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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Guest Opinion: Matan Shelomi

Upon reading the article in the Aggie about the act of vandalism, I was greatly saddened to hear that people responded so negatively. In my opinion, this was not a message of hate, but a message of peace: The peaceful coexistence between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs, which people often forget should be the endpoint of the Middle East conflict.

When I first saw the unaltered mural on campus, I was horrified. Here, on a mural supposedly showing off Davis’ commitment to diversity was a symbol that, among other things, represents the murder and genocide of millions of innocent Jews and the ethnic cleansing of Judea. The bird, to me, seemed to aspire to a Jew-free Palestine, where Jews are not allowed to live or visit, which the current Palestinian leadership is, unfortunately, trying to create. In the light of the past year’s hate crimes against Jews and Israelis across the UC system, I felt this was in bad taste. Worse, I was deeply offended that a mural supposedly celebrating the diversity of the campus didn’t have a single symbol of Judaism anywhere. Jews are a minority in UC Davis, and we come in all races and colors. To leave the victims of hate crimes both in California and abroad throughout history off a mural that’s supposed to celebrate minorities seemed like an atrocity. I felt when looking at the mural, as I did when the hate crimes occurred, and as I do now, that Jews and Israelis are not welcome on campus, nor in the world the architects of this mural envision.

To me, the vandalism serves two purposes. The first is to “take back the paint,” so to speak, and show that Jews on this campus should not fear for their lives as we did in the spring, but can know that we have some power and that someone on the campus is willing to fight for our rights at a time when it is fashionable not to do so. The second is to make an offensive mural less offensive.

Consider if the vandal had more artistic skill, and was able to seamlessly integrate the symbol of Israel with the symbol of Palestine, so that the casual observer assumed the two were meant to be together. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? An Israeli-Palestinian-Peace bird, soaring upward and forward and taking both peoples to a bright new future where the hatred and the one-sided arguments that defined the 2009-2010 UC year were no longer in fashion. The tag was not a symbol of hate. It erased one, and made it a symbol of partnership. A two-state-solution, representing UC Davis’ commitment to peace, to freedom of expression and the continuing presence of Israeli students on a campus that, so far, has made no efforts to hide its disdain for them and views of them as secondary citizens. The mural now truly represents all of Davis’ minorities, including the one race that has suffered the most on this particular campus.

The best way to respond to this is not to blindly hate the change and certainly not to compare it to the hate crimes of last year (comparing Israel to Nazis is anti-Semitic, inaccurate, offensive and a common trick used to promote hatred against Jews and Israelis on campuses and in foreign nations). Rather, the campus should address the motives for the action: why did the vandal resort to covert action instead of openly stating his or her grievance? Why do Jews on campus feel too intimidated to speak up? Should we be proud that we held a week of anti-Israel activities on campus immediately following the arson of our Hillel in 2001? If the campus sees this as a hate crime instead of a glaring sign of how Jews and Israelis on this campus feel threatened, oppressed and unprotected despite the weak efforts of the campus to end hate, then it is doing itself a disservice. Perhaps the campus should ask itself why Jews (and gays, for that matter!) were left out of a mural promoting diversity and minorities, when hate crimes against these minority groups have surged in past years.

Vandalism, in any form, is always a crime, but I think this was a crime of love, and a sincere wish for peace. I’m sorry to see Students for Justice in Palestine pervert this message of cooperation into a supposed attack, and hope we see this as an opportunity for reconciliation and apology for past wrongs, not as an excuse for propaganda and a furtherance of bad blood.

Matan Shelomi is a graduate student in entomology.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Equalist says “indeed 0 Jews left in Gaza”

    Well, thats not entirely true. There is one Jew left. His name is Gilad Shalit and he has been held for over 4 years in solitary confinement, deprived of his Geneva convention rights, without even visitation from the International Red Cross.

  2. Josh says: I find it interesting that digital interactions between Americans (many of whom have never experienced either of the places they so enjoy debating about) are often more polemic and less productive than similar discussions of the peace-process in the Middle East between actual Israelis and Palestinians.

