Shouldn’t student organizations bring in guest speakers who promote a positive, educational experience? Shouldn’t these speakers spread knowledge that is both truthful and helpful? As college students, we have the opportunity not only to pick from a long list of classes that interest us, but e are also able to pick and choose who we invite and host as guest speakers to educate us. However, it’s up to us to not take advantage of this freedom. As college students seeking knowledge and truth, it is in our best interest to see that these speakers do not have an agenda to lie or skew the truth, so that we and our peers may be more well informed. Maybe this is something Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) do not understand. A few weeks ago, SJP hosted David Sheen as their featured guest speaker; someone who goes out of his way to spew hateful propaganda and skew the truth.
Formerly from Toronto and now a resident of Dimona, Israel, Sheen devotes his life to spreading false ideas on and what it is like to be an immigrant in that nation who is not white or Jewish. Although he himself is both of those things, he claims to be a sympathizer with those who are not at a face valuable. It seems like a noble action.
However, the picture Sheen paints is not an accurate one. This event was advertised as a presentation on African, non-Jewish refugees. Instead, for the first half of this two-hour diatribe, he rails against Israeli treatment of Arabs. The lecture then turns into complaints about women’s rights in the religious community. Rather than presenting concrete, credible cases of racism and discrimination, Sheen preaches hate and exaggerates events that have taken place in the Jewish state.
According to Sheen, the Arabs in Israel have very few rights and lead harsh lives. He says they are discriminated against and neglected, and Israel does not give them much aid or resources.
If Israel neglects the Arab Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, how is it that in 2012 Israel was listed as the number one humanitarian aid supplier to these regions and still remains one of their main sources of aid and resources? If they have so little, how have Gaza and the West Bank managed to maintain the 8th highest obesity rate in the world? If this discrimination is so rampant, then why are there Israeli Supreme Court Judges and members of Israel’s Knesset who are Arabs?
After an hour of venom and patronizer of Israel, SJP’s guest speaker reached the “main point” of his presentation: that African non-Jewish immigrants and refugees are either discriminated against or deported.
In Israel, as in most countries with an immigration policy, those who are caught living in the territory illegally, especially if they are caught in criminal acts, are deported. Sheen, however, stated that Israeli officials roam the streets looking for African refugees to beat, arrest, or transport to refugee camps; there, he says, they will either “gain citizenship status after years of being detained,” or be deported. According to him, Israel is anything but a refuge for these immigrants.
However, this is completely contradictory to someone who has truly experienced this lifestyle. According to Simon Deng, a refugee from Sudan who was sold into slavery as a boy and has experienced refugee life first-hand, Sheen’s statements are simply untrue. At the New York Durban Watch Conference in 2011, Simon protested and spoke up against hatred, lies, and bigotry regarding Israel’s immigration policies.
“…friends, I come here today with a radical idea. I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN’s anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those people.” He states that Sudanese refugees seek safety in Egypt, but even there they are still subjected to racism and abuse. Some are even slaughtered in their attempts to find freedom there. According to him, refugees run from Egypt to Israel.
It is there, in Israel, Deng says, where the Sudanese were finally treated and respected as human beings. Deng says that protesting Israeli policy on immigrants will not help racism. “It will only help isolate and target the Jewish state.”
That is exactly what David Sheen intends to do every time he publishes an article, posts on social media, or makes a speech about Israel.
For the last few minutes, to get in a few more jabs, Sheen suggests that Israeli women are so deprived of rights that they are not even allowed to sing out loud or dance at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest sight of the Jewish people to pray, while men are. Funny, because I have been to the Western Wall and sang aloud and danced with these allegedly “rights deprived” women, and there was no penalty for it.
If a woman in the religious community does not hold the same status as a man, it is by choice. It is because that is religious custom, to hold men to higher standards in the ultra orthodox community. It is not because Israel prohibits them from having a prestigious career or denies a decent salary. Otherwise, Golda Meir could never have been Prime Minister of the state.
In just two hours, David Sheen proved himself to be a crowd pleasing bigot, and is incredibly talented at distorting the larger picture. Unfortunately, he is not the first speaker to fit those criteria that SJP has hosted on campus.
As do most Americans, I support free speech. But I do not support those at Florida State who incite hate and potential violence against Jews and Israel supporters. Inviting speakers to this campus whose main goals are to spread hate and lies, and promote ill feelings towards the only democratic ally we have in the Middle East, should be challenged and exposed.