CAMERA Fellow Natalie Segev

Anti-normalization will not get us anywhere.

In 1967, after the Six-Day War, the leaders of eight Arab countries convened and adopted the Khartoum Resolution. This resolution implemented “The 3 No’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.

Fast forward around 50 years and a similar policy is implemented on U.S. college campuses. However, groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine who endorse the “no’s” adjusted it to include a fourth no, no normalization, as confirmed by the Anti-Defamation League. Usually, no normalization entails no contact or collaboration with students who support Israel. This process of dehumanization ranges in each school, the practice can either be openly admitted or an unspoken fact. In some cases, it can go as far as anti-Israel activists being banned from socializing with people associated with these students.

Students staging anti-Israel “die-in” protest. (SJP at John Jay)

There are three issues with this practice. The first issue with sanctioning individuals to this policy is that it demonizes any and all supporters of Israel, no matter where they fall on the spectrum. In my freshmen year, I started to attend Hillel events and that showed the world that I supported the idea of a Jewish state in my ancestral homeland. Therefore, individuals were commanded not to talk to me, because according to them, socializing with me would mean supporting genocide. These same people have never asked me where I stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and if you believe that this is the first time the Jewish people have faced unwarranted, racist, and libelous accusations then you would be profoundly mistaken.

This ties into the second issue–if Palestinian activists are isolating all Zionists, then there will never be a peaceful resolution. A resolution must come about while the complete destruction of either party is not an option. However, how do groups on college campuses think they will reach that resolution if they completely isolate individuals who care about both Israelis and Palestinians how will they ever reach a compromise?

This is a form of bullying. After I started to attend Hillel events on campus. I first realized that something was wrong when I started greeting some people in the hallway and received no response. I then learned that is was because anti-Israel activists, along with their friends, are banned from normalizing association with me. Although on the rare occurrence that I did get a head nod or any other sort of acknowledgment I’ve seen the glares and comments those students received. My friends, who remain neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, were pulled aside by anti-Israel activists on numerous occasions and were pressured to unfriend me. It is a normal occurrence that when I would walk down the hallway a handful of individuals would stop talking and stare at me.

The more involved I became with Hillel, the more this treatment escalated. It was like I was no longer human. I became a victim of both borderline threatening and passive-aggressive comments in the hallway. Interactions ranged from people mockingly chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine would be free” while waving the Palestinian flag walking through Club Row as well as an anti-Israel activist speaking about how they’d like to deck their enemies in the face. There was no regard for my feelings or my safety.

Not normalizing sounds innocent on the surface. However, this is just the beginning of the process of dehumanization. All I did was attend a Hillel event. This was the only indicator that I was a Zionist, with the word Zionist left up to interpretation. Because of that students are peer pressured not to talk to me and friends of mine are constantly told to unfriend me.

This will not solve the conflict. This is not a positive contribution. This is plain old bullying.

So I end with an invitation. I invite anyone to sit down and have a civilized conversation with me. Ask me what I think about the conflict and what my ideas of possible solutions are. Ask about my connection to the land of Israel and what my Zionism means. You should even ask me what I think about the treatment of Palestinians and their rights.

Hear my case before you prematurely sentence me. I promise you, you will be surprised.

Contributed by CUNY CAMERA Fellow Natalie Segev.

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