    I’ve heard that before! Partially its because of the slanted and biased anti-Israel rhetoric on campus and on the web. (If the Jews really do control the media, they are failing miserably.)

    Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has written about this phenonenon here:

    http://www.hudson-ny.org/424/on-campus-the-pro-palestinians-real-agenda

    “During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.

    Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

    I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

    I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Furthermore, I was told that all the talk about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority was “Zionist propaganda” and that Yasser Arafat had done wonderful things for his people, including the establishment of schools, hospitals and universities.

    The good news is that these remarks were made only by a minority of people on the campuses who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” although the overwhelming majority of them are not Palestinians or even Arabs or Muslims.

    The bad news is that these groups of hard-line activists/thugs are trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear.

  3. While I will not comment on the nature of this article or on the specific content of any of the comments that followed (because I find the vector they are collectively moving in less than productive), I will say that, as a Jew, and someone who has been to both Israel and the West Bank, I find it interesting that digital interactions between Americans (many of whom have never experienced either of the places they so enjoy debating about) are often more polemic and less productive than similar discussions of the peace-process in the Middle East between actual Israelis and Palestinians.

    The nature of the interaction above says something truly ugly, and in my humble opinion un-American, about both groups participating in it. We’ve come to an institution like UC Davis in an effort to check our more childish selves at the door and participate in useful discussion that collectively buys a bottle of proverbial tequila, gets a thesis and an antithesis drunk, brings them to Froggy’s together and gets them to make a sweet synthesis love child, producing something new that couldn’t have been without our cooperative academic efforts. Consider the ultimate ambition of the institution this newspaper represents with each additionally foolish comment that I imagine will continue to follow.

    And then read my column every Thursday. I’m the asshole in the tie.

  4. Gullible people might believe that there’s nothing “Jew-free” about Palestinian plans, but the Palestinian Authority has made it a crime PUNISHABLE BY DEATH to sell land to Jews, and there are indeed 0 Jews left in Gaza.

  5. Palestinians do not recognize the state of Israel on any maps of the Middle East. Its no wonder they would not accept it at Davis, either

    Palestinians are motivated, not by territorial acquisition, but by a political theology that all of Palestine, like other territory once conquered or controlled by Muslim forces, is “holy land” — never again to be controlled by non-Muslims. Israel cannot resolve the conflict no matter what compromise it offers. The only thing that the Arab world will accept is Israel’s defeat

    Its interesting to see the varying interprtations of a tiny star on a mural. Is it tagging? Intimidation? Is it a gesture of coexistance? Is it must a reminder that there is another group in the region, and please don’t forget that?

    Last year, I spent some time in Israel as part of a Christian peacekeepers mission, and was struck by, not just the beauty of the land, but the diversity of the people.

    There are blacks, whites and Asians in Israel. There are dozens of languages spoken. All signage is in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Although no doubt there is tension below the surface, Israel to an outsider seems like a marvel of co-existence and tolerance. Muslims, Christians and Jews all live together, shop together, work together.

    If only some of the commentors could see for themselves, they would understand

  6. Just a reminder to everyone posting comments: If you’d like to see your opinion in The Aggie, write a letter to the editor (less than 200 words) or a guest opinion (400-600 words) and email it to me at opinion@theaggie.org. I can’t promise we’ll print everything, but we will consider all submissions.

    Regards,

    Jeremy Ogul

    Opinion Editor

    The California Aggie

  7. Baffling statement: “I have no idea why you are comparing a RELIGION to a COUNTRY.”

    Israel is a country, not a religion, and Zionism is nothing more than the belief that the Jewish people have the right to self detertimation in the land of their ancestors. There has been a continual Jewish presence in Israel for over 3,000 years. Zionism as in love of Zion, has been a motivating, driving force in Jewish life for generations.

    I too am saddened that people are so quick to jump to conclusions, and that the suffering of the Jewish people during the intifada has been belittled. Over a thousand Jews were killed, tens of thousands injured. The reign of terror only ended when Israel built a fence to protect its civilian population.

    I hope for the day when th Jewish People and the Palestinian people each have a country to call their own, and live together, side by side and in peace

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