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Letter to the Editor: Let’s Talk About the Facts About Israel

The opinions in this article do not represent the opinions of the Excelsior.

By Nisi Ziff

Published: November  3rd, 2015

Let’s talk about facts.

Israel is a touchy subject, no one can argue with that. Not many people will want to bring up the topic of Israel, especially on a college campus like Brooklyn College that has a very diverse student body, where everyone is going to have their own opinion on the subject. Bringing it up may just lead to arguing, yelling, and people getting defensive, and nobody wants that. Don’t we all want peace?

But I’m going to talk about it.

And I’m talking to you—those who support Israel, those who are against it, and those who just don’t care.

Recently I heard about anti-Israel sentiment being expressed on campus. How many of you slowed down to see what was going on? Did any of you stop to ask questions? Or did you just walk on by? Now, how many of us have actually done something about it?

I get it. Why make things awkward between you and the guy in your class who is clearly protesting what you may believe in? Why do anything? Nothing’s going to change by saying anything.

But that’s where we’re wrong. Yes, I believe in freedom of speech, but hate speech is something else. When I hear people calling for an end to my people, or people defending or ignoring the actions done to my people due to hatred, how can I stand there and just walk on by? As someone once said, if you don’t fight lies, people will eventually learn to accept them as truths.

Supporting Israel may not be the most popular thing to do. There are boycotts against us Israelis, there are accusations thrown at us, and there are people who hate us just because we are Jewish. On many college campuses, it may even seem that the “opposing” voice is stronger and scarier and that students might not know what to do. It seemed to me that at Brooklyn College, there were students who were afraid to express their voices because of people on campus who seemed to hate what they stand for. How can we let those who oppose us have the last word? How can we win a battle if we’re not even fighting?

But I was wrong. The voice in support of Israel on campus isn’t silent. Recently, as I was walking on to campus on a Tuesday, I saw 50 or more students gathered together on the Quad, standing in a circle, holding flags, dressed in blue and white (the colors of the Israeli flag), and Israel Defense Forces shirts, singing and praying for the land and people of Israel, their faith, and hope for peace.

This is exactly what the people of Israel stand for. We are a people who don’t turn to violence when the hard times come. Yes, we defend ourselves in order to protect our people, but we just want to live in peace. The message these students wanted to show was clear: while there are students who on campus who seem to support a third intifada against the people of Israel, the Jewish response isn’t to use violence. While they may be out there doing a “die-in,” we’re singing about living. These students were brave enough to stand on the Quad and show their support for Israel. Jewish people are a people who are taught to love our fellow people like we love ourselves. And we are a people that when we are attacked, our response is to live.

Standing up for Israel and showing your support doesn’t mean antagonizing anyone or yelling at someone that they’re wrong. But if , I can’t have a conversation with them. There is absolutely no way to justify that; nobody can argue that that is moral. That isn’t the way to peace, and neither is hate speech.

People should begin to acknowledge the fact that it’s possible for Palestinians to have human rights and justice without getting rid of the one and only Jewish state. I’m not saying Israel is perfect. Nobody is perfect. No country is perfect. There are people who do good things and people who do bad things on each side. Governments don’t always make the best decisions; great countries sometimes make decisions that may not be the best for everyone.

The modern state of Israel is a young country, only 67-years-old. It has and continues to face many challenges, but for such a young country it has made great changes already.

Did you know that Hand in Hand is a network of schools in Israel that bring together Jews and Arabs?

Did you know that Israel protects the holy sites of all Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Did you know that Israel evacuated Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank in 2005, in an exchange for peace but violence only later increased?

If the “oppressed” want to have greater rights, killing isn’t going to help it in its goal. What happened to good ol’ nonviolent civil disobedience, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s kind of civil disobedience?

What I don’t understand is that if the problem is with Jerusalem and the West Bank, why are there terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Ra’anana, two cities in Israel proper? If the problem is with settlements, why was there conflict even before the rise of settlements? If the problem is with the so-called “apartheid wall,” why was there a second intifada? The reason that Israel created the wall was in response to the second intifada, in order to protect its people.

I have come to a conclusion about the answer to these questions. I know people won’t agree with me, and that’s OK. But I do believe it is important to be open-minded and not just blindly believe what you were taught growing up. Trust me, I’ve tried thinking from both sides, and questioning your beliefs is normal. For those willing to have an open-minded and calm conversation, I’m all for it. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind or solve the conflict. It’s just important for us to listen to each other’s views and respect each other, kind of like coexistence. But if you’re someone who doesn’t believe in my right to exist and you don’t think there’s something wrong with a leader who wants to wipe my country off the map—such as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who detailed a nine-step plan last November to eliminate Israel—then a conversation with you isn’t really going to get us anywhere.

I know some of you may not even want to hear any of this; some people probably who stopped reading this the second they read the word Israel. But it’s important to actually listen to each other’s point of view. We’re all human, and conversation is key to making changes.

My message to those who support Israel is, don’t be afraid. We may not be able to change the world, but if we stand together, we can make a difference.

To those who are indifferent: don’t believe everything you hear in the media. Go check out some facts before judging either side. Sometimes if you take a piece of a story from both sides and put it together, it creates the whole picture. And maybe one day you should take a trip to Israel to see for yourself what the country is really like.

And to those who don’t agree with me, I’m not trying to cause hatred and I don’t want you to get all defensive. I don’t even expect to change your mind. I just wish we could all be open-minded, respect each other, and be willing to listen to the other side. Trust me, I am all for some peace and loving.

So I just did it. I talked about Israel and proudly declared my support for her. And I am not afraid, and that’s a fact.

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