Photo: Steve Cadman/Wikimedia Commons
Dear UCL Students for Justice in Palestine Society (UCL SJP),
My name is Tamar. I am a second-year law student, Treasurer of the UCL Friends of Israel Society, and a CAMERA on Campus UK Fellow. Throughout the year, my society and I have attempted to contact you in multiple different ways, to no avail.
Your refusal to engage in any form of conversation is a cowardly action that is contrary to the institution at which we study. University is supposed to be a place of exploration, learning, and growth.
Unfortunately, “cancel culture” has become a trend on university campuses around the world. Rather than engage in difficult conversations, students simply “cancel” their opponents and their views. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff explore the long-term dangers of this behaviour, as well as the more immediate impacts such as the loss of free speech. They suggest that this behaviour stems from “safetyism,” an attempt to make safety a sacred value, limiting students from leaving their comfort zones to explore other arguments. We create a sheltered community unable to open their minds and afraid to go beyond the boundaries of their entrenched beliefs.
UCL SJP – why are you scared to leave your safety zone? What are you afraid you may find?
We have attempted to prompt a conversation with you, to debate the issues, and to discuss possible solutions. We wish to do this so that we can educate ourselves on the Palestinian narrative and work towards creating a better future for all in the land we both love. But you refuse to acknowledge our presence. You turn a blind eye to reality. Israel isn’t going to disappear simply because you shut your eyes and pretend we don’t exist.
The recent normalisation deals between Arab states and Israel have been criticised for marginalising the Palestinian problem. In reality, they represent the fact that after 73 years, much of the MENA region finally accepts that Israel isn’t going anywhere and understands that normalising relations is the first step towards peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. These normalisation deals can be used to broker peace between our nations via a novel medium.
Yet, peace can only occur if there is dialogue, and you reject any exchange with us. If you are unwilling to engage on a university campus – a place to foster debate, explore different arguments, and learn – then what hope is there for peace? You claim to be activists for Palestinians, peace, and humanity, but how do you expect to achieve your goal? If the next generation of leaders cannot even discuss this tragic situation, the future is a very bleak one. Unfortunately, it is the Palestinians who will suffer the most.
Some recent actions taken by the UCL SJP have only driven a greater wedge between us. Your petition to encourage UCL to drop the IHRA definition of antisemitism would allow blatantly antisemitic statements masked as “criticisms of Israel” to be made, compromising the safety of Jewish students and jeopardising any future discussions related to Israel. Furthermore, false and inflammatory social media posts, such as inaccurate accusations of medical apartheid, only incite further discord. Despite our providing you with ample material proving that Israel cannot be responsible for the medical welfare of citizens within the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel’s administration of vaccines to these people regardless, you continue to spread this false information. Such conduct only makes it more difficult to have a meaningful conversation that can lead to peace.
Notwithstanding all your efforts to spurn and ignore us, we want to try to create that better future we all deserve. We believe it all begins with a conversation, so we are ready and waiting for whenever you are. We hope you will not fulfil Abba Eban’s famous words, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” and will acknowledge us before it is too late. You know where to find us.
A slightly different version of this article was originally published in the CAMERA on Campus Medium blog.
Contributed by 2020-2021 University College London CAMERA Fellow Tamar Klajman.