SJP did attend the event, Henry McLaughlin, a member of SJP, expressed his concerns during the event in an interview. McLaughlin’s comments were written in the article mentioned earlier:
“We had a lot of debate amongst ourselves about the morality on doing this. Nobody here, serving this food [at the food festival] is Palestinian. Probably because they feel it’d be inappropriate to acknowledge, sort of validate Israel Peace Week.”
Why does one need to question the morality of a food festival? There is absolutely no politics behind it. While BUSI made a strong effort to include SJP, their lack of attendance and participation because it might “validate Israel Peace Week” is inconsiderate and unprofessional. BUSI identifies SJP as a cultural club at Boston University and I know that the feeling is not reciprocated.
Wednesday night, we held a lecture featuring a current Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserve soldier who came to talk about Arab volunteers in the IDF and their choosing to partake in Israel’s national military. The goal of this event was to promote dialogue amongst pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students on campus in a respectful and polite way. It was at this event that SJP interrupted the speaker and proceeded to leave, littering the room with propaganda. Their “walk-out” gives proof to their unwillingness to participate in a meaningful conversation about a topic very relatable to the organization.
These two instances came after a debate that was held last semester by the Boston University World Affairs Forum. I participated in the debate as the pro-Israel representative and had the opportunity to speak alongside a well-educated student who represented the pro-Palestinian side. What disturbed me about this event was that SJP declined to send a representative from their organization to speak on their behalf because the gesture would recognize the state of Israel. During the question and answer session, SJP disrupted the event by reading a statement for why they chose not to participate and then proceeded to make false statements towards me, breaking the code of conduct the event organizers explained before the event.
Unfortunately these three instances indicate that the pro-Palestinian leadership on campus is more focused on disrupting Israel educational events than having a serious dialogue on how to create a better future for both peoples.
Boston University is an institution where students ought to explore their views and beliefs in a safe, and respectful environment. In order to achieve peaceful dialogue, both sides need to put aside their differences and understand the importance of learning about each other’s views.
Daniel Hochberg, a junior in the School of Management, can be reached at [email protected]