Political discourse runs vigorously through the veins of this consortium. Claremont presents itself as a respectful community, open to people on all parts of the political spectrum without students feeling threatened by those who oppose them. Part of the reason I came to Claremont was because, as a prospective student, I was under the impression that Claremont was a safe environment where I could discuss my political opinions and have respectful, intellectual, and thoughtful conversations with my peers.
This respect is not granted, however, if you are a Zionist—or, more colloquially, pro-Israel. In my experience, I have found that if I mention of the State of Israel, someone will not respectfully disagree with me, but will get angry with me personally for supporting something that they see as flawed. I did not expect to be disrespected so vehemently, or to experience such hatred. I am not the only one who deals with this, and my story is not nearly the most troubling.
I have heard accounts of people saying “F*** you, Jews,” during Israeli Apartheid Week. Swastikas were drawn in Honnold/Mudd Library, resulting in two campus-wide bias-related incident notifications. An Israeli professor received nasty emails and was chastised for his beliefs. Two months ago, one of my friends had to rewrite the word “Israel” several times on the white board on her door because another student kept erasing it. All she wrote was “Ask me if you have any questions about Israel (clubs, trips).” What did erasing that word accomplish? But here’s the real question I want to ask, and one that I have discussed with Claremont students on many occasions: Why can’t we be civil when discussing Israel, Palestine, and the rest of the Middle East?
For some, these issues hit so close to home that they are unwilling to treat their ideological opponents as fellow human beings. What I find so paradoxical is that not only is the issue of treating people poorly so engrained as part of the greater conflict, but it is also a problem that permeates campus-wide debates. Whether you support Israel, Palestine, or both, there is always a question of whether one side believes that the other should have a right to statehood, to land, to peace, or even to mere existence. Before we can speak of hope for peace in the greater conflict, it is imperative for us, as a community, to stop the fighting words and change the dialogue.
Martin Luther King, Jr., a Zionist himself, famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If, as a community, we cannot take ownership of our collective humanity and start having dialogue with those whose opinions contradict ours, then we will not learn anything and will become the very agents of injustice that Claremont students love to fight against. This does not only go for discussions about Israel, but for discussions about everything. But if you wish to be part of a respectful, thoughtful, and intellectual dialogue on this specific conflict, then you are more than welcome to contact me. If you wish to gain a different perspective, then you are more than welcome to come to any event hosted by Claremont Students for Israel. I would love to hear what you have to say.