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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Letter to the Editor | Why I grabbed the flag

On Oct. 26, Tulane University’s community experienced something we have never seen before. Hate and chaos descended on the outskirts of Tulane’s campus. McAlister Place was unrecognizable, as throngs of protestors screamed antisemitic chants: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Standing across the street, a group of pro-Israel supporters sang Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. Three men, one of them masked, began driving up and down Freret Street in a red pickup truck, waving a Palestinian flag and riling up their supporters. 

On their third lap past the protest, one of the men standing in the bed of the truck lifted an Israeli flag and flicked a lighter. The next thing I knew, I was charging at the truck and the flag was in my hands. Chaos erupted as several pro-Palestinian protestors battered me and other pro-Israel supporters with flagpoles, a belt and a megaphone. My head throbbed, and one of my peers’ faces was bleeding. Jewish blood was spilled on the street at Tulane. 

Some questioned what I did. After all, flag burning is a protected right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Our country has a history of tolerating flag burning at political rallies, and I certainly support free speech and debate. Was I in the wrong? Did I react improperly? 

I first calmed down and made sure my friends were okay — unfortunately, one was injured and is still recovering. I thought about what led me to take this seemingly impulsive and dangerous step. I think the reason is that what happened on Thursday was not in reality a political rally. It was an act of hate. What really happened was that a group of outsiders came to the most Jewish neighborhood of Louisiana to scream antisemitic slogans and provoke Jewish students. This was not about a Palestinian state or Palestinian rights; it was an attempt to intimidate Tulane’s large, proud Jewish community by making room for antisemitism and resorting to violence to subdue efforts to stop it. And I could not stand there and watch these people desecrate our flag, not because they were making a political statement, but because they wanted to intimidate young Jewish Americans.  

Tulane For Palestine, the group that suddenly formed last week and organized yesterday’s rally, is not recognized by the university. Although it’s called Tulane For Palestine, its supporters who gathered on Thursday seemed to be a mishmash of pro-Palestine individuals, many of whom came from the greater Louisiana area rather than Tulane. These protestors chose Tulane as a target simply because that’s where the Jews are. They were not trying to educate us about Palestinian rights or the humanitarian issues that are affecting Gaza residents. They just wanted to intimidate the 44% of Tulane undergraduates who are Jewish. I am not a First Amendment scholar and the distinction between a political rally and a hate march may not hold up in court, but I think it is an important one to make.

I understand that there is room for debate about Middle East policy, exactly how Israel and the U.S. should respond to the terrorist attacks in Israel, how to ensure Israel’s security while helping Palestinians build a better life and how to solve the region’s difficult problems.  

What cannot be tolerated is calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. “From the river to the sea,” needs to be understood for what it is: a call for the elimination of the 7 million Jews who live in Israel — more than were killed in the Holocaust. Coming to Tulane and calling for the destruction of Jews is not engaging in political dialogue, and that is why my passions and pride as a Jew overcame common sense last Thursday.

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