By Marcus Ayala and M.A. Rahman
Published: April 18th, 2019
Commotion and dismay erupted on campus last Tuesday during a rally that was part of the international ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’ Protests resulted in a brief verbal confrontation between a coalition of Anti-Zionist student organizers and a pro-Israel aligned group at Brooklyn College. The BC student coalition was formed against Zionism in the spirit of being anti-occupation and included organizers and sponsors from the BC Socialists club, Students for Justice in Palestine, BC Student Union, and BC Socialists Club.
“Our objective is to bring the campus community into the know of what’s going on in Palestine. We have to stand together in solidarity with any oppressed people. We will no longer accept being intimidated or be ostracized for standing up for what we believe in,” said Chris Mejia, a junior at Brooklyn College and member of the BC Socialists.
Situated in front of the BC Library, a dozen students took part in a gathering, holding banners and chanting against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
Mejia and Maira Tahir, a student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine led with chants like ‘’Not another nickel, not another dime. No more money for Israel’s crimes” and “Resistance is justified, when people are occupied,” Tahir passionately expressed her disdain toward Israeli occupation.
Tahir stands for the Muslim, Palestinian’s, and the immigrant community. Tahir said “My basic stance is to stand up for the right of Palestinian’s. There’s an oppressor state and there are oppressed people.” She believed it’s all about power and greed; taking away every aspect of the Palestinian’s people including their food, culture and land.
Addressing the coalition being referred to as being anti-Semitic, Tahir said, “That’s a given that’s their way of deflecting attention away from the actual issue. I feel like I don’t need to constantly give explanations every time they accuse us of being anti-Semitic.”
She believes people should believe it’s not true, that they just want what’s right for Palestinians. “At the end of the day, if you don’t come and have a conversation with us; then it’s their fault, they choose to believe one side over the other.”
She makes sure to explain her stance as not being anti-Jewish. “I don’t hate Jews, I don’t hate people who settled there. I have a problem with the state and the way it’s bringing in people and settling them on land that doesn’t belong to them.”
Kellen Gold, a sophomore and Anthropology major voiced out on the anti-Semitic accusations. “They like to conflate anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism, when they’re two completely different structures. Anti-Zionism is about opposing colonialism and supporting Palestinian people and anti-Semitism is about hating Jewish people, which are entirely different.”
Sarah Gafur, a sophomore and Sociology major sees the comments as masking. “Pro-Palestinian rhetoric is just masked as being anti-Semitism so people don’t have to acknowledge the human rights of Palestinians.”
Adjacent to the initial coalition’s protests against Israel, stood another gathering of students, amongst them were Josh Halpert and Zack Nomer, self-described “peace-keepers” that denied being affiliated with either groups. Halpert being a senior in Finance and Nomer a junior in Marketing and Psychology and president of the Young Republican’s Club at BC.
“While they’re [BC Student Coalition] talking violence and stuff, we’re talking about peace,” Halpert stated, electing to not elaborate on who he referred to as ‘we.’
Standing beside them in observation of the protest, an anonymous student interjected exclaiming “All I’ve got to say is fuck these terrorists” promptly taking off, surprising both Halpert and Nomer, whom immediately decried the crude rhetoric.
Lulu Haddis, a senior and film production major with no affiliation to both sides saw both sides to be at fault. “I think there’s a lack of dialogue all together, everyone thinks they’re right.”
Across the campus on Bedford Avenue, another organization, organizers of Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) held a table setup to intended gage the interest of students with a banner touting Israel’s Human Rights recording concerning LGBTQ Rights in contrast with most other Middle East Nations today.
Aliyah Jacobson of CAMERA and Brooklyn College with a double major of Early Childhood Education and Music expressed how she anticipated the conflict happening. She explained how CAMERA is impartial and she isn’t, being pro-Israel. “I’m probably Israel but I believe in the two-state solution.”
“They’re going to get it [a two-state solution] when they sit down and recognize Israel as a country, which they never have done.,” Jacobson said.
Dan Brooks, an independent activist was invited by CAMERA. He describes himself as pro-Israeli and didn’t consider himself to be against Palestine. He believed that Palestinians don’t want a two-state solution, they want war.
He addressed his feelings toward the pro-Palestinian BC coalition. “They don’t want to have dialogue with people they disagree with,” He explained how he tried to give them flyers and talk things out to no avail.
He wasn’t fond of their chants either. “I’m not saying they’re all anti-Semitic or any of them are anti-Semitic but the messages they’re putting out are. If you’re going to stand in the streets and argue this. They should at least know exactly what they want.”
Mohammad Sarker, a freshman and double major Political Science and Economics didn’t take kindly to both sides. “This is not a conversation that will lead to peace. There are plenty of legitimate critiques on both sides.”He believes like in the conflict in the Middle East, both sides are a fault. “They both have a lot of homework to do.” He believes both governments are at fault and the blame is almost split evenly.
He believes Israel has suppressed Palestine for too long and peace could be out of the picture. “The two-state solution at this point is delusional.”