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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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. I think we can make an arguement that as far as Gaza and Hamas is concerned, that this is a religous conflict. Hamas seeks to institute Islamic Sharia law in the territory it governs. As a result, the secular and religious minorities (Christians) in Gaza face persecution.

    From the Hamas charter:

    Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

    “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. ”

    “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

    “After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

    The charter is a classical Islamist document, as it applies to Gaza. It cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a ludicrous anti-Semitic forgery.

    Add my voice to those who think that this graffitti was a simple minded but earnest attempt at promoting unity. The dove wasn’t obscured- there was nothing hateful- I think there has been a considerable amount of over-reaction to this silly gesture.

  2. Perhaps the reason that there is so much contention over the Arab-Israeli conflict is because there is a general lack of knowledge of the facts and people seem to base their strongly held opinions on what they have been told rather than what is factual. For example, “Shalom”, there were periods where Jews were able to live under Muslim rule as “dhimmis”, subservient, tolerated monotheists,second class citizens in relative peace, but that was only sometimes and it was a “Jim Crow” existance. After Israel declared independence, the states of the Arab League,in response, expelled their estimated 950,000 Jewish citizens, confiscating their possesions and real state estimated as roughly five times the size of Israel. The descendants of the Jews from Arab lands today represent about 50% of Israel’s population.

  3. @ Christopher.brow and Sam Tse. I really really would love to see the world in your eyes. it seems like a very peaceful place. In fact, this ideal world is not the one we live in. The star of david was no way drawn on the dove to show solidarity. It is very unlikely that this is the case. Why? because if you know anything about the conflict then you would know what the star means in that regard. the Jewish settlers in the west bank are known to brand the star on the walls of the houses and property of palestinians when they attack. You should visit Btselem.org (The israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories) for more information about the conflict. also if you google Settler graffiti, you will see images of the star branded on palestinian properties with statments like (gas the arabs, kill arabs, the jews will keep this land….)

    I wish it was that simple and we could just say the star was branded for the purpose of solidarity, but a little understanding of the conflict will explain the exact meaning of the star here.

  4. @Theresa, you should probably also mention that Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in peace in palestine before the zionist movement. The Zionist movement is what started all the trouble. At a time when Jews where persecuted in Europe, they had the best lives in the arab countries. They were treated equally with the christians and muslims in the area. Go educate yourself and stop fabricating history. The years you are referring to are the same years of many haganah attacks(zionist terrorist gang)against palestinians. Stop making it a religious conflict. IT IS NOT A RELIGIOUS CONFLICT. Jews and and non-jews lived side by side until zionists decided that non-jews should not exist. look this video up on youtube and you ll see what i am referring to “Israeli Jewish man says Zionism is the cause of the problems”.

  5. Matan has written a thoughtful analysis, and although I am neither Jewish or Palestinian, I feel he is correct. This act, as misguided as it was, seems to be a gesture of solidarity, not of hate. We may never know the intentions of the person who did this, but I suspect to me, its a cry for peace, a cry for solidarity among two people whoses history is closely entwined.

    I have seen hate. This isn’t it.

  6. I completely agree with this article. When I look at the star of David inside of the Palestinian dove I can’t help but think that if the purpose putting the symbol there was to deface the mural then they would have DEFACED THE MURAL… they would not have drawn it so serenely and in such a meaningful spot.

    It saddens me that this campus is so quick to jump to hate. Being a member of the LGBT community, I know what vandalism and hate look like. Also, from volunteering at Hillel, while not ascribing to any religion or coming from a culturally Jewish standpoint, I really don’t think the purpose of the star of David on the mural was to be taken offensively.

    Why don’t we think about it? Is that so hard?

    Chris Brown

  7. Sorry, sent too early. The Mount of Olives cemetery where Jews have been burying there dead for 2000 years was desecrated. a road was put through it, and the gravestones were used for paving material.

    When I first read the article about the “Vandalism”, my first impression was the same as the author of this peace. it seems like a lovely gesture. the dove with the Jewish star soaring off together. it seems like a vision of harmony and coexistence, not hate and exclusion. I think the person who did this meant well, and is probably horrified by the reaction s/he received

  8. The Arabs of this area committed ethnic cleansing of the Jews for many many years. the city of Hebron, the second holiest to the Jewish people was ethnically cleansed in the 1920s and the Jewish population murdered. the ethnic cleansing continued under Jordans occupation from 1948through 1967. dozens of synagogues, some dating back centuries were destroyed, and the Jewish population driven off. the Mount of Olive cemetery, where Jews have been burrying thei

  9. I have no idea why you are comparing a RELIGION to a COUNTRY. A country that is being oppressed by Israel in a modern age where we believe in liberty and freedom. I am not a Muslim nor am I a Jew; I am just a civil citizen that is disgusted by this article and is in disbelief that people like the zionists (aka you) exist in this world.

  10. My understanding is that the mural represents struggles around the world. If I’m not mistaken, Palestinians are struggling to simply live (literally). That has nothing to do with Jews or the Jewish faith. It has to do with an oppressive country (Israel) that is systematically oppressing a people (Palestinians). Want to talk about whats offensive? Murder is offensive. Occupation is offensive. Demolition of homes is offensive. Restricting clean water is offensive. Restricting movement is offensive. A blockade of basic necessary goods is offensive. Settlements are offensive. And the list goes on…Peace means Palestinians and Israelis respect each other and live together in one country with equal rights for all. Vandalism is not a good start even with the “right” intentions.

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