Letter to the Editor: Response to Rashida Tlaib article

Cori Shalit and Yael Pasumansky

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On Sept. 12, 2019, Tulane students wrote an article about Rashida Tlaib’s visit to Tulane. In the article, the authors bring up a multitude of issues, including the representative’s opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

While diverse opinions should be endorsed, journalists must adhere to the journalistic code of ethics. Journalists must report factually and accurately, yet the authors of this article have not. Rather than reporting on the facts of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the authors project opinions which are not backed up by facts.

Two weeks ago, Rashida Tlaib visited Tulane and met with the Muslim Students Association.

First, the authors of the article depict Zionism as an oppressive movement. In reality, Zionism is the national movement for the yearning of the return of the Jewish people to their historical and ancestral homeland of Israel. The idea of yearning for Zion has kept Jewish people connected through the diaspora and is a core Jewish value for many. Zionism does not preclude coexistence. Moreover, Israel has offered numerous peace treaties, all of which were rejected by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the organizations that control the West Bank and Gaza in which most Palestinians currently reside.

The authors of the article consistently imply that Zionists “support the genocide of Palestinians,”  yet fail to provide fact-based evidence for this claim. The authors do not explain the definition of genocide nor do they elaborate on the topic. Genocide is a term used to describe the violent intention to destroy an entire racial, ethnic or religious group. Raphäel Lemkin, the creator of the word, was deeply affected by learning about the Armenian Genocide growing up, and when he got older, he was forced to flee Nazi-occupied Poland. Using the word “genocide” in this situation undermines historical genocides such as the ones Lemkin was referring to. 

Israel is fighting a defensive war. In a recent speech by Hamas leader Fathi Hamad, he urged Palestinians across the globe to kill every Jew, thereby inciting genocide against the Jewish people. When examining the facts in the Arab-Israeli conflict, one can understand that Israel consistently does everything in its power to protect innocent Palestinian civilians in times of dispute. The article lacks information about the countless precautions Israel, and specifically, the Israeli Defense Forces, take to safeguard civilian life, regardless of “side.” 

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Yacob Arroyo | Staff Artist

While the article argues that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “not a bipartisan issue,” we believe striving for a humanistic solution is important regardless of political affiliation. The authors wrote that anyone who is not an anti-Zionist Democrat supports Palestinian oppression, a statement that is not supported by facts. A large majority of Zionists have been historically and continue to identify as Democrats. Claiming these people support Palestinian oppression is inaccurate many Zionist Democrats advocate for peace in the Middle East and support Palestinian human rights. Polarizing this argument is worrisome and creates a large impediment to the peace process. Segregating anti-Zionist Democrats from the rest of the political spectrum pushes us further from establishing a solution. 

As students who are politically active and passionate about promoting peace, we want to encourage and facilitate dialogue between people who hold diverse points of view. Representative Tlaib, however, has made it clear that she is not willing to engage with Zionists. 

The congresswoman has made anti-Semitic comments and has promoted a boycott of Israel. Tlaib also refused to participate in the largest-ever congressional delegation to Israel and attempted to inspire other members of Congress to #skipthetrip. Had she attended, perhaps she would have seen firsthand the complexity of the issues within the nation. 

Tlaib later requested the right to visit Israel to see her grandmother. Once Israel’s interior minister approved the request, she declined the offer, yet again demonstrating her adamance against communicating with a differing perspective. 

Tulane University is 41% Jewish and one of the largest Jewish communities on a university campus in America. Bringing a speaker who incited such a polarizing message to the Tulane community poses the danger of halting a dialogue between students of contrasting opinions. 

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of great complexity, featuring varying opinions. The first steps to finding a solution, however, stem from listening to one another. If the authors of this article are serious about establishing peace between Israelis and Palestinians, they must seek to find solutions to the conflict and be willing to engage with diverse voices to have fact-based discussions. 

Not once was a progressive outlook of a peaceful future mentioned in this article. To dilute the rich history of this controversial region into two opposing sides sensationalizes one perspective and obstructs the development of peace. Instead, we must encourage and facilitate conversations aimed at exploring solutions to this complex issue.