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II. Students’ Essays 25 A Wake-Up Call at the University of Michigan Jesse Arm In the middle of campus, pro-Palestinian activists erected a large mock separation wall decorated with slogans and images glorifying Palestinian violence and calling for the destruction of Israel. Jesse Arm, a student government representative, debated the protesters and suggested they organize together a joint event expressing solidarity against the violence on both sides. Instead, the pro-Palestinian students launched a public campaign to remove him from office, replete with assaults on his character. A student government investigation eventually cleared him of the bogus charges brought against him, but the incident sent a clear message to others: challenging the anti-Israel position will bring personal attack and university procedures to silence dissent. The Incident OnThursday,November19,2015,twoterrorattacksoccurredinIsrael,1intheearly days of what would become a months-long terror spree called by some the Knife Intifada. The perpetrator of the second attack that day was a Palestinian man armed with an Uzi submachine gun. Among the three people he murdered was an American Jewish student studying abroad named Ezra Schwartz. Schwartz was a contemporary of mine, a member of my broader community with whom I shared many friends. He was abroad on a gap-year program that I seriously considered attending before deciding to enroll at the University of Michigan. His story was my story. What happened to him could easily have happened to me. On that same date, in the University of Michigan Diag (a large central area on campus), members of a group called Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) were holding a demonstration. Although their name implies very general and ideal aims, in fact they are a Palestinian solidarity group whose Facebook page is filled primarily with anti-Israel information and events.2 On that day, they stood costumed as Israeli soldiers next to a massive wall constructed with images of a dove being targeted by a sniper, Arabic writing across the entire map 358 | Jesse Arm of Israel, a Palestinian flag, a depiction of a series of maps about Jewish land appropriation that some call The Map That Lies,3 and the phrase “To Exist Is to RESIST” in enormous red letters. I approached the protesters and objected to the use of that phrase in particular because I believe it to be a plainly regressive way of looking at the conflict no matter which side you are on. Resistance is a code word for violence. That much is plain to everyone. To exist should not be to resist but to coexist. To exist should be to dialogue. To compromise. To strive toward peace. To reject these values is to threaten lives on both sides of the struggle. And these values, at the very least, are the ones that govern (or should govern ) a university community, where individuals with very different interests, needs, and perspectives live and study together and try to get along. I also felt that these protesters had co-opted a central campus location that should serve as a safe space for all Michigan students. I don’t mean safe space in the sense that has been greatly targeted of late, such as “safe from different opinions.” I mean safe space in the sense of civility and respect, a space where no one feels marginalized , much less directly threatened. And so I questioned the taste, timing, and appropriateness of a display that seemed to call for violence, to make violence an essential feature of one’s being, in light of all the terrorism that had been inflicted on innocent civilians around the world over the prior few weeks and most of all in Israel. Indeed, they were supporting and glorifying violence against Israel on the very day that Schwartz had been murdered by someone who believed in that same violence. It was hard not to feel that they were supporting and glorifying Schwartz’s murder. That they would support and glorify my murder, for Schwartz’s story could have been my story. I specifically proposed an alternative to them. Instead of putting on their incendiary display portraying Israeli soldiers as terrorizers and instead of promoting the violence of resistance, they could use their time to hold a moment of silence along with pro-Israel student groups, expressing a solidarity against the violence that had taken too many lives on both sides. I then offered my phone number to their leader, to continue the conversation. He told me he was...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253034083
MARC Record
OCLC
1019844795
Pages
456
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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