To the Student for Justice in Palestine standing in line behind me

To the Student for Justice in Palestine standing in line behind me,

I don’t want to hate you.

I don’t even know you. I don’t even know what you look like.

I only know you are there because the woman at the budget window says, “I have a check for SJP,” and without turning my head, refusing, in that moment, to turn my head, I see her hand reach across the counter, through the open glass window, and hand something, to someone, someone I don’t see, I can’t see, standing in line behind me. Someone I refuse to let enter into my periphery because when I hear those letters, S-J-P, my hand cringes around the pen I hold against the form, the form that will reimburse me for an event I hosted highlighting Israeli culture. The form that reminds me of the eviction notices you slipped under my friends’ doors in the stealth of night. I stand unmoving as I assume you accept the check because you don’t know what I stand for. Because you are also a student at NYU and I don’t want to hate you. I don’t want to know what you look like.

I don’t want to hate you for the lies you spread. For the so-called justice you seek. For the apartheid tent you have built, four slanderous walls, graffitied with misinformation. I don’t want to look at these walls you have erected, that stand out of place inside the center for student life, dissecting a history without proper context. I don’t want to stare at this one-sided, four-sided narrative that’s leaving out a fifth and a sixth because I don’t want to draw attention to your calumny. To your cries of “From Ferguson to Palestine: Systems of Oppression.” I don’t want to smile at you as you invite me to your event, and no, I will not step inside your tent because you diminish people’s suffering with propaganda.

I will not step inside your tent because you don’t want me. If you really wanted me, you would talk to me, not shout. Not punch that Jewish kid at Temple, not threaten the Cornell student bearing an Israeli flag. If you wanted to talk to me you would stop boycotting the very institutions that offer hope for peace, that employ more Palestinians than the Palestinian leadership, that offer better wages, without prison, exile, and execution contracts attached. You would not call for divestment from the very academics who call for equal rights, from the liberal Israelis who seek social justice. You would not place sanctions on conversation.

If you wanted to talk to me, you would talk.

But you are only interested in furthering your claims, you don’t care about my aims, you ignore my attempts at dialogue.

Instead of acknowledging me, you disrupt meetings that might provoke discourse, you pink-wash and white-wash and brown-wash. You criminalize the wrong parties and trivialize the facts. You prey on ignorance. You watch students latch on to myths that you feed them. You build walls and disrespect real apartheid. You silence voices for justice.

And so today, I ignore you. I ignore you because I don’t want to hate you. And I know that if I see you, I will want to say something, and you won’t let me.

To the Student for Justice in Palestine standing in line behind me, I am not afraid of you. I want to face you. I want to stand before you and tell you what I stand for. I want to be able to stand on the same side of the window and collect checks together. I want you to know what I look like.

About the Author
Atara Vogelstein is a recent graduate of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, where she concentrated in Creative Writing, Drama, and Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Master's in Drama Therapy at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
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