November 23, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Right to a Safe Campus and a Secure Israel

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To the Editor:

Re: “Students for Justice in Palestine Rally Draws Counterprotest,” News, Nov. 20

Over the past month, Jerusalem has not been safe. On Oct. 22, Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, rammed into a crowd of Israelis with his car, killing a three month old baby and injuring seven civilians. Fourteen days later, on Nov. 5, a commercial van manned by Ibrahim al-Akri killed yet another Israeli and injured 13. Just last Tuesday, Nov. 18, two Palestinian terrorists from East Jerusalem invaded a synagogue in West Jerusalem. Using guns, a cleaver and an axe, two Palestinian terrorists murdered four praying Jewish men and shot to death Zidan Saif, a Druze police officer responding to the scene.

Finally, in the wake of the numerous terrorist attacks, the Israeli government decided to boost security efforts by setting up temporary checkpoints in East Jerusalem. While we sympathize with those who are inconvenienced by these checkpoints, there is no doubt that they are crucial to the security of those living in Israel. “We have nothing against the residents of East Jerusalem,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “but we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens and we will work against the people who carry out these things and against the inciters.” All Israeli civilians live under the perpetual fear of the next terrorist attack. Establishing temporary checkpoints is Israel’s best and only way to ensure the protection and security of all of its citizens. To rally against checkpoints is to rally against civilian safety. To rally against checkpoints without recognizing their need to combat terrorism is to advocate for terrorism.

The day immediately following the synagogue massacre, Students for Justice in Palestine held a sympathy demonstration for Palestinians who have to be checked at these security checkpoints. Instead of condemning the killings of innocent civilians, they brought in an activist from outside the Cornell community to increase tensions and called for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel, specifically the severance of Cornell’s ties with the Technion, an Israeli university. SJP’s signs, banners, chants and curses mislead and inflame the opinion of the Cornell community with false and out-of-context information.

In response to this twisted, one-sided presentation of Israel and Israeli policy, a small group of pro-Israel students responded peacefully bearing signs that stated, “Israel is invested in peace.” SJP members and non-Cornell affiliated adult protesters then subjected some of these students to excessive harassment. The peaceful signs pro-Israel students held up were ripped out of their hands, torn and smeared with ketchup by protesters. Protesters affiliated with SJP stood within inches of students’ faces, yelling curses and obscenities, such as “Zionist scum.”

But one of the most threatening and terrifying quotes chanted repeatedly by the SJP protesters was, “We will respond to aggression with aggression.” Wednesday’s rally was not an isolated incident. Three weeks ago, SJP members followed students around Central Campus until the police thankfully stepped in to ensure these students’ safety. At the protest on Wednesday, police were on Ho Plaza to prevent the threats of violence and the harassment from escalating into physical attacks. SJP brings the Palestinian aggression against Israel to campus repeatedly and we, as Cornellians, won’t stand for it.

Every nation and people has a right to safety and security. We too have a right to feel safe and secure from harassment and intimidation. SJP’s actions have continuously threatened this right with their protests against pro-Israel students on campus and Israeli security.

Reut Baer ’17

Sarene Shaked ’18