On April 10th, a friend of mine studying at NYU sent me the BDS resolution which had just passed on her campus. It was the first time I had read through a full BDS resolution from any campus and after reading it, I was speechless. It was only a week later, on April 18th, the Israeli Memorial Day — the day we remember the fallen soldiers and those killed in terror attacks, that I was inspired to compose the letter below.
* * *
To the 52 groups at NYU who signed the BDS resolution and the hundreds of students those groups include,
My name is Netta Asner. I am currently a student, like you, at Hebrew University, studying International Relations and Jewish History. I was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, 22 years ago. I am an American and a Jew and for the past 14 years, I have also been an Israeli.
Have you ever been to Israel? Well, if not, and you decide to visit this place, then you should really come on our Memorial Day.
You see, the Israeli Memorial Day is generally different from the American Memorial Day. The Israeli Memorial Day is a day of mourning, solemnness, and commemoration for soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the protection of the State and for civilians killed in terror attacks. Almost every Israeli knows someone who has been killed during the 70 years of Israel’s existence. These victims of terror attacks including Jews, Druze, Bedouins and others who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. All ages included as well, like a 3-month-old baby who was murdered while sleeping in her crib, in 2011, or three teenagers, aged 16 to 19, who were kidnapped and murdered, in 2016. Have you ever heard of their stories?
And let me just say, most soldiers are people just like you and me, aged 18-21. They love Snapchat and Instagram, traveling and singing. Have you ever spoken to an IDF soldier?
I myself was drafted in 2014 and served for two years in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. My service began during the July 2014 Operation with Gaza — Operation Protective Edge. I was exposed to the awful situations in Gaza, and it truly was awful, and still is. I wish there was more that we could do besides providing electricity, basic needs and supplies to the Gazans. I wish that the terrorist group Hamas was not elected to lead the Gazans. I really do, because let me tell you, it was also awful to see a rocket above my head during the 2014 operation. Have you ever seen a rocket being shot above your head? Have you ever felt lucky to see it intercepted by the Iron Dome system, because you know deep down that you could have otherwise been killed or injured by that rocket? Well, I have.
While I was in the IDF, there was a soldier from Texas named Sean Carmeli who was one of 68 IDF soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge. His whole family was in the States and the IDF was concerned that his funeral would be poorly attended, so they shared his story on social media and my two sisters attended his funeral. They attended along with 20,000 others who volunteered at the spur of the moment to pay respects for someone they never heard of and never knew. Have you ever been to a funeral of a soldier? Have you ever been to a funeral of someone you didn’t know?
You see, Israelis are one big family who stand together during tough times. We see so much hatred around us that we need to show love, support, hope and belief, every opportunity we get. We want peace. We truly do. Believe me, BDS is not the answer!
BDS is another word for hatred, another way to shut off any opportunity for discussion with the Israeli side, as BDS represses dialogue and prevent people from asking these imperative and necessary questions. Not only are you discriminating against products that contribute to the world in such a positive way, but you are discriminating against people who have passions and goals and clearly want to make the world a better place. Why not talk to them? Why encourage the boycott? Why not create a space where you can form a path to change, to improvement, and to peace?
Today, I stood during the two minute siren that commemorated the 23,645 soldiers who have died protecting Israel and the 3,134 civilians who were killed in terrorist attacks, and I cried and cried. I cried for the loss and the sacrifice of these people and I cried because I remembered this resolution full of hatred that lacked empathy for Israel’s story. Do you even know Israel’s story? Do you know Jewish history? I do, because as mentioned, it is my major in university.
To the 52 groups at NYU who accepted the BDS resolution and the hundreds of students in those groups: In the name of the 26,779 people who are somebody’s father, mother, child, brother, sister, cousin and friend, I beg of you to stop the hate. Stop the boycott. Listen. Ask questions. Dive into the conversation and discussion. I am here with open arms to discuss any difficult topic and to strive for change and for improvement and peace. Do you want peace? Do you want to change the world and make it a better place? Talk to me. Talk to an Israeli. Talk to an IDF soldier. Come visit Israel. I am sure that once you do, you will see there is a lot of room for change and that BDS is not the way.
Netta Asner, 22