Pro-Israel, Palestine groups on campus react to ongoing violence

Ella Chochrek | Contributing Reporter

The ongoing violence faced by Israelis and Palestinians has brought strong student voices on the Washington University campus forward, with Facebook posts, rallies and more.

An Oct. 8 Facebook post by Wash U Students for Israel (WSI) about the actions of Students for Justice in Palestine groups at other universities sparked a fresh wave of dialogue between members and a new group, Wash U Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

A group of students supporting Israel poses in front of the George Washington statue on campus as part of a rally of support. In the past few weeks, violence has encouraged students to advocate for peace in the region.Joachim Vaturi | Student Life

A group of students supporting Israel poses in front of the George Washington statue on campus as part of a rally of support. In the past few weeks, violence has encouraged students to advocate for peace in the region.

The head of Students for Justice in Palestine described the group as “under attack,” while the president of Students for Israel did not believe there was a conflict between the two groups.

Wash U Students for Israel held a rally outside Olin Library on Wednesday to affirm its support for Israel and desire for peace in the nation. Sophomore Paul Felder, president of the group, said the decision to hold the rally was prompted by increased violence in Israel.

“There’s been a lot of violence in Israel recently, and it’s resulted in a lot of death…We wanted to come together and unify and make a statement that we’re pro-peace and call for the end of incitement,” Felder said.

Students at the rally dressed in white and blue to show their support for Israel. The event consisted of speeches from Felder, Israeli exchange student Ido Shlomo and freshman Peri Feldstein, a member of Wash U Students for Israel. Attendees, led by Israeli exchange students, sang Israel’s national anthem.

“As a freshman, I’m so excited to have such a strong community that supports Israel,” Feldstein said.

Junior Sam Wexler, vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine, believes that pro-Israel students’ arguments are backed by racism, citing a quote from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that was posted by Wash U Students for Israel.

“[Wash U Students for Israel] used a quote from Golda Meir that said, ‘There will be peace in the Middle East as soon as the Arabs love their children more than they hate us,’ which to me is an unbelievably racist thing to say and totally delusional—hateful, even…There are Muslim and Arab and Palestinian students on this campus, and that is a very hurtful thing to hear,” Wexler said.

In Wash U Students for Israel’s initial Facebook post, the group called for Wash U’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter to condemn other SJP chapters’ recent support for an intifada—a Palestinian resistance movement, which has occurred twice since 1987.

“With the wave of Palestinian terror in Israel, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters in New York have shown support for a Third Intifada, an uprising of violent Palestinian terrorist attacks. SJP recently started a chapter on the Wash U campus. We hope the Wash U SJP will condemn the support for terrorism that has become widely accepted in other SJP chapters across the country,” the WSI post read.

An ongoing exchange then began between the two student groups. Wexler felt that Students for Justice in Palestine was being unfairly targeted by Students for Israel.

“We always are going to be open to respectful and intelligent criticism and feedback, but we don’t have to answer to you. You don’t get to lord over us and tell us what to do. I understand that that’s how it’s always worked on this campus, but we don’t find that acceptable. We wanted to just make a very general point about how we feel about sort of the heart of this issue, which is yes, there is in fact violence that comes from both sides, but that is the reality of occupation,” Wexler said.

Wexler also noted that he felt a double standard existed amongst the two groups, stating that there was no discussion on campus of attacks against Palestinians.

“Israeli terrorism is never talked about. As opposed to understanding that there are religious extremists in every single group, we only hear a narrative about one,” Wexler said.

Felder said that he felt the most important thing was to raise awareness of the ongoing problems in Israel.

“The Israeli-Arab conflict is not about an exchange of Facebook posts between a pro-Israel and anti-Israel student group. This is about coexistence and the future of Israelis and Palestinians,” Felder said. “I think [SJP] are a little more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian. I think WSI is pro-Palestinian in addition to being pro-Israel. Lately there’s been some stuff on Facebook, but I wouldn’t say there’s a conflict between us,” Felder said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Sam Wexler is the vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine.

  • Largo Gan

    The would-have-been “Palestinians” would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

    They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).

    They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:
    A. No peace with Israel
    B. No recognition of Israel
    C. No negotiations with Israel

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.

    And as soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the would-have-been “Palestinians” do? They immediately started shooting thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap Israelis.
    And even afterwards, Ehud Olmert made his subsequent generous offer that went far beyond even that of Barak. The would-have-been “Palestinians” rejected it.

    They had many chances.

    They threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority list. It still is.

    Oh well. That’s their choice.

  • Attention SJP: you guys/gals might as well fold your tent. WUSTL has always been a pro-Israel, Jewish dominated center. It makes league with Israeli institutions up to their nose in military innovation. It backs away from any anti-settler boycott/divestment discussion, and it is (realistically) beholden to Jewish donors. While it poses as a liberal institution, and is on many other issues, it is utterly reactionary with regards to our relationship with Israel. It may be the Harvard of the Midwest, but it is emphatically the local Brandeis. Indeed, I do not know why Jews continue to enroll: they can get the same warp at home…

    • Largo Gan

      The pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been led in recent days by campus affiliates of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an anti-Israel organization that has disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda and supports boycotts of the Jewish state.

      On U.C. Berkeley’s campus last week, anti-Israel activists were caught on film chanting, “We support the intifada,” a reference to violent episodes in Israel that has led to increased acts of terrorism by the Palestinians.

      The Berkeley demonstration took place hours after a 72-year-old Jewish man was stabbed while riding the bus.

      “Intifada, intifada, we support the intifada,” a man can be heard screaming into a microphone as dozens of pro-Palestinian activists repeat the chant. The chant leader is seen standing in front of a sign reading “Israeli apartheid.”

      Similar types of protests, dubbed a “day of action” by anti-Israel activists, occurred on at least 30 other campuses across the country.

      The SJP affiliate at Brooklyn College held two such demonstrations and posted a message to its school-associated Facebook page celebrating “the third intifada.”

    • Largo Gan

      During the last two intifadas in Israel, Palestinian terrorists attempted to murder Jews and rampaged through cities such as Jerusalem. A spate of stabbings and other attacks in the past weeks have wounded dozens of Israelis and killed others.

      One SJP supporter at Brooklyn College went so far as to tweet—and then delete—a message stating, “Annihilate the settlers #intifada #Palestine,” according to a screenshot obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

      Pro-Israel leaders who work with these campuses are expressing concern that the pro-Palestinian rhetoric is crossing and line and could lead to violent incidents on campus.

      “A Palestinian terrorist stabbed an elderly woman in a bus station, and Berkeley’s SJP students followed up immediately by chanting for an anti-Israel intifada,” said one senior official with a pro-Israel organization that liaises with campuses. “The Berkeley students called it their ‘Day of Action,’ except by action they apparently meant terrorism.”

      “These sorts of rallies foster fear on college campuses, and adults will eventually have to intervene to put a stop to them,” the source said.

      At Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the SJP affiliate posted to Facebook a message about the values of intifada.

      Campus insiders following the demonstrations explained that these pro-Palestinian activists are attempting to sanitize the word “intifada” by removing its implications of violent resistance.

      • No mention of settler violence? No mention of fifty years of occupation? No mention of vast theft of lands and water? Please remove head from sand.

  • Bradley Baskir

    Headline is a bit misleading – probably should say “Pro-Israel group comes out to support peace and condemn violence, Pro-Palestine group points finger at Pro-Israel group and does nothing to condemn anything”

  • Disgusted

    “Anti-Israel student group”. Congrats on the rhetoric. You might as well pack up and go home, no dialogue can be had with this gentleman.