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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Experiencing the conflict in Israel firsthand

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: Opinions

The first time I heard it I was at a concert, but I didn’t actually hear the alarm. The music was playing too loudly to hear it, but all of a sudden the music stopped and everyone started running in a million directions. I never made it to a bomb shelter. I never made it to a bomb shelter for the second siren either. I was on the train, and the soldier next to me stood up to tell the driver to stop the train. We rushed out onto the pavement and squatted with our hands covering our heads, but I turned around and saw two trails of smoke in the air where the Iron Dome struck down a missile from Gaza. Most of the people didn’t move though. They just stayed on the train reading their copy of Jerusalem Post, impatient to get to work on time.

The next time I heard a siren, I was in a moshav called Yad Rambam. By now, I handled sirens like another Israeli, but this time when it went off, I ran to the staircase, the most stable part of any home, and watched three young girls sit there clinging on to their mother until we could hear the explosion from the Iron Dome which felt like it was right above our heads. “Kol b’seder,” everything is okay, my friend and I assured the girls, and while the two little girls, three and five years old, resumed playing their game of Go Fish and building a castle for their princess dolls, the older girl, 13 years old, buried her head in her knees because she knew that rockets were constantly bombarding her parents, who were living in one of the cities on the coast.

The conflict in Gaza exploded in the media all over the world, but it’s entirely different when you’re standing there in the middle of it. However, I am not here to tell you to feel bad for Israel. I happened to be in Israel, so I can sympathize with them, but I feel just as bad for the Palestinians. Israel sends flyers, text messages and announcements to warn the Palestinians to evacuate because Israel wants to destroy tunnels or a storage of weapons, but Hamas, a terrorist organization, tells their people to stay where they are, where they are likely to be killed. They also take their own There people hostage and keep them in these places about to be bombed and tell them, “If you try to leave, we will kill your family.”

There are a lot of opinions on how to solve the conflict and which side did what wrong. As an institution with strong Jewish ties, the Anti-Israel Professor Listserv, which surfaced over the summer, is a huge deal. The issue at Brandeis, however, is the fact that although the institution’s mission statement claims it “embodies its highest ethical and cultural values and to express its gratitude to the United States through the traditional Jewish commitment to education,” by restricting this email list, the school is limiting free speech. However, professors can have their own opinions as long as they do not treat them as the perspective of Brandeis at large, but that does not give them the right to go name-calling and mud-slinging.

Politics professor Donald Hindley characterized the Jewish state in the body of his email as “the vile, terrorist Israeli government.” Then in a Nov. 21, 2010 email he wrote in the subject line “The Reinharz Reich in Perspective,” and a Dec. 24, 2009 email calls the Brandeis president “Brandeis führer.” Even three and a half years after Reinharz retired, Hindley still wrote in an email on April 24 of this year regarding the university considering divesting from businesses that profit from fossil fuels: “With Reinharz and his Israelization of (and self-enrichment from) the campus . . . and now Lawrence (NOT of Arabia) [Pres. Fred Lawrence] and his al-Quds, AIPAC, and the anti-Islam Somali . . . what do you expect?” He does not stop there though. Hindley compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany in a 2007 Listserv email with the subject line, “Plant a Tree, Bury a Palestinian.” He writes, “Zionist olive trees grow wondrously on Palestinian corpses … In that way, we combine great trees with our own holocaustic ethnic cleansing.”

I have my own political views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I believe everyone has the right to express their own fully-formed opinion based on solid facts about what is actually going on in the Middle East and not on the biased propaganda in the media, but the problem with this Listserv has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Professors at Brandeis are top-notch members of their respective fields with a lot of power and influence. These are educated, respectable members of the academic community we look up to and expect to uphold the highest standards of professionalism.

Not only are these insults unprofessional, but they are also completely unconstructive. I watched a little girl hold back tears because she was scared a missile might kill her parents. That is not fair, and if these professors have something to say about the conflict, they should come out and say something that is going to help solve the situation and use their power in the field of academia to make a difference. Israel is not Nazi Germany in any way, and comparing it as so is simply a mark of ignorance and dishonesty. Calling names or hurling insults is not moving us forward, and the conflict may seem like it’s across the world, but I was there, and I can attest, that war is real, and war hurts.