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.