From the Community | On radical pro-Palestinian voices on campus

Oct. 31, 2023, 2:05 a.m.

These past three weeks have been, for me, the most stressful and painful weeks since I came to Stanford with my family in 2021. I grew up in Israel and lived there my entire life; my parents were born in the United States, which has always felt like a second home to me. The past three weeks of living here while keeping an alarmed, watchful eye on what is happening in Israel and Gaza — friends and family members agonizing and bereaving — have taught me a great deal about my place in the Stanford community. I discovered that the people whom I thought were sensitive, moral and thoughtful have chosen to remain silent in the wake of a dreadful war and the atrocities against my people. 

What I am referring to is hardly just my own personal feeling, but something that many of my Israeli friends on campus have experienced these past weeks. In the wake of the horrific events of Oct. 7 — namely, Hamas’ killing, rape and kidnapping of Israeli civilians in what has been considered the deadliest day in Jewish history since 1945 — what we had hoped to get from our peers and classmates was support and empathy. Some of us did receive that, and I cherish my friends and colleagues who reached out to me and proved that friendships can overcome ideological differences. Still many others were, and are, silent. These are people we go to class with, people we sit for coffee with, people to whom we nod every morning when we go to our labs or to our joint working spaces — and they have said nothing, offered no condolences and didn’t even check in. 

There were other smaller disappointments along the way. This newspaper, which I admire and read closely, ran a piece about a case involving a lecturer who, allegedly, made some disturbing remarks towards Jewish and Israeli students in class. The Stanford Daily, always keen on getting to the bottom of things, investigated the case, interviewed students who refuted the original account (which has since been picked up by nearly every media outlet in the United States) and was sure to include quotes about the wonderful and beloved lecturer. Imagine, for a moment, a semi-sympathetic piece written about a professor who berates an Asian American student in class. It is unimaginable.  While it is always important to thoroughly examine what is happening on campus, one cannot escape the sense that some stories are automatically believed and supported, while other stories — in this case, a story involving Jewish and Israeli students — are doubted, questioned and countered.

Then came the demonstrations. A demonstration on Friday, Oct. 20, included blatant, hateful speech, which explicitly called for an intifada, a violent resistance against Israelis. I should emphasize the fact that though I am writing this text in the (relative) comfort and safety of Green Library, had my children and I flown from San Francisco to Israel for the weekend of Oct. 7 to visit family or friends in the Negev, near Gaza, we would most likely have been killed or abducted. A speaker at the demonstration, who identified as an “anti-Zionist Jew,”  supported the atrocious acts of a militant group which the United States, the EU, Germany, Great Britain, Jordan and Egypt, among others, have denounced as a terrorist organization. Quite simply, they are supporting the killing and abduction of myself and my family. The speaker then moved on to indicate that it may be time to carry weapons on campus as well. The audience gleefully cheered. “Long live the intifada,” some of them yelled. This cannot be tolerated. No student should be walking around campus and hearing chants supporting the killing of their family. No faculty member should have to endure calls for an armed resistance against their loved ones. And, as members of the Stanford community, none of us should feel unsafe. 

Some people — too many, unfortunately — think that a clear and forceful condemnation of the heinous acts carried out by Hamas necessarily contradicts a vehement support of the Palestinian cause. These people demand that we pick sides — either you express your sorrow and shock over the evil, blood-thirsty slaughter of 1,400 innocent people, or you join forces with those who advocate for equality and self-determination in Israel and Palestine. This binary is false. Nothing in the world can justify Hamas’ monstrous crimes, and those who consider themselves moral people should stop and seriously think why is it that they are unable to condemn these crimes. I believe that one can wholeheartedly stand with Palestine and simultaneously acknowledge the horrific murder of innocent people in Israel. Contrary to what the extremists here and elsewhere are positing, decent and moral people can and must hold these views at the same time. 

My cards on the table: I am an Israeli leftist. I have opposed the policies of the Israeli government since the day I started reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I have done extensively since I was a teenager. I support the end of the occupation and the self-determination of Palestinians, and I am deeply saddened and appalled by the devastating sights coming from Gaza right now, where thousands of innocent people are killed and hundreds of thousands are fearing for their lives. I have spent a good portion of my academic and writing career reading about my neighbors, trying to understand their pain and cultivating ways of thinking of a better future. This is how I raise my children, too — I explain to them that Israel and Palestine are the home of two peoples who must find ways, against all odds, to live together. The demonstration on campus was not calling for co-existence, but the eradication of Jewish existence in the region. That was Hamas’ self-proclaimed attempt on Oct. 7. That is Hamas’ objective, as stated in the Hamas Covenant. That is, inconceivably, what the radical, vocal pro-Palestinian voices on campus are expressing. We should stop and reflect on the shallow and distortive rhetoric that is being used. More importantly, we should stop and consider the human beings who work and live beside us, and the fact that they too have pains, feelings, dreams, convictions and hopes. 

Ariel Horowitz is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of comparative literature.

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