I was sincerely alarmed to read of the charges against myself and fellow student Mary MacDonald during the rebuttal to our article where we dissented and disagreed with theories put forth by Dr Amal Ghazal as presented in her lecture on “History of Zionism, and The Age of Colonialism.”
Students against Israeli Apartheid characterized a simple dissent (as is the right in any democratic country last I checked ) with a direct assault on Dr Ghazal’s academic credentials. It is my express wish to set the record straight on these erroneous charges.
Their accusations were on the whole that both myself and Mary were rude and disruptive during the lecture itself. Quite the contrary, neither of us interrupted Dr. Ghazal during her lecture, and when speaking of myself I sat and took notes on what Dr. Ghazal was speaking about during her presentation. At no time or place was I personally rude, nor disrespectful to either Dr. Ghazal nor any member of the audience. Slander and dishonesty is a most unpleasant thing, unbecoming of a student society.
Though I largely dissented and disagreed with Dr Ghazal’s chief premise as discussed in our article, I was genuinely interested in what she had to say during the lecture. I found her an interesting lecturer whom I would enjoy listening to under different circumstances, and likely different subject matter. To Dr. Ghazal’s credit, she spoke at length about anti-Semitism against Jews during the lecture, however she failed to incorporate it, for whatever reason, into the discourse for resettlement at the time, preferring to depict it instead a European colonial project. I find it important to clarify that Mary did not at anytime interrupt Dr. Ghazal during her lecture as was insinuated by Students Against Israeli Apartheid. She did say “excuse me” when asking a question, and if Dr. Ghazal did not wish to take her question, she was free to ask her to wait until the lecture was over. Ms. MacDonald did ask tough questions. Whether or not members of Dalhousie Students Against Israeli Apartheid felt the challenge was warranted, the opportunity was presented by Dr. Ghazal herself. The fact that she could not answer Mary’s question speaks for itself.
I am sincerely concerned that Dalhousie Students Against Israeli Apartheid are more upset about so-called “disruptions” than they are by the relentless and constant incitement to violence and hate propagated by educators and high-ranking officials in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Bar Association being a visible example. Children are brainwashed to hate Jews from an early age, women generally have restricted rights and life is generally dismal for many Palestinians under Hamas rule. That is not even touching upon the use of civilian shields by Hamas during warfare with Israel. (If anyone is interested, they can read a full independent report written by a panel of non-Israeli army generals who came to the conclusion that Israel acted in only the most ethical manner during the Gaza 2014 operation.)
Moreover, the intersectionality in support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement by both feminist groups and LGTBQ groups on campuses nationwide confounds and disturbs me given the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ general intolerance for both women and homosexuals. Hamas recently executed one of its own leaders on suspicions of homosexuality – an offence they term as `moral turpitude.’ I would highly encourage Dalhousie Students Against Israeli Apartheid (if they have not already done so ) to watch a 2011 documentary directed by Suroosh Arvill. This documentary depicts what life is like for many Palestinians in the Hamas lead territories , and will likely be of great interest to the group from a human rights perspective. That is if they are equally as invested in the well- being of the Palestinian Arabs as they are preoccupied with delegitimizing the Jewish State.
In regards to their criticism of our bringing up BDS within our article, it is the very endgame of the group whom hosted the lecture – The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions of Israel. In regards to BDS, I am largely against it. It does not reflect the principles of inclusivity promoted at Dalhousie University. At this academic institution, we are proud of making a safe place for students of all sexual orientations, racial and religious backgrounds. I would ask why we are prepared to marginalize and exclude Jewish student, many of whom see Israel as part and parcel of their history, identity and heritage.
Please allow me to clarify I am not against BDS because I am against the Palestinians, I am against BDS because I feel it does not build bridges to peace, rather it leads to loaded language, hyperbole and unfounded statements not to mention direct slander in many cases. All of the aforementioned is a direct instrumental attempt to delegitimize the Jewish State, and the Jewish peoples’ undeniable historical connection to it. That and the importance of inclusivity on campus, is why I am personally against BDS.
There IS a path to peace possible in the Mid East conflict. However, it requires the cessation of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians and the acceptance of both sides to come to the table and discuss issues, boundaries and geography which will be to the benefit of both sides. Dalhousie Students Against Israeli Apartheid only focusing at what they consider Israel’s grave sins (which is usually tantamount to its right to self defense when attacked ) whilst ignoring incitement to hatred and direct sole initiated violence of the other side does not help their case for Palestinian sovereignty, nor victimhood. This approach may appeal to the uninformed, not with those of us who have followed this conflict and its history for a long time, and are not susceptible to falsehoods, propaganda nor slander.
In conclusion I suggest we focus less on boycotts and divestments here at Dalhousie University, and focus more on building bridges.
In Solidarity ,
Leah Natasha Aubrecht
Dalhousie Student and member of Dalhousie Students Against Anti Semitism .