The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

GUEST EDITORIAL: VSG “in solidarity with students” unless they support Israel.

VSG’s message is not only ignorant, but dangerous and harmful to the Jewish community at Vanderbilt.
Alex Venero
The Schulman Center for Jewish Life, as photographed on May 31, 2021. (Alex Venero/Hustler Multimedia)

The views expressed in this Guest Editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Hustler or its editorial board. 

On Saturday, May 22, the newly elected Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) released a statement titled “
In Solidary with Students” on their official Instagram page to express concern and sympathy towards those impacted as a result of the recent spike in violence between Israel and Palestine. Although the conflict has been widespread in mainstream media over the past few weeks, I was surprised to see a student government take a firm stance on such a complex geopolitical issue.

As a Jewish person, Israel has long been a part of my identity. I was taught from a young age about the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan which hoped to separate the land into two independent states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. The Jews immediately accepted the deal, rejoicing at the return of their ancestral homeland. The Arabs immediately rejected the deal and declared they would “sweep [the Jews] into the sea” with a “massacre which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades.” This was not an empty threat—over the next 60 years, Israel’s neighbors would launch five different wars against the young Jewish nation and displace over 850,000 Jews that had been living across the Arab world.

While several countries have made peace in recent years with Israel, some Arab leaders still believe Jews have no right to the land. Hamas, the militant terrorist group elected to lead the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, keeps their main priority simple and even lists it in their charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” In the most recent uptick in violence which began on May 10, Hamas has fired over 4,300 rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians.

VSG’s Instagram message ignored all this, instead promulgating that Israel is an “oppressive” “anti-indigenous” nation interested in “ethnically cleansing” their Arab community specifically “during the holy month of Ramadan.” They also inexplicably chose to conflate Israel’s behavior with capitalism which feels far too close to an old-fashioned trope about Jews and money.

Of course, this type of sentiment is nothing new. From actors like Mark Ruffalo describing that Israel is committing “genocide” to members of Congress such as Ilhan Omar calling Israel a terrorist “apartheid state,” it’s normalized in our society to bash Israel by carefully omitting key details about the situation. I’ve seen this my entire life from nescient and ill-informed politicians, but never imagined I’d see it from my very own student government. What is worse was their obvious attempt to excuse their behavior by denouncing “antisemitism in all forms.” A nice thing to say, but not an excuse to spread misinformation and be as antisemitic as they would like.

While VSG did reflect on Israeli lives lost and impacted as a result of the conflict, their statement massively misrepresents the issue to defend one side and goes to great lengths to attack the other. They ignore key facts like Hamas being notorious for basing their operations and storing rockets in apartment buildings, mosques, hospitals, and even schools. VSG is correct that tragically many Palestinian children have died, but left out the detail that Israel goes to great lengths to warn those in areas they plan to strike to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas encourages these casualties to internationally undermine the pro-Israel Zionist movement and push global antisemitism. They do not value human life, only the destruction of Israel, most evident by the 20-30% of rockets they fired that fell short onto their own people.

The concern is not simply that VSG chose to criticize Israel; Israel is open to criticism like any other government. Supporting the Palestinian cause is also not antisemitic. Around half the residents of Gaza are food insecure and youth unemployment is estimated at around 70%. Palestinians truly deserve immense sympathy and support for their quality of life and for the situation their leaders have created. However, those who turn a blind eye to the role of Hamas and place all of the blame on Israel are either speaking from extreme ignorance or acting with a malicious agenda.

As a Jewish person, I know how real and dangerous antisemitism is in our country and around the world. I was taught from a young age to be aware when issues escalate between Israel and Palestine because it always correlates to a rise in global antisemitism.

I’m lucky to be from a community where antisemitism is rare, but I can’t say the same for my friends and relatives in cities like New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Tucson, or dozens of other places that have seen upticks in antisemitism recently. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a New York-based international Jewish organization, said it has seen a “dangerous and drastic surge” in antisemitic hate crimes since the conflict broke out. All of these recent cases are part of a movement that conflates Jewish identity with Palestinian oppression

Two particular advocates for the condemnation of this statement were Gabriela Parsons and Ester Teper, both Jewish rising seniors. The day after VSG made their post, they met with a group of students virtually to organize both a statement in response as well as a petition with several demands. Parsons and Teper expressed concern that the incoming VSG administration has and is continuing to ignore Jewish voices on campus despite their pledge to represent all students. 

Parsons and Teper’s petition, which has over 1,595 signatures as of Wednesday, June 2, called for “the immediate removal of the post, a public apology to the Vanderbilt students, and the following actions: a conversation with Jewish student leaders, engagement with the Jewish community through Jewish cultural and religious events, and continuous education on Jewish persecution, trauma, history, current issues, and cultural values.” In the case that VSG fails to satisfy these calls, the petition demands the removal of those who signed the VSG statement from their respective offices.

To VSG: The Vanderbilt student body is nearly 15% Jewish, and your statement has devastated many of us. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that can bring up strong emotions and very easily tear us apart. It is incredibly complex and nearly impossible to sum up in one article or Instagram post. We, as the Vanderbilt community, deserve more than that. We need conversation. We need dialogue. We need a willingness to come together and see the world through other perspectives. We hope that you can hear the call from your Jewish peers, recognize the harm you have caused and take the actions necessary to unify this campus. 

To submit a Guest Editorial, please email our Opinion Editor Zoe Abel at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Jack Rosenblum, Former Author
Alex Venero, Former Multimedia Director
Alex Venero (‘23) is from Rumson, NJ. She is majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in World Politics. When not shooting for The Hustler, she can be found at almost any Vanderbilt Athletics event or exploring the food and coffee of Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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Comments (5)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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2 years ago

It’s giving very much “I support genocide”

2 years ago

proud of this.

2 years ago

We, as the Vanderbilt community, deserve more than that. We need conversation. We need dialogue. We need a willingness to come together and see the world through other perspectives.

This is meaningless drivel that appeals to no one.

What we need—especially while US foreign aid plays a crucial role in the conflict—is to condemn the state which has created an open-air prison in Gaza and constantly encroaches upon Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. You claim to care about “perspectives” while attempting a summary of the current crisis that elides the instigating factor: Sheikh Jarrah.

Any sincere attempt to “come together and see the world through other perspectives” would start with at least some recognition of this grievance, the most recent link in a long chain of displacement and theft.

Of course, this is not a sincere article. This is an (extremely transparent and cynical) attempt to co-opt the in vogue language of social justice to support a genocide. But that transparency does not make the cynicism any less chilling.

Last edited 2 years ago by John
2 years ago

Well said, Jack!

2 years ago

Why is there mass food insecurity and unemployment in Gaza? Could it possibly be because of an unjust siege and blockade carried out by a brutal apartheid regime (i.e. the government of Israel and IDF)? Could it be because Israel has a documented history of “putting Palestinians on a diet”? Could it be because residents of Gaza cannot easily leave to pursue higher education due to said blockade? Not to mention the great obstacles unjustly imposed on residents of Gaza seeking medical care. While Hamas and the PA have certainly repeatedly failed Palestinians, the fundamental source of suffering and subjugation for Palestinians is not Hamas, it is the State of Israel. Period. Full stop.