Recently at Baruch College, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members gathered on the plaza outside to protest against CUNYS’ soon to be implemented tuition hikes. Most students are in an uproar about this recent change in policy but somehow, rather than discussing the issue at hand, it became an issue about Zionism. This was not an issue about Zionism though. The protest was simply used as an opportunity by the protesters to defame Israel and spread lies and propaganda.
The students that had been gathering in protests on CUNY campuses all over the New York City area, stated that these tuition hikes are the handy work of the Zionist CUNY administration who are essentially indoctrinating young professionals. Not only this, but the protesters who gathered at Baruch, screamed continuously that “Zionism is a racist ideology” and, “Racists’ out of CUNY!!” Such damaging and untrue statements are not only unnecessary and irrelevant to the conversation at hand, but it is simply a tool being used by others to slander Israel, rather than actually discuss what the issues are.
Along with this fact, equating Zionism, the belief that Jews have a right to live in their own country, and racism, the idea of being prejudiced against another person due to their race, is incorrect and absurd. Zionism does not and will never call upon others to act in a prejudiced manner towards others based on their race or ethnicity.
Before this event had taken place, I had not seen or experienced any type of hostility nor have I ever witnessed blatant, negative, or damaging occurrences between the various groups and organizations that are present on campus. I have only seen positivity and peace on our campus especially when it comes to Israel. Israel is a big topic on all campuses and there are many students all over the country who have to come face-to-face with challenges that counter-organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) organizations, both of which have large national presences, present to the student population. Since at Baruch these kind of demonstrations are rare, and there is no established anti-Israel campus group, the students who protested were all for the most part from other CUNY establishments.
At Baruch, students are able to spread a positive and honest message about Israel and the situation in the Middle East without violent interference. When it comes to the Israel-Arab conflict, everyone has a right to voice his or her own opinion on campus and there should be nothing but an open forum for students to discuss the issues that are on their minds, but that forum should not be a place to incite hate and to place blame solely on one party. Not only this, but if a discussion is to be had then there is no room for inaccuracies or untruths, otherwise having a conversation is pointless and loses all validity. The environment that is fostered at Baruch has been one that is positive and supportive of Israel and the right for everyone to voice their opinions in a fair and honest manner.
However, this discussion is not what occurred at the protest. It was not about a discussion whatsoever. In fact, there was no dialogue to be exchanged. It was simply a way to further bash Israel and Zionism. These sort of events cannot be tolerated anywhere and at any time. Hopefully in the future there will not be a need, nor an opportunity for such hatred to be propagated on campus and instead, students will be able to come together on an open stage and discuss the issues at hand civilly, amicably, and honestly.