Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Letter to the Editor: SU SJP – Offering Context and Insight into Recent Campus Discussions

In light of the recent op-ed and Instagram post released by Redhawks for Israel (RFI) leadership, Seattle University Students for Justice in Palestine (SU SJP) would like to clarify our stance and contextualize the timeline of events.

Both forms of media released by RFI have failed to include crucial context and facts, curating a narrative that both dismisses the Palestinian community’s experience and equates the opinion of one non-student as the primary belief of Seattle University students.

At the November 15th SGSU meeting reaffirming the 2021 Resolution on Solidarity with Palestine, a Palestinian member of the public spoke. He is not affiliated with SU SJP, nor is he a student at Seattle University. We are not aware of how he was allowed to enter campus premises.

He started by explaining his background, as a Palestinian refugee who was displaced from his home due to Israeli state violence, and ended up having to live in three different refugee camps. In his statement, he expressed frustration about how he, despite being a Palestinian at birth and now holding American citizenship, could not visit Palestine, whereas others who are not indigenous to the land can easily visit, live there, and benefit from the system of occupation.

He became emotional and proceeded to say “Take the Jews back to Europe, where they came from.”

The speaker was understandably emotional, as he covered his lived experience of the brutal and re-occurring displacement of Palestinians.

Both the op-ed released in The Spectator and the subsequent Instagram post allege that at this point, following the speaker’s statement, “the room erupted in applause.” It is inaccurate to characterize the room as such, since as can be seen in the full meeting recording, this response was no different from that given after every public comment. Moreover, the video on the post mutes the audio of the clapping following the speaker’s comments, implying that there was distinct additional support for the speaker, which is untrue.

The speaker then made a second comment to clarify his points, which is not mentioned in the op-ed nor the post. He shared that in the first grade, his UNRWA school in a refugee camp taught him “to separate between Zionism and Judaism, so I, for my Jewish brothers and sisters, who are here to support us, I want you to know that this problem is not between Muslims and Jewish [people]…This is not about religion, this is about peace, this is about land.” (audio recording linked)

While we recognize the background and impact of settler colonialism in his life, we also recognize how his statement made students feel unsafe. Our priority is and has been to ensure accurate, productive, safe, and respectful discourse.

SU SJP unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism as it is a form of oppression and bigotry, aligning with our condemnation of all forms of oppression, including the occupation, dehumanization, and displacement of Palestinians.

Immediately after the meeting, we emailed the boards of Redhawks for Israel (RFI), the Jewish Student Union (JSU), their advisors, and the Vice Provost for Student Development, explaining that the speaker was not a student, nor was that particular phrase reflective of SU SJP’s views. We still have not received a response from the clubs’ leadership.

Moving on from the meeting timeline, we also want to highlight the inaccurate historical facts that are brought up in the op-ed and post. 

It is harmful to claim that all migrants to Israel are “indigenous” to the land. The claim that “over half of the Jewish population in Israel migrated from North African and Southwest Asian countries” is historically inaccurate, since of the 2.92 million Jewish migrants who have come to Israel since 1948, 1.76 million have come from Europe. This claim has been used as a means to justify the violence of the settler colonial state that has brutally displaced indigenous Palestinians of all faiths.

Finally, we want to highlight the hostile and aggressive environment that has resulted from the post. Since the post was published, there has been a surge in aggressive and violent rhetoric targeted towards Palestinian student advocates, as well as blatant historical inaccuracies being spread. This ranges from comments such as “anti Zionism is wanting the eradication of Israel you can burn in hell” or “Hey haters! News flash! Zionism = Judaism and Antizionism = Antisemitism!!”

We are concerned about the explicit calls for violence and overall derogatory comments that are being made towards students. Over the past two months, we’ve seen this harmful messaging evolve into numerous cases of direct violence, such as the recent shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent in Vermont or the doxxing of pro-Palestinian students.

Moreover, equating a political ideology like Zionism, founded in 1897, to Judaism, a religion established nearly 4,000 years ago, is not only historically inaccurate, but also vilifies valid critiques of a political movement.

It is hypocritical to criticize the words of one non-student speaker on one side, rightfully so, while actively enabling and tolerating numerous instances of derogatory statements on the other side.

A clear distinction must be made between criticisms of political ideologies such as Zionism and harmful rhetoric against religious or ethnic groups, such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

SU SJP urges the Seattle University community to engage in objective, respectful, and fact-based dialogue, while promoting justice and standing against all forms of oppression.


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