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We apologize for the behavior of our fellow students

This petition had 186 supporters

*To be clear, this response petition is posted by Benjamin Gladstone as an individual, and is not representative of the opinions of Moral Voices or Brown RISD Hillel. For the Moral Voices' response to the original petition, please see here*

As students at Brown University, we would like to apologize to Janet Mock for the shameful behavior of our peers. We were very proud to hear that Brown RISD Hillel and Moral Voices were to sponsor a lecture to be delivered by Janet Mock, a powerful voice for the rights of queer people and people of color. We were shocked to see the petition circulated against Jewish students’ right to host events addressing queer issues, both because of the petition’s blatant anti-Semitism and because of the disrespect it exhibited for such an important speaker and activist. Below, please find a series of points refuting the primary claims of the petition circulated against Janet Mock, beginning with a condemnation of the anti-Semitism inherent in the petition and then pointing out the baselessness of accusations of “apartheid,” “genocide,” and “pinkwashing.” 

1.   The fact that Hillel is home to groups engaged in discussion on Israel and Palestine does not make it acceptable for students on campus to oppose Hillel events that are entirely unrelated to Israel. Accusations that all events organized by Jewish groups, even those with no Israel-related stances or affiliations (such as Moral Voices), are part of some nefarious Israeli propaganda machine echo familiar tropes of anti-Semitism. Also, it should be noted that even Hillel-affiliated groups that do advocate for Israel are careful to highlight a variety of perspectives, often bringing in both Palestinian and Jewish speakers who oppose Israeli government policies. Brown Students for Israel, for example, brought in singer and leftist activist Sha’anan Streett last semester to voice his criticisms of the current Israeli government, and J Street U at Brown is hosting an event featuring Breaking the Silence this week.

2.   Accusations of Israeli “apartheid” are entirely unfounded. While Israel struggles with racial issues much the way that the United States and countries in Europe do, it maintains a system of civic equality and is comparable to European countries on social and economic issues. Moreover, those who lived under the apartheid system in South Africa have often refuted allegations that Israeli governance is comparable, and have even spoken out against the anti-Israel movement’s manipulation of their struggles.

3.   Accusations of Israeli “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are also unsubstantiated and offensive. The term “genocide” was coined after six million Jews and five million others were murdered in the Holocaust to convey the horrors of attempts to annihilate an entire people, something that Israel has never attempted to do. The use of those words is meant to demonize Israel by association with those who have committed atrocious crimes against Jews in the past. It is deliberately triggering of the collective trauma many Jews feel after a long history of oppression. Moreover, in military conflict, Israel uses carefully targeted tactics to minimize civilian casualties, and is often more successful in doing so than the United States. Israel stands as a bulwark against the oppression of Jews, having served as a refuge to persecuted Jews fleeing France, Russia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, and elsewhere, and has offered support to Sunni Arab and Kurdish fighters and civilians who have been victims of ethnic cleansing in Syria. It has a strong record of standing against genocides and ethnic cleansings, and no record of participating in them.

4.   Accusations of Israeli or Jewish pinkwashing are not only totally unfounded, but also extremely offensive. Just as the United States and other countries are not defined entirely by their foreign policies, Israel cannot be defined entirely by its conflict with Palestine. The anti-Israel movement’s deliberate ignorance of Israel’s human rights record is dismissive of the progress made in both Israel and other countries that are mired in conflicts of their own – can LGBTQIA+ rights activists in the United States, for example, not take pride in what they have accomplished given America’s role in international disputes? The idea that nothing Israel does has any legitimacy unless it fits conveniently into the anti-Israel narrative is odious, offensive, and false, and claims of pinkwashing should be vehemently discredited as not only preposterous, but also an abuse of LGBTQIA+ issues. The accusation leveled in the petition against Janet Mock that Israel has different policies toward LGBTQIA+ Palestinians than toward LGBTQIA+ Israelis is patently false, which is why LGBTQIA+ Palestinians occasionally flee to Israel from regions of the West Bank that are under Palestinian Authority law.

We hope that students at Brown University will refrain in the future from attacking Jewish students, or any others, based on their religious, ethnic, or national identities, and from leveling such blatantly false claims against Israel. Janet Mock, of course, is a brilliant and highly respected human rights activist, and we are very sorry that Brown’s campus will not be able to hear her story because of the hateful and irresponsible actions of a small portion of the student body. Janet Mock, we are sorry that the Brown student body is not above this.

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