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Recent events on campus regarding mock eviction notices distributed by Students for Justice in Palestine have elicited several letters and opinions, most recently in a letter published in The Daily Targum by Ezra Sholom. These letters may leave an impression regarding Rutgers Hillel’s response that is both false and misleading and begs clarification.
There has been recent controversy at the University over a student organization’s decision to spread awareness about an extreme political issue by slipping flyers under the doors of different residence halls on each campus. The actions and crackdown on certain organizations are not only inappropriate, but they contradict the values of Rutgers. I am referring to the action of the Students for Justice in Palestine’s action of distributing mock eviction notices to several dorms to inform that thousands of Palestinians have been forcefully evacuated from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Regardless of one’s political views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, both sides should be able to freely express themselves. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the Rutgers SJP chapter has been facing extreme and biased treatment because of it. Certain individuals have been targeting SJP and its members strictly because they disagree with them. This unfair attack, which no pro-Israel organization has faced, threatens Rutgers students’ ability to express themselves on campus.
I see it every day, and so do you. Even though you’ve been enrolled for over a month, you probably cease to notice it. It is an unavoidable sight and is on everything from buses, laundry bags, windows of dormitories and on the red shirts and caps many of us wear walking to class. It’s somewhere on the newspaper you are reading right now. I can’t say that I hate the bold red logo, our capital R. It’s large, it’s bright, it stands out, its serif gives it formality but being a single letter, it’s actually simple. As a senior I have found my mailbox recently saturated with advertisements for class rings. Out of curiosity I looked at the options and was annoyed that every ring setting featured that large capital letter, which I already see twenty times a day. Most other schools have their class rings engraved with their seals — shields, scrolls, swords, tomes, torches, etc. surrounded by Latin mottos. Though our school does have a wonderful emblem, it is not as ubiquitous as that single red letter. If you haven’t taken a good look at Rutgers’ lamppost flags, or some of its lecterns, you should. Our school seal is a luminous sun with projecting rays, wrapped around by a Latin motto and then our name and founding year. The sun at the center represents enlightenment. The Latin motto, “Sol iustitiae et occidentem illustra,” which translates to “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also,” a humble plea from when New Jersey was nearer to the periphery of the frontier and not the center of the Universe as it is today. Rutgers changed a lot in its 247-year history. It has grown from a small all-male Dutch Reform Church seminary on the Raritan River to The State University of New Jersey — a diverse research institution with multiple campuses around the state where thousands of students graduate each year. In the words of our alma mater, I hope we “evermore shall” retain our school seal. A reminder of not only how we began, but also of what we should be: a bright star with far-reaching rays.
I wanted to congratulate The Daily Targum for its editorial on the so-called “Columbus Day” titled “Columbus Day is not a celebration.” As early as 1992, the City Council of Berkeley, Calif. voted to celebrate this day as “Indigenous People’s Day” and other progressive communities around the United States have been following suit, sometimes using the term “Native Americans Day.” As you say, Columbus didn’t discover anything.
In a recent letter to The Daily Targum, “Students do not need to be sheltered from reality,” John Lisowski asked what was wrong with the Students for Justice in Palestine’s eviction notice campaign. He makes the argument that the information on the SJP fliers was “accurate and uncontested,” and asks for someone to explain why students should have to be sheltered from these “facts.” As they say in the vernacular: challenge accepted.
I am befuddled by Daily Targum columnist Sabri Rafi’s piece encouraging the University community to live in ignorance because, well, the world is a not happy place, and “Breaking Bad” is quality television. The examples used to encourage this disinterest in world affairs are CNN and Fox News. I don’t know if anyone would consider either the nation’s premier journalism. Whether it’s the reporting on the “poop cruise” or forcing us to listen to Bill O’Reilly, the networks make it impossible not to want to curl into a ball and watch Walter White. Luckily for the “U-S-of-A” and the author, there is hope. The news is now more diverse than ever with sources such as newspapers — the pieces of gray stuff with the black stuff that gets on your hands. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are each doing excellent journalistic work right now. Reasoned and vetted, they provide reliable information in this day and age where “fair and balanced” is a joke. Lest we forget National Public Radio, available on 93.9 FM for those of us in New Brunswick, “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” can give you plenty of information that you will not hate. It’s the news, not the screaming heads which the writer has mistaken for news. I cannot forget my medium of choice — magazines. The world of magazines is second only to the Internet in its diversity. Whether you like knitting or want to stay fit during pregnancy, there is a magazine for it. Offerings such as Time Magazine, while not what they once were, offer an easy to read and quality round-up of what’s going on in the world. The New Yorker, New York Magazine and The Atlantic cover the world and its happenings at a distance that can help bring sanity to our 24/7 world. It is the duty of a citizen in a representative democracy to know the state of the world. Our votes are what choose our leaders, and last I checked, Walter White wasn’t on the ballot. The news can suck, but when you use CNN and Fox News as evidence, you are looking in all the wrong places. News should not be passively consumed with the TV on while burning hours playing “Minecraft.” It is a commitment and takes effort. We are at college to gain knowledge. A man who reads the New York Times everyday is a man of great knowledge. After all, it’s all the news that is fit to print.
