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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

On April 24, the Daily published a student’s op-ed regarding the March 28 panel titled “The Israel-Hamas War and Jewish Life on Campus” sponsored by the Tufts Hebrew Program. While the subtitle asserts that “Tufts must ensure that academic dialogues remain productive and accountable,” the author ironically refuses to adhere to that aspiration and instead employs a steady stream of unfounded assertions, logical fallacies and double standards. The effect is a classic gaslighting of those who believe Israel has a right to exist and defend itself and undermines those who believe Jews and Israelis deserve an opportunity to present their views on the conflict openly. We were in the audience that night and would like to correct the record regarding the event and contest a misrepresentative op-ed.

The author repeatedly accuses the panelists of making assertions not grounded in fact and then proceeds to do just that. In blindly repeating casualty figures provided by Gaza’s Health Ministry, for example, the writer relies on a source that has been questioned for misinformation and that fails to distinguish between militants and civilians. The writer complains that the panelists “[failed] to provide critical context for the Oct. 7 attacks,” ignoring the fact that the panel was explicitly focused on the war rather than the history of the conflict (as if context could somehow justify the rapes and cold-blooded murders of civilians that broke the ceasefire that preceded Oct. 7). The author portrays the event as a “two-hour long lecture” without a bona fide opportunity for dialogue, yet, in reality, the panel had a similar format to others held by The Fletcher School (with 30–45 minutes for presentations and 60–75 minutes for Q&A), and the panelists received and engaged constructively with several anti-Israel questions. Similarly, the author complains that the panel lacked rigorous and mutually agreed-upon norms despite the fact that the moderator, panelists and audience agreed to abide by the Chatham House Rule to encourage openness of discussion.

Then there is the long parade of logical fallacies. First, the author states that one of the speakers “made contradictory statements, arguing that Israel can’t avoid killing civilians because of Gaza’s dense urban areas, then claiming that civilian casualties are the fault of Hamas because it embeds itself in civilian infrastructure.” Both can be true: It has been proven that Hamas positions itself in civilian centers and uses Gazan civilians as human shields. Israel does not always achieve perfection but tries to limit civilian casualties in the context of an enemy that surrounds itself with or hides in tunnels beneath women and children. If Israel did not care about civilians, the war would have been over on Oct. 8.

Second, the author complains that one speaker “upset many in the audience” when discussing the sexual violence perpetrated against Israelis. Is it more logical to blame the speaker or to blame those who committed this pogrom of sexual violence? As difficult as these things may be to hear, we need reminders of the horrific sexual violence of Oct. 7 to combat illogical interpretations of the attack and its aftermath. The author assumes that other attendees were upset, but for us, this discussion served as important validation in the context of all the gaslighting concerning the facts of Oct. 7.

Third, the author criticizes a lack of proper citations, yet citations were present on many slides. Still, anti-Israel voices like Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine frequently fall short of proper evidence standards. On Oct. 17, SJP rashly defamed Israel when it blanketed the campus with flyers claiming that “Israel Just Bombed a Hospital Murdering over 1000 Palestinians … This is Genocide.” When intelligence from multiple nations found that a failed Islamic Jihad missile was at fault, SJP never issued a retraction.

Fourth, the author briefly acknowledges the “rising antisemitism” on campus but casts doubt on whether there is an increasingly unfriendly environment on campus for Jewish students by portraying this as merely an allegation. Seriously? Jewish students have to walk through our academic quad and see practically every building defaced with phrases like “F--- the Settler State,” “Glory to the Martyrs” and “You are on Stolen Land.” We must trudge over hateful graffitied slogans like “Globalize Intifada,” “From the River to the Sea” and “Divest from Israeli Apartheid.” For many, these slogans mean the eradication of Israel and its people. We cannot escape the stickers and posters plastering classroom seats, tables and walkways. We are devastated and scared by the vitriolic, oversized walls rotating between the Academic Quad, Mayer Campus Center and President’s Lawn that equate the Israel Defense Forces with the Ku Klux Klan and “Zionist tactics” with the killing of George Floyd. This false and illogical narrative that Jews are akin to white colonialists is so hurtful given the history of American Jews combating racial injustice and the reality that the plurality of Jews in Israel today are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. If this does not comprise an “unfriendly environment,” we shudder to think what would.

Finally, the article reaches peak gaslighting while rebuking a panelist at the event for a “baseless accusation that protesters in the images … were ‘Hamas supporters,’ even though nothing in the photos explicitly showed that.” When the photos in the presentation show signs reading “by all means necessary” and “keep the world clean” with a Star of David, should we really doubt that these are Hamas supporters? We recall, in our numb shock after Oct. 7, seeing an email sent by SJP with paraglider emojis. While we were paralyzed with fear for our loved ones in Israel, we recall SJP praising the “creativity necessary to take back stolen land.”

While the author argues that the event was an “insult” to Fletcher, we feel it directly furthered the school’s mission statement by properly acknowledging the complexity of the war. Moreover, it injected critically lacking perspectives to discourse surrounding the conflict and was certainly more “productive” and “accountable” than previous events (i.e. no students were spat upon this time around).

We agree that much nuance exists in the Israel-Hamas war. We agree that it is possible to critique the Israeli government while still believing that the Jewish state and people have the right to exist. We have faith in our peers that they can listen actively, learn from diverse events and ultimately acknowledge that this issue is multifaceted when armed with the type of critical information shared at the March 28 event. We urge our fellow students not to lose sight of the humanity within one another. We could use a little more compassion — and a little less antisemitism — on this campus.

Hannah Ascher and Guy Gottlieb,

Class of 2027