HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Opinion: An Emory student’s personal Israel story

Emory had a polarizing recent week to say the least. Israel has divided a usually apathetic campus.

Now that Israel and Apartheid weeks have come to an end and some of the tension has mitigated, I believe a personal statement is warranted. Recently my friends and I have heard despicably untrue statements.

The Emory Israel Public Affairs Committee (EIPAC), of which I am co-president, as well as myself have been called a group of white nationalists, right-wing extremists and a group trying to use “Jewish and Israel”-certain rhetoric to advance our cause on online platforms. We were told that we were lying about the eviction notes on rooms with mezuzahs despite reports received from Jewish students. My friend was publicly humiliated and laughed at when asking to meet with members of the group 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 that anyone who wants open dialogue come speak to me, or EIPAC. I can tell you with full confidence that peace and dialogue are values our club cherishes and will never allow to cease.

I grew up in both a liberal/progressive and a Zionist home. Unlike what most people believe, especially in an increasingly polarized society, these two 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 many incredible aspects, but also flaws. My piqued 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 I now work with Dr. Ken Stein at the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel. I also spent a summer working to help Palestinians get much-needed health care through Israeli donations and donations from throughout the U.S.

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. All in all, Israel is a complicated place. So please know that those who accuse EIPAC and myself of being ignorant and not seeing both sides are in fact very far from the truth. 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 and myself 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 Jewish people after the Holocaust, Israel became a safe haven for displaced Jewish people. She has been attacked with terror, rage, and stabbings, shootings, and more. Media often portrays Israel as an inhumane country and a recent op-ed in The Emory Wheel even compared Israeli occupation to conditions seen in Nazi Germany. Nationally, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has been a known anti-Semitic organization guided by terror tactics. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has described this group as a “terror-affiliated anti-Semitic network” that “incites hatred and violence against Jewish students, and rejects the existence of the state of Israel in any borders.

But what most don’t know are the incredible things Israel has to offer, including the humanitarian work of IsraAid, hosting one of the largest Pride parades in the world, and providing medical help for Syrian refugees. There are even Israelis constantly fighting for Palestinian rights.

These contributions are what EIPAC and Emory Eagles for Israel (EFI) seek to showcase — the positive side of Israel — without hiding the negatives. We are able to simultaneously criticize settlements while highlighting the recent humanitarian efforts of Israel in aiding Syrian refugees.

So the next time you want to critique us of not wanting peace, please come to our events and speak to us as individuals. Don’t undermine our ability to exercise our concerns and free speech. Speak to us as students who are just as eager to learn and express ourselves.

Emory University student Sophia Weinstein is co-president of The Emory Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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