Letter to the Editor: We Matter

Dear Lawrence community,

I’m writing you in response to a panel that was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine entitled “The History of the Israeli-Palestinian Question: A Panel”. I would like to begin by stating that the Palestinian narrative is extremely valuable to the understanding of the conflict. Hence, my criticism is directed at the panel, not at the Palestinian people. I personally chose not to attend the panel; nonetheless, I heard a recording of it, read an article about it in The Lawrentian, and talked to people who went. While the invitation to the panel seemed neutral: come and learn about the historical context of the conflict, the distorted maps of Israel/Palestine made me suspicious about the true nature of this panel. I voiced my concerns via message to one of the organizers. Unfortunately, my concerns were ignored.

I am writing because my voice has been silenced. I ask you what I asked the organizers: as the only Israeli student on campus (a fact also known to the organizers), why was I not invited to participate in a panel concerning my history, my life, my future, my family, and my well-being? Why were students who have never seen this region of the world selected as experts over me? Wouldn’t I be a good source as a person who has personally experienced the conflict? Wouldn’t I be able to provide insight, add complexity, and personal expertise into my own history? Why wasn’t I included and my concerns ignored? I did not go because it would have been detrimental to my own mental well-being to listen to an unfair and unjust depiction of the conflict I knew that just as my voice was dismissed before the panel, the voice of the Israeli narrative would be completely dismissed during the event. I did not want to bear witness to a panel that demonizes and oversimplifies my home and its sensitive history.

After hearing the recording, talking to people, and reading about it, I feel even more offended: my history has been manipulated and distorted and many important historical events that are critical to the understanding of the conflict were excluded in order to create a dichotomy of good and bad: good Palestine and evil Israel. Historical events were used to reduce Israel to the status of the only perpetrator in this conflict.

Why was the Israeli narrative completely neglected in a panel that presumed to give the historical background of the conflict? The organizers argue that they bring the stories of underrepresented population. What of the lost voices of the underrepresented Israeli population? Take for instance the story of little Adele, a 4-year-old Israeli girl who died today (Wednesday, February 18) after complications from a stone that was thrown at her by a Palestinian extremists. Is her story over represented in the media? What about the story of the children of Israel who experienced the horror of 4,594 rockets during the past war this summer, many of which suffer from severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder? Are their stories over represented by the media? Don’t they deserve to be heard? Don’t they deserve justice? While the panel may have claimed to contest the image shown in the Western media, the narrative presented in the Western media is often not Pro-Palestine, but simply anti-Israel.

There are many victims in this conflict, and they all have faces and deserve to live safely. Each one deserves to be represented in a panel concerning their lives. I believe that advertising the panel as providing a historical background is irresponsible. Why wasn’t it advertised for what it really was: an anti-Israel event whose sole purpose was to legitimize resistance against Israel, hence a legitimization of violence. I am angry because the de-legitimization of Israel as a state furthers us from the peace process, the only way to end this conflict.

Palestinians and Israelis deserve to prosper and to live in peace and security. We the people of Israel and the people of Palestine matter. Our conflict is ours to resolve and we need to solve it together. If you truly want to help us, listen to our voices, help us facilitate a dialogue, embrace us, and help us heal our wounds. In times where so many are fighting to keep us divided, we need you to help us come together to create a new kind of a discourse: the peace discourse. I am inviting each and every one of you to join me on this challenging but possible mission. Please expect more events in the future to facilitate this dialogue of peace.

-Yifat Levenstein