Letter to the Editor: VOICE responds to to SJP Protest and statements by President Bradley, SJP

VOICE is an acronym for Vassar Organizing Israel Conversations Effectively. This name is self-descriptive: We organize academic discourse about Israel/Palestine from a multitude of perspectives. The VOICE Executive Board unequivocally condemns the portion of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)’s statement which states that we “portray [ourselves] as promoting respectful dialogue on Israel/Palestine,” yet “this event will be no more than pro-Israel propaganda.” The reality is that we actually do create multifaceted dialogues. We brought Hen to campus to discuss his family’s experiences with ethnic cleansing and as Jewish refugees from Iraq and Tunisia, which is what he did. We first found out about Hen through JIMENA, the largest and most prominent advocacy organization for Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

VOICE does not condemn the entirety of SJP’s statement nor the entirety of their protest. SJP made valid criticisms of Hen’s Twitter presence and some of Hen’s previous statements about American activists. We wish that SJP and other protesters had decided to join us for Hen’s talk and asked him questions that challenged him on multiple issues. In the past, SJP has hosted very controversial speakers, and individual members of VOICE chose to attend those events peacefully, despite disagreements. Additionally, as a dialogue-based group, we would have appreciated input about concerns regarding Hen before the event, and we still welcome dialogue moving forward. We support students’ rights to protest and support that they came with flyers, posters and music. We condemn the chanting that occurred at the start of the event, as this did prevent Hen from continuing with his talk. Administration stepped outside to ask the protesters to quiet down, and they did not listen. This is an explicit violation of the College’s protest policy, through disturbing the speech and preventing him from speaking. 

We appreciate President Bradley’s statement, which says, “Students today knowingly violated th[e]se protocols, which is unacceptable. We will follow our internal processes to address the situation.” We ask that not only the College, but also the VSA, take appropriate measures in ensuring that this type of action against discourse does not happen again. Additionally, we ask that the organizers of the protest be mandated to attend a workshop on anti-Semitism; there is precedent for this. In 2015, the VSA and members of SJP were required to attend a workshop on anti-Semitism, and white members of the VSA were required to attend a workshop on whiteness during the spring 2017 semester. VOICE believes that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic; in fact, we actively criticize Israel in all of our meetings. That being said, there is a fine line between legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy and calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. If that line was not crossed, SJP certainly did teeter on the line. 

84 percent of American Jews believe the statement “Israel has no right to exist” is anti-Semitic, according to the the American Jewish Committee, which is often considered the dean of American Jewish organizations. We understand that this is not exactly a consensus, but we ask that students who do not believe Israel should exist should, at the very minimum, think about this idea. Why do 84 percent of American Jews believe the statement “Israel has no right to exist,” is anti-Semitic? Not all of our members agree with this statement, but many of them do—that’s the nature of a dialogue group. That being said, we ask that everyone involved in the conversation about Israel/Palestine consider this idea.

VOICE also condemns any interactions that Hen or his friend may have had with protesters, including but not limited to filming or photographing students. We are deeply sorry for any pain or stress this may have caused to individuals involved in the protests, and we ask that you please reach out to a member of VOICE so that we can remedy this in any way. Additionally, the VOICE board was not contacted by Hen before his tweets about the event, which we believe do not characterize the talk appropriately.

Thank you to all of those who chose to join us, despite any pressure there may have been to not attend the talk. We appreciate you and are here to support you in any way that we can. VOICE will continue to hold meetings and events where we promote dialogue and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians alike. We have never existed as a pro-Israel group to counter SJP’s pro-Palestine activism. Since our conception, we have been a group that supports dialogue, and we will continue to do just that. We hope that members of SJP and other protesters will join us in said dialogue in the near future.

The VOICE Executive Board

[Addition: A citation was added to substantiate the statistic that 84 percent of American Jews believe the phrase “Israel has no right to exist” is anti-Semitic.]

12 Comments

  1. Voice attempts to “create multifaceted dialogues”. So they brought to campus Mr Hen to discuss his families experience with ethnic cleansing. Sure, could Voice tell us when they plan to bring to campus a Palestinian speaker and his/her families experience with ethnic cleansing ? Have you ever brought to campus a Palestinian who explains his/her perspective ? Common, you’re the people who claim you bring multifaceted dialogues to campus.

    So you latch onto Ms Bradley a president who seems to be sucking up to the pro Israel alumni and trustees. How fitting of VOICE to ask SJP students to take anti-semitism classes. Sounds more like forced indoctrination we see Chinese do to the helpless Uighurs.

    Your’e organization’s own speaker Mr Hen violated the code of conduct by intimidating Vassar Students. Is Voice going to recommend a punishment for itself ? How about you self recommend to the “neutral” Ms. Bradley that your membership subject itself to some indoctrination on apartheid and ethnic cleansing ? Common Voice, if you can Chinese like indoctrination for a rule violation for the other side, why some mamby pamby apology for yourself ?

