A few opinion pieces in The Daily Iowan about the recent Remi Kanazi event have come to my attention, and I feel a response is necessary. As expected, some of them are very insincere in their depiction of him. This is not unusual when it comes to the conversation surrounding the Israeli occupation; on the contrary, a one-sided discourse that uplifts Israeli voices and silences Palestinian voices is the norm.
The following are some points I’d like to address:
First is the constant portrayal of Kanazi as some obstinate adversary, not open to dialogue. This narrative is pushed using Kanazi’s line “I don’t want to coexist” out of context. The full quote is: “I don’t want to coexist. I want to exist as a human being. And justice will take care of the rest.” It’s ironic that those accusing Kanazi of being not open to dialogue seem to be guilty of that trait themselves. Those who attended the whole event can confirm that Kanazi is extremely open to conversation and was welcoming to the protesters at the event.
The second issue I’d like to bring up is in regards to boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Israel is an apartheid state. The United Nations recently issued a report in which it described Israel as an oppressive apartheid state and encouraged governments to support boycott and divestment. We’ve seen the success of this in South Africa, and it’s a decidedly nonviolent method of obtaining justice and reform. To the freshman quoted in Sara Stortz’s piece, “UI divided on Palestinian speaker,” who implied that Israel’s innovations in technology are somehow reasons to forgo boycott, I ask: Is a chip in your cellphone really more important to you than justice for millions of oppressed people?
A third concern I have is the erasure of anti-Zionist Jewish students when the phrase “the Jewish students” is used, as it has been in previous pieces on Kanazi. I refuse to believe that some are so vain as to assume that they speak for all Jewish students on campus, and it’s upsetting that they would silence others’ voices so disdainfully.
Last, I want to address the assumption that all groups involved want a neutral campus. That those who make this assumption don’t bother to ask all groups involved before making that claim is problematic in and of itself, but I find issue with the claim itself. I, personally, find the idea of belonging to a neutral campus abhorrent. Famously put by Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I will never be satisfied with neutrality.
There is much more to be said, but I will end with this: If you are sincere in your desire for dialogue, you won’t require that it happen on your terms only. You won’t try to silence others. You won’t attempt to sabotage their attempts to speak up. You won’t expect from others what you are not willing to give.
— Gada Al-Herz