An open thank-you note from Brown Students for Israel to Brown RISD Hillel

Dear Brown RISD Hillel:

We at Brown Students for Israel would like to thank you for standing up for Zionist students on our campus by rescinding your sponsorship of a controversial event once it no longer had the endorsement of all of our Hillel’s Israel groups. We know that the decision not to support the event entitled “Jews Facing the Nakba” was a difficult one, and we are very grateful to you for it.

Brown Students for Israel supports open dialogue, which is why we frequently reach out to Students for Justice in Palestine for conversations (although they consistently rebuff our offers), why we recently participated in a dialogue session sponsored by Global Open Dialogue, and why we hosted an event of our own this semester that discussed different perspectives on 1948, including common Israeli and common Palestinian discourses. Nevertheless, it is also an important part of our mission to protect safe spaces for Jewish and Zionist students on this campus.

Whereas there is an abundance of anti-Zionist spaces at Brown, including student groups, courses, and university events that openly oppose the Jewish right to statehood, Hillel provides a rare and small safe space for students who believe in the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. The campus atmosphere around Israel/Palestine is so repressive that most Zionist students do not feel able to voice their ideas openly, to stand up to biased professors, or even to discuss Israel in public spaces. Those of us who do choose to defend the single Jewish State are subject to harassment, name-calling, derision from students and teachers’ assistants, and even direct threats to our personal safety. Only in Hillel are we able to speak freely about our support for a two-state solution.

Brown Students for Israel supports a two-state solution that ensures peace, security, dignity, and recognition for both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. That is why we were so disturbed when it became clear to us that students were seeking to host an event at Hillel that did not reflect that goal.

The conversation that did take place (which was sponsored by neither Hillel nor any Hillel-affiliated group) was deeply concerning. The history of the 1948 War was thoroughly distorted, only a single viewpoint was presented, the stories of the 850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews who were expelled from their homes during and around 1948 by Arab armies were ignored, and at least one member of Students for Justice in Palestine who has in the past threatened Brown Students for Israel members with violence was invited into the Hillel building. Despite all of this, the decision by Brown RISD Hillel not to sponsor the event sends a crucial message to Zionist students on this campus — that no matter how biased and oppressive the rest of campus is, we will always have a place to go.

Anti-Zionists do not need yet another space at Brown. Thank you, Brown RISD Hillel, for standing by our right to claim one space of our own.

Sincerely,

Brown Students for Israel