A mission of peace, not hate

With the hateful rhetoric and perpetual conflict we see from our leaders across the world, I would rather turn to a fictional character for guidance — Wonder Woman. In the movie Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot’s final words speak volumes to how we should be approaching conflict: ​“Only​ ​love​ ​can​ ​save​ ​this world.​ ​So​ ​I​ ​stay.​ ​I​ ​fight,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​give…​ ​for​ ​the​ ​world​ ​I​ ​know​ ​can​ ​be.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​my​ ​mission,​ ​now. Forever.”

These words​ ​ring​ ​true​ ​in​ ​today’s​ ​world, ​which is ridden with conflict ​and​ ​hate. These​ ​divides​ ​pervade​ ​college​ ​campuses too, most recently at Claremont in the form of the​ ​Boycott, ​Divestment, and​ ​Sanctions​ ​(BDS) movement. This campaign of hate led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) makes it impossible to have empathetic dialogue on campus, let alone about peace in the Middle East. BDS​ ​is the antithesis to ​coexistence, peace, and the values that we uphold in Claremont.

For​ ​any​ ​true​ and lasting ​peace​ ​or​ ​coexistence​ ​to​ ​occur, we​ ​must​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​both​ ​sides​ ​of​ ​the​ ​story​ ​and gain​ ​an​ ​understanding​ ​of​ ​those​ with ​whom​ ​we disagree on this issue. We​ ​must​ ​encourage​ ​debate, listen to opinions that differ from our own, ​and​ ​understand​ ​how our decisions affect the student body. ​The​ ​BDS movement ​does​ ​not​ ​allow​ ​for​ ​this conversation.​ ​Rather, it pits students with disagreeing opinions against each other and prohibits​ ​any real dialogue ​from​ ​occurring.​ ​In Claremont, our ​community​ ​is​ ​one​ ​which​ ​stands​ ​for​ ​debate, ​discussion, and democracy, but BDS goes directly against these values by barring interaction​ ​and​ ​silencing disagreement. SJP’s​ ​“anti-normalization”​ ​policy,​ ​a​ ​policy​ ​of non-engagement​ ​with​ ​pro-Israel students,​ ​stops​ ​any​ ​and​ ​all​ ​conversation.​ If Palestinian leaders can sit down face-to-face around the negotiating table with their Israeli counterparts, why does SJP refuse to sit down with pro-Israel students, including myself? How does it bring us any closer to achieving unity on our campus or peace in the Middle East when one side refuses to dialogue with the other?

Although it’s far past time for us to engage in an open dialogue and find common ground where it exists on this campus, the divisive impacts of the BDS movement expand far beyond the Claremont community. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is deep-rooted and complicated, yet the BDS movement attempts to portray the conflict as black and white. As a result, the BDS movement has silenced dissenting voices like the pro-Israel community. By portraying the conflict without an understanding its nuances, SJP has rallied the community around a decision which counters coexistence. ​The BDS movement has distanced the chances for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it promotes a hateful, one-sided agenda in which its leaders have called for the destruction of the State of Israel. By refusing to have inclusive conversations which expand upon the many layers of the conflict and allowing the BDS movement to prevail, our campus has negated efforts for peace and promoted the perpetual continuation of this conflict.

If​ ​we​ ​stand​ ​for​ ​peace, ​​we​ ​must come together, expand the existing conversation, and focus on making peace a reality. ​There​ ​are​ ​initiatives​ ​across​ ​the​ ​world​ ​where​ ​Palestinians​ ​and​ ​Israelis come​ ​together to promote peace—whether​ ​it​ ​be​ ​youth, entrepreneurs, ​or​ ​empowered​ ​individuals. YaLA Young Leaders is an​ ​online​ ​movement​ ​of​ ​1​ ​million​ ​Middle​ ​Eastern​ ​Youth​ that ​works on “creating​ ​and​ ​enacting​ ​a​ ​new regional​ ​vision​ ​of​ ​freedom,​ ​equality,​ ​prosperity and​ ​peace,”​ ​and engages​ ​Israelis​ ​and​ ​Arabs​ ​in​ ​a movement​ ​for​ ​peace.​ ​Young Palestinian and​ ​Israeli men and women​ ​come ​together​ ​to​ ​say that​ ​they​ ​want​ ​to​ ​put an ​end​ ​to​ ​the​ ​violence​ ​and​ ​hate that has engulfed both sides for far too long. This​ ​project,​ ​and​ ​countless​ ​others,​​ ​seeks​ ​to​ build bridges​ ​and​ ​create​ ​mutual understanding​ ​between​ ​those​ ​impacted​ ​by​ ​the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.​ ​Coexistence projects ​are​ ​what we​ ​should​ ​be promoting at Claremont; not​ BDS campaigns promoted by SJP ​that​ ​silence​ ​and​ ​divide us,​ ​but​ ​initiatives​ ​that​ ​will lead us ​toward a​ ​brighter​ ​future.

​The​ ​quest ​for​ ​peace certainly​ ​isn’t​ ​easy. ​It​ ​takes​ ​strength​ ​and​ ​determination — the​ ​strength​ ​for​ ​both​ ​sides​ ​to hear​ ​disagreement​, ​and​ ​perseverance​ ​to​ ​uphold​ ​peace​ ​as​ ​the​ ​ultimate​ ​goal. BDS moves us only further away from this goal. Instead, ​let​ ​us​ follow Gal Gadot’s words by choosing ​peace and making ​ “love” ​our​ ​mission.

About the Author
The first day of college, Jennifer Gurev hung her Israeli flag on her dorm room wall at Claremont McKenna. Despite encountering anti-Israel sentiment at her small liberal arts college, that did not stop her from continuing to stand up for Israel. She is Vice President of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance.
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