Now that Israel Apartheid Week has come to an end and some of the tension has been mitigated, I believe a personal statement is necessary.
EIPAC (Emory Israel Public Affairs Committee), of which I am co-president, has been called a group of white nationalists, right-wing extremists, and a group trying to use certain “Jewish” and pro-Israel rhetoric to advance our cause. We were told that we were lying about the eviction notices being placed on rooms with mezuzahs, despite reports received from Jewish students. A fellow member of the pro-Israel community was publicly humiliated and laughed at when asking to meet with members of SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). We were told that EIPAC and Jewish organizations should be expelled until we rescind our statements.
So let me tell you my personal story and encourage anyone who wants open dialogue to come speak to me or EIPAC, as I can tell you with confidence that peace and dialogue are values our club cherishes.
I grew up in both a liberal/progressive AND Zionist home. Unlike what most people believe, especially in an increasingly polarized society, these concepts ARE NOT mutually exclusive. I spent high school protesting for progressive causes and came to college with a desire to learn more about the world and change it in a positive way.
After visiting Israel with Emory, I learned quickly that such a beautiful country has many nuances and incredible aspects, but also flaws. My interest led me to declare a major in international studies with a focus on the Middle East. I spent a semester at Hebrew University interning at a think tank and now work with Dr. Ken Stein at the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel.
I also spent a summer working at Ameinu in New York City to help Palestinians get much needed health care through Israeli donations and donations throughout the United States. I spoke with many Palestinians and visited their homes in the West Bank. I also spoke with a diverse range of Israelis from all spectrums of religious and cultural life.
Israel is a complicated place. Those who accuse EIPAC of being ignorant and not seeing both sides are wrong. We criticize the Israeli government and seek ways to find peaceful alternatives in many of our sessions and presentations. We encourage people of all political backgrounds to come to our events.
EIPAC will always stand for a two-state solution. We stand with Palestinians and Israelis and work with a bipartisan audience to ensure these goals are met. I would have never joined a club that didn’t have a firm stance of advancing peace and working with both sides.
This is where issues stem from: If you take a look at the world beyond Emory, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric is rampant. It’s everywhere. With no homeland for the Jewish people after the Holocaust, Israel was the only safe haven for Jews to go to. She has been attacked with terror, rage, stabbings, shootings and more. The media portrays it as an inhumane country and the Emory Wheel has even compared it to Nazi Germany. SJP has been a known anti-Semitic organization guided by terror tactics.
But what most don’t know is the incredible things Israel has to offer. The humanitarian work of IsraAID. One of the largest pride parades in the world. Medical help for Syrian refugees. Even Israelis constantly fighting for Palestinian rights. This is what EIPAC and EFI (Eagles for Israel) seek to show. The positive side – without hiding the negatives.
So the next time you want to critique us for this and that please come to our events and speak to us as individuals.
Sophia Weinstein is a senior at Emory University and co-president of Emory Israel Public Affairs Committee.