David Lehrer

Make Love Not War

My daughter is a master’s student at Columbia University School of Social Work. She began studying in September. Since October 7th, Ariana has been engaged with fellow students, faculty and the school administration about the protests, the fear felt by Jews and Israelis on campus and the school administration’s response. One video of an interaction between Ariana and Pro-Palestinian protesters went viral.

Since the recent eruption of protests at Columbia and on campuses across the US, Ariana has been interviewed by more than a half-dozen national and international news agencies. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, which appeared on April 26th, Ariana said: “she wished ‘the protest movement would learn to advocate for Palestinian rights without dehumanizing, demonizing and devaluing my community’s identity and lived experience.’” Looking at the hostage posters she continued, “’They are the center of what is happening,’ she said of the hostages. ‘People [Palestinians] in Gaza who are suffering are at the center of what is happening. And not Columbia, and definitely not this encampment.’”

Ariana’s viral video.

The media is comparing the current campus protests to the protests of the 60s and 70s in the US, even pointing out that many of the faculty who have nurtured this era of resistance to the status quo, grew up in that previous era. Some comparison is warranted since the 60s and 70s protests were also marred by violence. Militant groups like the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) advocated violence. Violent incidents such as the 1968 protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention and the 1970 Kent State shootings are seared into the collective memory of my generation. Those protests back then even included the takeover of a building by students at Columbia University. But by and large, the anti-Vietnam War movement was a movement peacefully advocating for peace, while the current student protests across US campuses call for a Palestinian State from the “River to the Sea,” meaning the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel, and “by any means,” meaning October 7th, was a legitimate act of resistance, student protesters of the 60s and 70s declared “Make Love Not War”.

The Middle East is in turmoil and Israelis and Palestinians have proved that we are not capable of getting ourselves out of this cycle of violence. We need international pressure to force Israelis and Palestinians to lay down our weapons and come to the negotiating table. The Middle East needs international pressure. What we do not need are pro-Palestinian students on US campuses calling for the destruction of the State of Israel or pro-Israeli students ignoring the injustice and suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

We do not need Middle East hatred and violence imported to US campuses. We need pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis to be pro-peace. We need US students to use their voices, their energy, and their political power to peacefully advocate for an end to the war in Gaza, return of the hostages, an end to the occupation, and for a just negotiated political solution that enables freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people, security for Israelis and for Palestinians and for Israelis to live in peace with each other. Now that would be a protest I could get behind.

About the Author
Dr. Lehrer holds a PhD from the Geography and Environmental Development Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a joint Masters Degree in Management Science from Boston University and Ben-Gurion University. Dr. Lehrer was the Executive Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies from 2001 until August 2021 and has now become Director of the Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy. Dr. Lehrer has been a member of Kibbutz Ketura since 1981.
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