Hillel apology missing much needed accountability
On Friday, Andrew Getraer and Ariel Lubow came out with a response to Sara Zayed’s column. As a person mentioned in the article, I feel obligated to respond. I want to start off by rejecting the halfhearted apology I received in the article. Not only did it dismiss incidents of verbal and physical harassment the volunteers and I suffered, but reported them as an isolated incident committed by one person not part of the Rutgers University community. I would like to confirm that as a recipient of such abuse, this is false. “The offending bigot was not a member of the Rutgers Hillel community” as the article puts it, is incorrect. They are students and members of Rutgers I recognize on campus and in my classrooms. It was also more than one person that harassed the Arab and Muslim volunteers.
I was repeatedly called names as I passed through the crowd and was given little to no room as I attempted to retrieve people who were genuinely interested in attending the event. I had to stand silently as a man came inches away from my face and whispered to me that as a woman of my heritage, I cannot possibly understand freedom and love because I was never given it. I had to hold back tears as I was forced to reaffirm my Americaness and my humanity while the Douglass Campus Center television screens showed images of people risking their lives for freedom. I was forced to stay quiet when I was pushed and had random hands grab at my scarf. I was outnumbered. I was a minority. I was not safe. No matter how many one-sentence apologies and justifications written three years after the event, I cannot forget the trauma I experienced that night.
Getraer was present at the “Never Again for Anyone “ event, and he continuously raised his voice at my fellow student volunteers and me. To shelve this as an external incident not part of Hillel dismisses our experiences of harassment from our Rutgers colleagues. Since I do not find this apology genuine because it was only said as a means to distance Hillel from the bigotry that took place that night, I will not accept this apology.
The article also discusses former Hillel president, Sarah Morrison, thanking Pamela Geller and how she had no idea who Geller was when she thanked her. There is more than one video recording in which Sarah thanks Geller for mobilizing people to come protest the event and invites her to come speak at Rutgers. Contrary to the article, the exact words of Sarah in the recording was, “We had a couple of people here who have been [in] touch with you about coming to Rutgers lately and, absolutely, I invite you to come. I heard you at CPAC last year, and I’ll hear you this year [hopefully if you’re there]… We cannot express our gratitude for your help.” It is clear that Sarah was very much aware who she was thanking and inviting to speak at Rutgers University.
I will not respond to the rest of the inaccurate statements in the article. I only want to clear up the notion that one person harassed the Muslim and Arab volunteers when it was, in fact, multiple Rutgers students and Hillel members. I understand the importance of why Hillel, an organization that organizes “Days without Hate,” would want to distance themselves from hateful actions, but they cannot dismiss or dance around the truth of my experiences because I experienced them.
As a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, I cannot think of a better conclusion than the one Lubow and Getraer ended with. The hope that truth — the truth of experience, of history, of occupation, of resistance — prevails, and love — love for those who are continuously dehumanized, killed or kicked out of their homes and nations and forced to become refugees in the various corners of this earth — wins in the end.
I think “Days Without Hate” is a universal idea that everyone can get behind. I just hope these “Days” can include Palestinians and fellow Rutgers students like me.
Hadiya Abdelrahman is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in Middle Eastern studies and women’s and gender studies.