May 5, 2024

GUEST ROOM | Prof. Grossman’s Framing is Incomplete and Misleading

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Re: GROSSMAN | Let Us Show Compassion and Understanding for Each Other (opinion, May 2) 

Dear Prof. Grossman, values of compassion and understanding comprise the essence of the anti-war student protests. Thus, while your piece is noble, its framing is incomplete and misleading. When you say students are using “hateful words,” you forget two important issues: First, holding students accountable for some of the “hateful” words used, requires holding the dissenting side to the same standard. Second, diverting the discussion from the essence of the protests (i.e., ceasefire and divestment from weapons’ companies to some of the phrases used) is an act of bad faith. 

1. Full accountability for hate: Presenting one case of so-called hate and ignoring the dissenting bloc dramatically weakens your credibility. I have witnessed a number of hateful practices employed here on campus. First, the dissenting bloc set out in a vicious doxing campaign against pro-Palestinians or anti-war protests — the main reason why pro-Palestinian activists wear masks. You failed to include that in your framing.  

Second, in a rally that took place on April 14, Jewish Unity Rally, the speakers who were invited are known to explicitly use hate speech. For example, Shai Davidai publicly calls all pro-Palestinian protestors “terrorists” and “pro-Hamas.” Similarly, a Cornell professor called pro-Palestinian protestors “sociopathic anti-Israel students” and framed this issue as civilization against barbarianism — a long archaic and nefarious framing. Equally hateful are the words used by a Cornellians for Israel student leader calling CML — a movement of more than 40 student organizations — a coalition that “routinely glorifies terrorism.” Calling someone a terrorist instantly delegitimizes them and calls for using violence against them. However, I am fully willing to concede that this too falls within the wide limits of freedom of speech.  I am a staunch supporter of freedom of speech. While I recognize that these phrases are abhorrent, I do not want to disqualify people from using them. I believe we can both agree, however, on two things regarding the above speech: It is hateful beyond debate; and it is targeted against a specific group in which all members of that group are addressed.

The pro-Palestinian/anti-war bloc have used phrases like “intifada” which means “shaking off” and “from the river to the sea.” These phrases, unlike the above mentioned, are up for debate and do not necessarily address all members of a specific group. You are welcome to interpret them as you wish, that does not mean your interpretation is true. In any case, I believe we should be more concerned of actual violence perpetrated on the UCLA campus by supporters of Israel, and by police brutality against students there and elsewhere. This seems like a more responsible take to adhere to, rather than accusing people whose views we don’t like as violent.

2. The essence of protests: Your piece addresses peace and love and fails to mention one single important fact: There is an unfolding genocidal campaign the IDF is committing under a government that is violent towards its own citizens as well. The current annihilation campaign, in which more than 30,000 Palestinians have been brutally killed, is what matters. This is what these anti-war students, actual proprietors of peace, are protesting against. I fail to understand why you cannot endorse that. 

It is dishonest to generalize when it is convenient (crowning anti-war student protests as hateful) and ridiculing when it is not (fully ignoring actual hate speech and the actual events taking place in Gaza). This may work well as a defense strategy but will gravely fail to constitute, if not contradict, a credible call for peace and compassion.
As a final remark, I implore you to view the students’ uprising as a genuine call for a ceasefire and divestment, a position which in my view is the most humane for both Gaza and the hostages who were abandoned by their government. In the same vein, I encourage you to appreciate how brave and principled students of more than 120 campuses are, instead of making false accusations against them under the pretense of friendliness. The consequences such actions entail will only promote further violence and make the world an uglier place.

Noor Bala is a 5th year Biomedical & Biological Sciences PhD Student. She can be reached at [email protected]

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