Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter to the Editor: Response to “Free Speech at The Beach”

Jane Conoley,

Today, when I woke up, the first thing I noticed was a text from my dear Palestinian friend, a young and hopeful girl getting her bachelor’s degree at a nearby university.

Although she is younger than me, I, a graduate student, look up to her for her encouraging spirit and ability to see the best in people, even when they display bad behavior. I can already imagine what she would say about you. She would say that I should be kind and gentle with my words because you probably don’t know what is going on in Palestine. She would say you are likely misled and, while that is not good, it is understandable because of your upbringing. She would say you also likely have to be careful with your words because of your position. She would give you a hundred excuses.

Unfortunately for you, her text said that she lost half of her family in the bombing. Unfortunately for you, she is grieving and terrified about losing the other half of her family. The Zionist military occupation cut the internet to Gaza and is currently bombing them non-stop. Non-stop. You, Dr. Conoley, cannot even imagine the horror.

Unfortunately for you, I am sitting here wondering how I can possibly exist in safety and security, with food in my stomach and a glass of water next to me. Unfortunately for you, I am desperately trying to find a way to exist in my own skin. My own white, American skin. Safe in my living room. Unfortunately for you, I am bawling for my dear, sweet friend, her family and all the others in Gaza.

Unfortunately for you, she is too busy grieving to stop me from writing this letter. If she knew, she would insist I try to see the best in you. Unfortunately for you, I see nothing good in you.

First, your emails. I tried writing a response as to just how problematic they were, but my writing was too angry to publicize. We will move past those emails. As you said, “I fear that as a nation we have started to glorify opinion (the lowest form of knowledge) over empathy and understanding which, according to Plato, is the highest form of knowledge.” I completely agree with you. I fear you glorify your own opinion (the lowest form of knowledge, as you stated) over empathy and understanding. Some things are just too embarrassing to direct attention to.

Let us move forward, shall we? Get right into your article. Just as embarrassing, you wrote this one for the world while your emails were a private love letter to your students and faculty. It is so kind of you to bring up the anti-war protests from Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. It is so nice that you have heard of these events and brought up the Kent State Massacre, where they happened to be protesting western imperialism, military occupation and the mass murder of innocent civilian. Sounds a bit familiar…

You, Conoley, are concerned about some of your students feeling attacked by the Students for Justice in Palestine and their rallies at Cal State Long Beach. We feel attacked as well. Have you any concern for the well-being of your Palestinian students, or just the Zionists on campus? You say you have to deal with the university’s reputation being damaged. This is true.

As we speak, Israeli and Zionist donors are threatening to pull their donations from CSULB. As we speak, CSULB continues to be a large contributor to weapon manufacturers like Boeing and Northrop Grumman, funneling its students into contributing to the genocide in Gaza. In a shocking and disgusting display of disregard for a genocide and military occupation of an Indigenous people, you have gladly aided in spreading the Zionist propaganda and encouraged the ethnic cleansing of well over 7,000 Palestinians, including over 3,000 children.

As CSULB president, you have actively made decisions that underserve your students and faculty here at our university, as well as all those in the Global South that continue to be bombarded by American and Israeli weaponry.

With regards to the propaganda you continue to spread, conflating antisemitism and anti-Zionism has to end. You hold a doctorate degree. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. Palestinians are also Semites. We want to end a genocide. This is not a religion against another religion. I have yet to meet a student working to end the genocide who has any ill feelings towards the Jewish community. I have, however, met Jewish students who feel erased and threatened by what is actually antisemitic propaganda. To put it bluntly, we can see your antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia.

Now, let us address your assertion that this genocide is simply a “conflict,” or as you so generously put it, a “75-year-old impasse.”

Palestine was invaded in 1948. Unarmed men, women and children were brutally murdered and forced out of their land by a military force. Attempts at agreements were struck, but the Zionist military occupation never kept their end of the bargain, gradually took more and more land and finally put a wall around Gaza. The only way to leave is by the Zionist checkpoints, where women are frequently sexually harassed and assaulted.

If you are lucky, you are able to get through in several hours. The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) currently hold more than 10,000 political prisoners, which include hundreds of children. Once taken into custody, each prisoner is held in a filthy, dark cell with no food or water and taken in for torture. These tactics include rape, physical assault, withholding of menstrual and hygiene products and psychological abuse. These prisoners are held without fair trial, with the most common charge being stone throwing. Christians and Muslims are prevented from accessing their religious buildings, especially during holiday periods. Movement is strictly regulated. There are large portions of Palestine under IOF control where Christians and Muslims are not allowed access.

This has been happening for 75 years and you want to call this an “impasse” and a “conflict?” This is a western-sponsored, imperialist occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people.

I ask myself every day if I have done enough to help, and the answer is no. What do you ask yourself every day, Conoley?

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