Letter to the Editor: Instead of cowardly vandalism, let’s have a conversation about the issues
The vandalism read “Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel,” the calling card of an anti-Israel organization often accused of anti-Semitic acts.
Oct. 18, 2015
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I grew up as a Jew in the Deep South. There were eight other Jewish students in my graduating class of 650. I wouldn’t say that I’m comfortable being the only one with my beliefs in a large group; I’m used to it. When I came to MU, I didn’t expect a large crop of pro-Israel Jews walking around, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a few. I joined Chabad and started going to Students Supporting Israel meetings. I felt like I had finally found my place.
Fast-forward about six months — now, I’m a sophomore. As I was leaving my Spanish class one Friday afternoon, I glanced at a board with posters for events and clubs around campus. I saw that some Christians United for Israel advertisements had been vandalized. On a poster for learning Israeli martial arts sat the words “Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel” in big green letters. I was so shocked that I audibly said, “oh no,” and a stranger walking behind me stopped to look too. I took a picture of the vandalism and sent it to the other members of Students Supporting Israel executive board. With a mix of sadness and disgust, I crumpled up the papers and forced them into the nearest trashcan.
Seeing this haunted me for the rest of the afternoon because I love Israel. It’s a beautiful safe haven for people with no place else to turn. It’s a place that many of my friends call home. It’s a place that has opened its doors to the refugees of the world when no one else would. It’s a place I’ve been and seen the beautiful people inventing life-changing medication and technology. I’ve prayed at the Western Wall and cried as I felt God’s presence there. Israel is my home just as much as the south is.
The posters said, “Boycott, divest and sanction Israel.” BDS is so often the tank that carries anti-Semitism to our campuses. More than that, the BDS movement has brought hate, ignorance and even physical violence to other campuses. At the University of California at Davis, swastikas were painted on a Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi house. A Jewish student at Temple University was assaulted by a BDS supporter and sustained multiple injuries. At the University of Calgary, a group of BDS supporters shouted “Hitler was right” and “Death to the Jews” before choking an Israel supporter with an Israeli flag. The thought of seeing my Mizzou ridden with hate like that made me feel physically ill. It all starts with one vandalized poster. It all could start here. I have just found my place here; I don’t want violence to explode from it. We can’t let the tank that is BDS into our school. It’s a thin veil covering violence and hate.
For me, being Jewish and pro-Israel are huge parts of my identity. It’s my history and my culture and my connection to the world. Seeing big green letters protesting my identity is like watching someone confiscate my name. It rips at a part of me that is so ingrained my life, both mundane and spiritual that I can’t ignore it.
To the person who vandalized the posters: Instead of vandalizing my identity, let’s talk about it. Vandalism is a one-sided conversation. There is no explanation; there is no voicing of concerns. It’s a cowardly crime. Students Supporting Israel doesn’t support cowardly crime. We want dialogue and conversation about the issues. We want you to see Israel through the eyes of the people and then think about it for yourselves. Ask the hard questions. Do your research. Honest conversation? That’s brave. Speaking up in a crowded room? That’s brave. Thinking for yourself? Now that’s brave.
Hannah Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org