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.
Many Rutgers students woke up Monday morning with a better understanding of the threat Palestinians face living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Contrary to what Elisheva Rosen wrote in a letter to the editor earlier this week, this well-documented reality of Palestinians is not propaganda. Propaganda is a bias meant to mislead with false or exaggerated information — however, the eviction of Palestinians from their land is a physical reality that has occurred, is occurring and will continue to occur unless people begin to speak up. As students have read in the eviction notice, the occupation has internally displaced more than 160,000 Palestinians and continues to displace them, as many families still fight for the rightful ownership of their homes and land. The simple reality, stripped of all propaganda and exaggeration, is that Palestinians’ historical existence on their land is threatened everyday as they face eviction, demolition and ultimately homelessness. Elisheva writes that this eviction notice violates the students’ sense of home, the very place they feel safe. If what she says is true, that means the message of the mock notice has successfully been delivered. If the students felt a few seconds of uncertainty in a place they have called home for the past five weeks, then that means these students will ultimately have empathy for Palestinians who continue to feel uncertain and unsafe in a land they have called home for hundreds of years. Empathy is not hate. Hate is destructive and vengeful. Empathy is what arises when humans understand each other’s emotions, and recognize that security and a sense of home is a universal right. This simple understanding extends beyond religion, sexual orientation, race, class or physical distance. A few seconds into reading the notice, these Rutgers students noticed that it is indeed a mock-eviction notice. Palestinians do not have the luxury of exhaling a sigh of relief a few seconds into the reading. They have a deadline to meet, and they have to figure out how to fit their possessions into boxes with the knowledge that they have little to no power over an occupation that has consistently threatened their existence. We have the responsibility and luxury of empathy and extending awareness. If a campus as diverse and accepting as Rutgers cannot accept fact-based opinions, then where will they be accepted? I will end with a quote from Nelson Mandela, a revolutionary who understood the importance of humanity that transcended borders: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”