The Daily Free Press did a great job covering the events of Israel “Peace” Week and Israeli Apartheid Week. However, I think there were a few very important things that were left out. As mentioned in the article “Students host awareness weeks to address Middle East conflict,” BU Students for Israel (BUSI) hosted a presentation on Arabs in the IDF given by Yoav Levin. About half of the attendees walked out following the first 10 minutes of the presentation in an effort to peacefully protest any association of Boston University to the Israeli Defense Forces.
I hope to offer the perspective that wasn’t present in the article, as one of the organizers of the walkout.
Walkouts have shown to express disapproval quite effectively. Historically, the East Los Angeles walkouts forced the LA Unified school district to provide a better quality education and inspired some of the civil rights campaigns in the Chicano movement. In 1836, women in this very state — in Lowell, MA — walked out of factory mills due to poor worker’s rights. They forced the mills to cut the housing costs and cooperate with women worker’s organizations.
With this productive and inspiring spirit in mind, we walked out to show disapproval of Yoav Levin’s presentation. While we undoubtedly support his freedom of speech, we don’t agree with him presenting on our campus. More so, we don’t agree with him discussing the topic of Arabs in the IDF. And frankly, we are not trying to make it okay that an IDF soldier was here and simply that he was wrong in things he said. That is what I believe a dialogue would do.
As BU students, we wanted to most effectively communicate to BUSI that we are uncomfortable with any association of BU with a member of a group that is known to abuse human rights and contribute to a country’s violation of numerous international laws according to the U.N.
Many people have been compelled to state that this is an example of BU Students for Justice in Palestine’s (BUSJP) unwillingness to have a healthy dialogue, but this wasn’t BUSJP. Though this serves irrelevant to the point being made, SJP wasn’t “invited” to the presentation, contrary to popular belief. This initiative was done by a collection of various BU students. Claiming it is BUSJP discredits some of the students who respectfully protested the event and have no affiliation to the organization — not even attendance at a single SJP meeting or event.
Lastly, there was one incident that I believe deserves more attention. The fact of the matter is the whole walkout was peaceful and respectful. While the idea of a walkout might rub some people as aggressive, the students participating in the event did not instigate any kind of confrontation or aggression. They were reminded before the event to remain silent if approached. However, one of the students recording the walkout was blocked from peacefully exiting the presentation room by a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. The brother flashed his fraternity letters and prevented a proper recording of the walkout by sticking an Israeli flag in the camera and restricting the student from not only filming but leaving. The most alarming part about this intimidation was that the individuals in this incident were a 5’ 2’’ female and a 6’-plus male. The AEPi Boston page shared — and later deleted — the video of this occurrence where you can hear the startled girl whisper, “you can’t block me from walking.”
This whole ordeal showed that the efforts on the side of the walkout participants was peaceful, no “double-edged sword” present, the participants even went to the Hillel lobby, where the event was being held, and passed out cookies.
BU students should know of these incidents on campus. As Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, we should foster a safe environment where differing opinions are welcome and intimidation does not silence a cause. If a female activist isn’t safe to walk out of an event on BU grounds peacefully, do you think she’s safe enough to speak up and discuss her views in a so-called dialogue?
Sana Hashmani, College of Engineering Senior