    I believe the protestors used the phrase “From the River to the Sea…” and you’ve kinda morphed it into “Israel has no right to exist”. Thats rather deceitful, The phrase they use is far from anti-semitic. Organizations like the AJC like to use anti-semitism as a cudgel to avoid any discussion of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land. Aren’t you doing the same.

    Also, if your’e going to use the American Jewish Community as some kinda moral standard for the rest of us, fine. Then are you going to hold them to the same moral standard when they pay lip service to a Palestinian homeland while they look the other way at the ever encroaching apartheid. That too is the nature of a dialogue. Are you willing to have that dialogue with the AJC and its affiliated organizations ?

  2. @Raj

    From the Hamas charter: “Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land.”

    Non-Jews do not get to define antisemitism for us. We are telling you, and have told everyone, that “from the river to the sea” is the SAME THING to us as a KKK member saying “Make America white again.”

    So do us all a favor and stop telling us how to feel. Should be pretty easy to pick a slogan without a genocidal association (if that is what you are looking for).

  3. @Alum91

    That Hamas statement, which incidentally is not in their charter (at least get your facts rights). Its used by a much of Palestinian nationalist movements. You may wish to educate yourself.

    The Likud Charter outright denies the Palestinians their state. I consider that a far more racist charter. I don’t hear condemnations from “antisemitism” howlers like you. You want to dictate what is antisemitism ? I think not.

    • There were times when Israel was willing to make peace and negotiate a homeland with the Palestinians only to be rejected. One situation was the Oslo accords that was rejected by Arafat. There was also a plan in the mid 2000s as well. Israel has sought the olive branch with Jordan and Egypt (2 of Israel’s biggest enemies) which is still working to this day. So here are my questions. If you feel that Israel is against peace (Likud) than where is the condemnation of the Palestinian leadership for not accepting peace and a home state? SJP chants from the river to the sea Palestine will be free. Yet Palestinians have their own government. Israel has pulled out of main Gaza and The West Bank. So if the Palestinians have freedom of elections and movement within the territories and they keep rejecting their own state than what does freedom mean to you? If you are angry at the blockade of Gaza and treatment of the Gaza residents than where is your equal condemnation of Egypt who is also involved in the blockade and recently flooded the tunnels from Gaza to Egypt killing dozens? If you feel that Zionism (which is the desire for a Jewish Homeland) is racism, where is the call that The Vatican is racist because it is a country for Catholics or Saudi Arabia (Mecca and Medina) because it is a country for Muslims? If you feel that Israel performs genocide against Palestinians, where is your equal condemnation for Hamas who uses civilians as human shields or sends children to blow themselves up to kill Israeli civilians? That’s the problem with SJP and other organizations like them. It’s not in their agenda for fair criticism! It’s not in their agenda for self reflection! Worst of all, it’s not in their agenda to be problem solvers! They are very good for raw unbalanced hatred!

      • @Rich – The Olso Accords weren’t rejected by Arafat. He along with Rabin signed them. Yet during Oslo was the largest rate of increase of Israeli settlement activity adding hundreds of thousand of illegal settlers to Palestinian lands. Israel signs an Accord and then debases it and you want to blame the Palestinians. That’s rich.

        “where is the condemnation of the Palestinian leadership for not accepting peace and a home state” – Rich, could you point to a peace plan that was ever submitted on a table, fully clearly and in its entirety. You can’t cause there never has been any. All we get is Israel offered this and Israel offered that.

        ” if the Palestinians have freedom of elections and movement within the territories” – They don’t, even in the prisons called Gaza and West Bank. There are plenty of Israeli road blocks and Army encampments.

        Get your facts right.

  4. @raj you got me, it’s not in the charter, just a favorite talking point.

    Your misdirection is typical. Nobody is talking about Likud. We are talking about your SJP comrades who have gone from posting Nazi propaganda to chanting genocidal slogans.

    • They apologized. Compare that to Israeli give unapologetic theft of Palestinian lands and canoodling with Europe’s Neo Right who openly display racist symbols and ideology.

      Your pretense of some higher morality is a sham

      • Oh they apologized! Then everything is fine!

        Their subsequent behavior shows the sincerity of their apology and newfound sensitivity. Raj, you are the worst.

  5. Yes, it is true that the Hamas charter does not include the genocidal chant that was sang by the anti-Semites from SJP last week. The Hamas charter is even worse. Chapter Seven provides: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp
    We have the First Amendment (which evidently SJP does not believe in), Hamas has kill the Jew behind the tree.
    May this Darkness soon be eradicated from this Beautiful Oasis of Learning!

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