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July 18, 2018 11:16 am

How Students for Justice in Palestine Undermines Tolerance and Peace

avatar by Natalie Segev

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A display erected by Penn Students for Justice in Palestine during its “Israeli Apartheid Week” campaign. Photo: Penn SJP.

In 1967, after the Six Day War, the leaders of eight Arab countries convened and adopted the Khartoum Resolution. This resolution implemented “The 3 No’s” — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.

Fast forward 50 years and a similar policy has been implemented on US college campuses. But some groups, like Students for Justice in Palestine, have adapted it to include a fourth no — no normalization.

Usually, no normalization entails no contact or collaboration with students who support Israel. This process of dehumanization varies at each school and the practice can either be openly admitted or an unspoken fact. In some cases, it can even go so far as anti-Israel activists refusing to socialize with people associated with pro-Israel students.

There are numerous problems with this practice.

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The first problem is that it demonizes any and all supporters of Israel, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. In my freshmen year, I started to attend Hillel events and openly supported Israel. Therefore, individuals were commanded not to talk to me, because — according to them — socializing with me would mean supporting genocide. Some of my friends, who remain neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, were pulled aside by anti-Israel activists on numerous occasions and pressured to “unfriend” me. It is a normal occurrence that when I walk down the hallway, a handful of individuals will stop talking and stare at me.

The more involved I became with Hillel, the more this treatment escalated. It was like I was no longer human. These interactions have ranged from people mockingly chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” while waving the Palestinian flag, to an anti-Israel activist speaking about how they’d like to punch their enemies in the face.

These same people have never asked me where I stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and if you believe that this is the first time Jews have faced unwarranted, racist, and libelous accusations on campus, you would be profoundly mistaken.

This ties into another problem: if Palestinian activists are isolating all Zionists, then there will never be a peaceful resolution to the conflict. A resolution must come about from both sides. How do groups on college campuses think they will reach that resolution if they completely isolate, ignore, and demonize anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist?

Not normalizing sounds innocent on the surface. However, this is just the beginning of the process of dehumanization. All I did was attend a Hillel event. This was the only indicator that I was a Zionist — with the word “Zionist” left up to interpretation. Because of that, students were pressured not to talk to me and friends of mine were constantly told to abandon me.

So I will extend an invitation: I invite anyone to sit down and have a civilized conversation with me. Ask me what I think about the conflict and what my ideas of possible solutions are. Ask about my connection to the land of Israel and what my Zionism means. You should even ask me what I think about the treatment of Palestinians and their rights. Hear my case before you prematurely sentence me. I promise you, you will be surprised.

Natalie Segev is a John Jay College of Criminal Justice CAMERA Fellow.

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