The terrorist attack in Peshawar, Pakistan, which left over 130 children dead, was a tragic and horrific event. At Binghamton University, a vigil was held outside our library remembering the children that lost their lives at the hands of Islamic extremism. As a Jew and as a Zionist, I feel a connection to those who lost loved ones through extremist Islamic terrorism. As a student at Binghamton University however, the connection I feel is amplified because I am a brother in a multicultural Fraternity called “Sigma Beta Rho.” At Binghamton specifically, we have brothers who came from all parts of the world including Pakistan, who chose to study in the United States. When I woke up on December 16th and heard the news, I immediately got in contact with my brothers to give my condolences and to make sure they did not lose family or friends. Their appreciation of a simple phone call was astonishing and the bonds that we share only grew.
The next day, Binghamton University students and faculty held a vigil for the children who were killed. It was important for my Fraternity to attend and support our Pakistani brothers who were going through such a hard time. Over 50 students all with different religious backgrounds came to stand in solidarity with Pakistan. Those in attendance wore Yarmulkes, Muslim headscarves, and crosses hanging around their neck. At that moment, I felt so proud of the Binghamton community for putting aside any and all differences as we stood together for Pakistan. A Muslim student began the vigil beautifully explaining that the terrorists were not true Muslims, and that they do not represent Islam. A prayer was recited as the candles burned. Next, Hillel at Binghamton’s Rabbi spoke about the tragedy and the innocence of children, also explaining how Judaism emphasizes the incomparable grief in losing a child. He related the vigil to lighting the Hanukkah Menorah and how lights coming together make the world brighter. He explained that we light candles at vigils to be closer with each other. As everyone stood in the cold rain listening to each speaker, a feeling of acceptance and humanity lifted each soul standing for these children.
After a moment of silence, the last speaker raised his voice and explained that he was a representative of Binghamton’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). This is the same group that grabbed the attention of many Zionists, as they recently released documents explaining how to disturb student group events. Coincidence? I don’t think so… The student addressed the vigil, telling Zionists that they should consider the Palestinian children as they mourn the Pakistani children. I came to this event to support my brothers and the families/friends of the victims in Pakistan. At that moment, I was not welcome. Not only was I not welcome, but also anyone wishing to mourn the Pakistani children was not welcome. SJP delegitimized the tragic event in Pakistan in order to spew their political agenda. An event that brought so many different religions and people together was distastefully interrupted by SJP’s disrespectful and disruptive political banter. Whether students supported their politics or not, that feeling of acceptance and humanity was lost as everyone at the vigil awkwardly looked around wondering “did he really just say that?” SJP turned what could have been such a powerful event, into a platform for their selfish propaganda and to push their own political agenda.