Earlier this week, students found mock eviction notices under their doors stating their dorm rooms were scheduled for demolition. This was part of a campaign by Students for Justice in Palestine to spread awareness about Palestinian affairs. Naturally, the move was met with opposition. Critics were quite passionate about their disapproval, using harsh language such as “hate speech” and “propaganda” to describe the mock notices. However, these criticisms were never substantiated. One is left to wonder what is so hateful about SJP’s fliers.
Sunday night, Oct. 6, very realistic “eviction notices” were placed under doors of student residence halls and apartment buildings at the University. They were so realistic, in fact, that many students were, at first, led to believe they were being evicted from their place of residence. The notice, a publicity stunt by Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine, was distributed to spread propaganda, create confusion and to gain attention.
The Israeli/Palestinian question is one of the most divisive issues of our time. It’s extraordinarily rare to encounter anyone who doesn’t have strong, heartfelt views on the subject. Furthermore, the issue has ramifications quite close to home – many Rutgers students have family and friends that are directly involved in one of the world’s most enduring conflicts. Although I am Jewish and a strong supporter of the state of Israel, I empathize with the plight of the Palestinian people. All people have the right of self-determination – the right to live freely in countries based on their nationality. However, blaming Israel alone does not solve anything. The Israeli people have shown time and time again their willingness to make great sacrifices in the name of peace. Witness the Camp David accords of 1978, which resulted in the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and a lasting treaty between the two nations. Closer to our own time, there was the 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip – a move which cost thousands of Israelis their homes. On the other hand, the Palestinian people have been continuously sold out by those who were supposed to be their leaders and protectors. The original occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was that of Egypt and Jordan. After the 1948 War of Independence, land that was supposed to be established as a Palestinian state was instead annexed by its fellow Arab nations. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the then head of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, 97% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and part of Jerusalem for the Palestinian capital. Here was a golden opportunity for peace – and Arafat refused. I would submit that if the Palestinians really want peace and a state of their own, they should remove their corrupt and violent leaders, and banish the hateful rhetoric that unfortunately characterizes so much of their media today. Why are grossly anti-Semitic cartoons that would not look out of place in the pages of Der Strumer in the 1930s still appearing on official Palestinian Authority television today? Why do Palestinians tolerate terrorists launching rockets against innocent civilians when they must know it hurts their cause? If they are seeking two states living side by side in peace, then the Palestinian people must take genuine steps to stop terrorism and work toward a meaningful solution – and the way to do that is not by inciting fear and hatred.
In a time where the Rutgers name is sullied by avoidable controversies, another rises from its oldest standing tradition. The Rutgers University Glee Club has changed a 140 year-old tradition, the alma mater, to gender-neutral lyrics. The sudden move for political correctness was done without consulting the Rutgers community — not even the female Rutgers community.
The Rutgers administration has passively endorsed the lyrical revision to the Rutgers alma mater, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan.” This autocratic action taken by a small selection of faculty and students has me scratching my head. If the powers that be want social change to happen without serious controversy, shouldn’t the administration see to it that there be an opportunity for broad input from the University community? Would it not be prudent to at least pay lip service to the alumni base that support Rutgers financially? The overt willingness to alienate so many by excluding them from this process is frustrating and confusing. “On the Banks” is one of few traditions that connect us to our alma mater — altering its text risks sacrificing the personal affiliation one feels with Rutgers. Alter it in despotic, almost sneaky fashion and you all but guarantee this severing. Those in favor of change argue that the song should better represent the University community. How strange that the opinion of that community is not being sought in any kind of open forum. This will be at the front of my mind when Rutgers University Telefund comes calling this year.
Earlier this week, I was woken in the middle of the night by a phone call informing me of the deplorable, yet unsurprising, actions of an anti-Israel student organization on campus. Editorials, letters to the editor and articles have been published in the past week regarding the mock eviction notices distributed to numerous students Sunday evening in their dorms and on-campus apartments. These fraudulent solicitations were used to frighten and intimidate students with the intention of invoking sympathy based on false and deliberately deceptive information. Rather than discuss the numerous University violations committed by this student organization, I would rather provide my fellow Rutgers students with an honest understanding of the true situation facing both Israelis and Palestinians.
