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Report from Goucher: the campus as microcosm of the conflict

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The following piece concerning the recent censorship at Goucher College is by a sophomore at the school who does not wish to reveal her name because of family and professional concerns.

I believe we can learn a lot from viewing the campus as a microcosm of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians. At my college, Goucher, a small liberal arts school on the outskirts of Baltimore, a recent event on human rights featuring Josh Ruebner, Rabbi Brian Walt, and Palestinian professor Zahi Khamis, was not allowed to be advertised or held in a public space simply because it concerned the Palestinian people.

What other class presentation has not been allowed to proceed as directed by the students here at Goucher? Could one imagine a “pro-Israel” event being held in a classroom with only word-of-mouth advertising simply because President Sanford Ungar deemed it not “balanced” enough?

Hillel is the largest organization on the Goucher campus. As an international organization, it has a large amount of funding, enough to give students significant scholarships for worthy activities. I know of no no college Arab organization with similar funding. This means that although there is a large minority of Jewish students on campus, a few students from this minority are able to gather enough influence to make sure that a certain event is not open to the public.

Who benefits from such a decision? Certainly not the few Arab and Muslim students at the school, or the lone Palestinian professor. These people represent the real minority. Yet, in every interaction I have observed or taken part in with them, the Arab/Muslim students have been extremely respectful and willing to listen to opposing views, including those that go against their own basic liberties.

Yet, students on campus find it “inappropriate” when Zahi Khamis, the Palestinian Arabic professor at Goucher discusses his own experiences in occupied Palestine. Indeed, some students are actively trying to get him kicked off of campus. It has even been suggested to an ardent Zionist student (by other Zionist students) that he stop talking with Professor Khamis! Why would this be suggested unless the Zionist students have something to fear from what he is saying? Once again, it is like the behavior of the Jewish Israelis towards the Palestinians, albeit at a much gentler level; anything the Palestinians say is regarded as, to put it as a young pro-Israel protester said, “the laughing-stock of the world.”

Another similarity between the politics of campus life and those of Israel/Palestine is that blatant fabrications are used by both Zionist populations to support their cause. When a small group put together a memorial for the victims of the Gaza massacre this past spring, other students claimed there was a sign denying the Nazi holocaust. While it is my belief that only a traumatized person would see such a thing when it clearly was not on the campus, this changed the subject, during our first campus dialogue, to that of Jewish trauma. Jewish Israelis engage in the same behavior on a regular basis, even going so far as to use the Nazi holocaust as an excuse for their behavior in the U.N.!

While the overwhelming funding, silencing of the victims’ viewpoints, and subject changing to Jewish feelings are disturbing in a campus environment, students do not have to deal with conditions Palestinians must contend with: the checkpoints, water shortages, and periodic outbursts of violence by one of the most powerful militaries in the world. Thus, the only way I know to deal with these issues is by consistently redirecting the subject to the suffering of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination. Perhaps by pointing out to an open-eared audience the similarities between the actions of students and that of their Israeli counterparts, we can drive home the point that if they were in the ethical right, such techniques would not have to be resorted to.

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