On November 10th, Owls for Israel hosted an event sponsored by Stand With Us bringing Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). PMW was created in 1996 because Itamar realized an unsettling truth: Arab world leaders say one thing in English, and another in Arabic on their own media. Itamar’s team translates: news, children television shows, newspapers, even crosswords! His website, palwatch.org, is filled with heartbreaking examples of Palestinian media promoting hatred, terror, and delegitimisation of the state of Israel on Palestinian television. But it doesn’t stop there; streets, children parks, and even soccer tournaments, are named after suicide bombers; proving the depths with which the Palestinian people have been indoctrinated into a cycle of incitement rather than educated in peace and coexistence. Itamar’s message is that teaching peace begets peace. The Palestinian people deserve better.
I am a member of Owls for Israel, but it is important that I emphasize that in being pro-Israel, our group is by no means anti-Palestinian. Owls for Israel believes that all people, both Palestinians and Israelis, have the right to live in peace and safety. Because of this belief, I have attended events organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for the entire four years that I have attended FAU. I hoped to see events promoting self-determination through education, peace, representative government, and above all, justice. The fact is, the majority of SJP’s information and events are more anti-Israel than they are Pro-Palestinian. SJP regularly promotes hate, and places the blame solely on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the condition of civilians in Gaza. I salute SJP on finally having a cultural event this month, it is a rare and welcome break from their usual behavior of engaging in intimidating tactics such as: posting eviction notices, and positioning bloody baby body bags on the free speech lawn.
One such negative tactic was exhibited by SJP at our event with Itamar Marcus. SJP’s behavior at our event is my inspiration for writing this article. SJP attended Itamar’s event late. After 10 minutes, they staged a walk out. This same behavior is what led charges to be made against SJP and their board 2 years ago, the last time SJP did a walk out. At this previous event, SJP disruptively chanted and held a banner accusing our speaker of being a war criminal. After this and other violations, this incident got some of the SJP board banned from holding leadership positions ever again at FAU. Ironically, the presentation interrupted was solely focused on how Israel supports innocent Palestinians in Gaza, and the extraordinary measures the IDF must take to uphold their code of ethics.
I have attended SJP’s events. Although there were times I did not agree with what was presented, I was always respectful, and challenged the speaker when appropriate. No name-calling. No disruption. When I asked a member of SJP on November 14th why she chose to leave Itamar Marcus’s presentation early, she said, “ He is a settler, I would rather hear a Nazi speak.”
The question I ask is this: Why come? Further, how can a group claiming to promote justice for Palestinians disrupt, insult, and disrespect, speakers whose presentations are centered on ending hypocrisy and injustices that harm Palestinians?
Israel is not perfect, and while violence or hatred against Palestinians by Israelis may sometimes occur, the state of Israel denounces and punishes incitement toward Palestinians when it happens. Israeli media teaches peace and restraint to prevent incitement in the future. Israelis do not dehumanize the other. The Palestinian-Israeli relationship, is extremely complex. I believe that in order to better understand the conflict one must expose oneself to different sides of information. Singular blame will be a catalyst rather than an end to violence. We will never have peace or justice for either side of the conflict by degrading and rejecting the other. By walking out of Owls for Israel’s presentations, SJP missed out on an opportunity to learn from a different perspective. In doing so, SJP hurt themselves the most.
I conclude this article the same way I conclude all dialogues with SJP: the fact, that both sides are involved and know so much about the region, sets us apart from most of our student body. Instead of focusing on differences, we should focus on what we have in common. The impact our knowledge and experiences could make for the Middle East would be huge. I am committed to promoting human rights to the entire region, while continuing to educate others on the real Israel.