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.”
With the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy right around the corner, it’s time for New Jersey to have a serious conversation about tackling global warming.
This week, nearly halfway through the fall semester, close to 1,000 students woke up in Rutgers University residential dorms to find that the very place that they have called home for the past five weeks, the very place where students have felt safe, had been violated by a piece of paper that was shoved under doors, penetrating the rooms where students were sleeping. I believe this tactic contains hateful propaganda and was distributed as an attempt to harass and intimidate students at the University. Rutgers prides itself on its diversity and acceptance, creating a safe haven for students to be able to live without fear of bias intimidation and harassment. However, this aura of acceptance and safety was cruelly ripped away in the early hours of the morning by the few who gleefully utilize propaganda and the cover of night to exploit students emotionally through the incitation of fear with words full of bias and hate. The bullying antics of such perpetrators cannot — should not — be stood for by Rutgers students, faculty, alumni, and board members. There is no place at Rutgers for those who promote the use of bullying, harassment and other scare tactics to violate the privacy and emotions of Rutgers students. As a first-year student, I feel that my door is not a billboard for the intimidation politics of strangers who are intentionally trying to exploit me emotionally. Shoving hatred under my door violates the very principles of security, tolerance and justice that Rutgers stands for.
It seems only recently that we witnessed one of the greatest games in college football, the 2006 upset of Louisville. For alumni and fans, that will forever be a pivotal and memorable game in Rutgers history.
Nomin Ujiyediin’s column on Wednesday, Oct. 2, addresses an important topic — the relationship between Rutgers University and the city of New Brunswick. Learning about the community in which one lives is an important part of education, and can contribute, in Ujiyediin’s words, to “fruitful intellectual discoveries” and “adult responsibilities.” I commend her for addressing this subject in The Daily Targum. Douglass Residential College is working with the New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition to help students learn about and engage with the residents of New Brunswick on an issue that affects both citizens and students — gender-based violence. The coalition will be holding its annual march on Saturday, Oct. 19, beginning at the Puerto Rican Action Board headquarters at 90 Jersey Ave. Students who would like to participate in the march can learn about the various roles available to them at any of three information sessions taking place on three campuses next week. They are taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 8, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Center for Latino Arts and Culture at 122 College Ave., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. in Meeting Room E in the Douglass Campus Center and Friday, Oct. 11, 3 to 5 p.m., at The Collaborative at 640 Bartholomew Road on Busch Campus. I would also encourage students to take part in the Candlelight Vigil for Women Aware on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 6:30 p.m. in Monument Square at the corner of George Street and Livingston Avenue.
I recently learned of the revision to the lyrics of Rutgers’ alma mater, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan.” As an active Rutgers alumnus, it is alarming that this change came without indication of a student referendum or University Senate vote. I know there has been a portion of the student and alumni body that has been in favor of making the lyrics gender-neutral. However, a recommendation was made in the University Senate in 2011to leave the lyrics as they were. How can this be allowed to happen? It is careless for the University to take such action without informing its alumni base before it takes place. It seems a rogue faction of students, faculty and administrators took the liberty to change the lyrics without any input from the rest of the University community. The alma mater belongs to us all, and this decision comes at a great price of sacrificing another of the many long-standing traditions of our University. It is an insult to those who wish to preserve such traditions or address inequalities within them with respect and care. Add my voice to those calling for a review of this decision.
I know Rutgers prides itself on its diversity. Yet on Friday, Sept. 20, The Daily Targum ran a picture of no fewer than nine white men breaking ground for the redevelopment of College Avenue. The very next day, The Star-Ledger ran a front-page picture of the Rutgers University Glee Club who, after a whopping 140 years, finally changed the sexist lyrics of our alma mater. West Point changed theirs before us! They mentioned glee club members that were pleased they no longer had to sing about fathers sending their sons to Rutgers to become men. At the Arkansas game, the new lyrics were actually booed by some older alumni sitting in our area. So when I first saw the Targum picture, my reaction was mixed. On one level, it was comical seeing all the white men in their white shirts coming from their “Ivory Tower of Power” to break ground. On the other hand, I felt disheartened and recognized that while some ground has been broken, we still have work to do.
Sounds like someone at Rutgers had the same reaction to the Complex Magazine ranking of the 50 ugliest colleges campuses that we did at the University of New Mexico. So why are you taking potshots at us? “Rutgers-New Brunswick came in at #26, even uglier than the University of New Mexico. Ouch.”