Op-ed: Voices not silenced at Northeastern

In response to Prasanna Rajasekaran’s column published on March 31 in the Northeastern University Political Review, I am writing to ensure that our student body receives the opposing view.[1] As a student who has seen more anti-Israel activity than I expected in my first two years at Northeastern, I feel that it is my responsibility to speak up.

The reason that we have senators is because we, the student body, place our trust in our representatives to vote with our best interests in mind. To quote the same statement Rajasekaran cited from the Student Government Association (SGA) website: “the senate is charged with expressing the general will of the student body.” Although senators are not elected, any campus organization can have a senator, which means that SGA reflects the views of many students on campus. Our university, like the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, allows for a civil debate in a senate meeting among senators.

It’s important to note that in being the organization to bring forth the Divestment Referendum, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members had more time than any other organization on campus to plan arguments for their debate and talk with senators. In fact, they were the only student organization afforded the ability to be present and speak on the Divestment Referendum at the SGA meeting that was otherwise closed to non-senators. The March 16 meeting was called into an executive session because too many people were expected to show up, creating a foreseeable fire hazard. SJP organized a coalition with several other groups in advance of bringing the referendum, and attempted to package the referendum as part of a progressive block of referenda for positive change. As exemplified by the 25-9 SGA vote against the Referendum, the majority of senators’ opinions reflects the same views of many other college campuses.[2] Pro-Israel students at Northeastern exercised their freedom of speech by lobbying for causes that are important to them. To carry out an informed debate, well-written speeches and talking points should be prepared. US Senators even prepare speeches and talking points. Furthermore, NU Hillel coordinated efforts in writing letters to senators in response to SJP’s lobbying senators first. SJP published an intimidating letter from the American Civil Liberties Union and a letter from a former NU Hillel executive director, implying an endorsement of the Divestment Referendum by NU Hillel itself. Statements and letters by community members opposed to the referendum were subsequently written to clarify that the views expressed did not reflect NU Hillel’s views.

Rajasekaran’s article was misleading in only citing Hillel for thanking outside organizations for their support. On March 13, SJP listed almost twice as many non-NU related organizations that they were working with to influence the election – over 30. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the origin of the referendum in question, was developed by external organizations. According to the Anti-Defamation League, passing BDS referenda on college campuses is just step one – to demonize and delegitimize Israel – in eventually eliminating the world’s only Jewish state.[3] In a Mondoweiss article written by leading BDS activist Ahmed Moor on April 22, 2010, he said, “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”[4] NU’s SGA senators viewed the connection of the Referendum to BDS as problematic, and were right to deny it a platform at Northeastern University.

Finally, the matter SGA voted upon was whether or not to put a referendum on the ballot, not to silence dialogue on campus. Both Huskies for Israel and SJP, as well as other academic departments and student groups, host numerous events and speakers throughout the semester. Any NU student is welcome to attend and engage in conversations about the Middle East conflict on campus. Such opportunities allow for much more nuanced conversation around the complexities than a simple Yes/No vote on a ballot allows. As college students, we have the privilege of educating ourselves and learning from peers outside of the classroom. I hope that you will join me in increasing our understanding by attending events and holding conversations that are held outside of the senate chambers.

 

References

[1] Rajasekaran, Prasanna. “SGA Senate Tramples Student Speech.” NUPR. N.p., 31 Mar.

  1. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

[2] “BDS Failures Continuously Amassing.” In Focus. CAMERA, 23 May 2014. Web. 05 Apr.

2015.

[3] “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).” ADL. Anti-Defamation League, 2015. Web. 05

Apr. 2015.

[4] Moor, Ahmed. “BDS Is a Long Term Project with Radically Transformative Potential.”

Mondoweiss. N.p., 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.

Related articles

Third Time’s A Charm?

On September 13, 2012 the Federal Reserve Board of Governors announced their newest foray into monetary policy: Quantitative Easing Three (more commonly referred to as QE3). Benjamin Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced that the Fed would enact the policy starting immediately, and that this current round of Quantitative Easing would last until […]

The “Deal of the Century” and the Death of the Two-State Solution

In late January of this year, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally unveiled “Peace to Prosperity,” a proposal by the Trump administration to resolve the Arab–Israeli conflict. The so-called “Deal of the Century” plagiarizes a forty-year-old plan by the World Zionist Organization, envisions a disjointed Palestinian state, and loosely promises […]