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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor (“The nakedness of the Senate,” March 28)

Published: April 4, 2008
Section: Opinions

Dear Editor,

I would like to begin this letter with a few facts about myself. First, I am an American Jew. Second, I am a Zionist. Third, I am a member of the Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine. I was saddened but unsurprised to read the piece about BSJP in last week’s Hoot (“The nakedness of the Senate,” March 28).

Why unsurprised? Because, on a campus like ours, where so many people feel so connected to and invested in the same conflict and the same piece of land, there are bound to be instances of misinformation, miscommunication and disagreement. It is my goal to shed a little light on this issue in the hope of promoting discussion of the Israel-Palestine-America relationship rather than stifling it and to extend an olive branch to anyone who wants to work for peace in a land that many of us at Brandeis call our home.

It is my opinion that a large part of the controversy around BSJP has come from confusion about the role of the senate (and of senators) in chartering clubs. The role of the senate in dealing with clubs is first to decide if a club has a duality of purpose with another club. If there is no conflict of purpose, the second role of the senate is to support any club in giving a voice to the students that make up its membership and to aid them in work that they do which is relevant and meaningful to the club and to the Brandeis community. I am distressed that members of senate think it is their position to question the validity of a club that students have stated is necessary. If a club does not have duality of purpose and agrees not to discriminate, then there is no reason why that club should not be recognized by the senate, the Union and the Brandeis community.

In this specific case, the issue of duality of purpose is one of particular contention due to the suggestion that BSJP had a duality of purpose with the Arab culture club. The purpose of the ACC, according to its most recent constitution is “to provide an outlet for those who are prideful of their Arab heritage” and to educate the community about “the unique cultural, historic, and linguistic aspects of the Arab world.” This is a beautiful and worthy goal that I think is being met by the ACC. However, there are many Arabs who do not identify themselves as Palestinian. In addition, there are a growing number of Brandeis students who identify with the Palestinian narrative and perspective and have expressed interest in creating a community of learning and discussion around that narrative. According to the BSJP constitution, the clubs goals are to “promote the Palestinian narrative” on campus, to “create an outlet and framework of support for students that wish to explore the Conflict,” and to provide resources like speakers, movies, etc. in order to meet those goals. As anyone can see from reading the two constitutions on the club website, these two clubs do not have duality of purpose. Furthermore, it is offensive to many students that one would suggest that the two have a duality of purpose. This proves to me the need for both clubs to continue educating about and discussing issues of identity, geography and culture.

Finally I would like to address the concerns Asher’s piece expressed about extremism and violence relating to this club. After talking with the club leaders and researching some other chapter’s websites, we found a lot of the content on the UC Berkeley chapter’s site that we felt expressed similar goals to ours. The Berkeley SJP site reads “We work in solidarity with, not on behalf of, Palestinians and Israelis who together continue to struggle against the apartheid regime that has consolidated itself in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, and 1967 Israel.” I want the community to rest assured that Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine has no plans or desire to be violent or extremist. Rather, we wish to give voice to the Palestinian narrative on a campus that has several pro-Israel/Zionist groups already. Our desire is to work through non-violence and education to bring people together and to work for equality on our campus and the middle-east.

In closing, I would like to speak to the suggestion that by allowing BSJP to become a club on campus, Brandeis is somehow straying from its “roots.” The real “roots” of Brandeis firmly stand in the principle that every person—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion—has the right to an education and a voice. By passing BSJP’s request to become a club, the Senate is upholding this principle in the highest way, proving that even in a community where many are uncomfortable or unreceptive to this point of view, the Palestinian voice is important and relevant to all.

– Etta King ‘10