Not in my name: A loss of humanity in discussing Hamas and Israel
In the spirit of transparency — something that has been far too difficult to come across these past few weeks — I feel as though it is important to emphasize that this is a quasi-response to a piece published in Forum last week.
Coming to Brandeis, I was so excited to join a community built on inclusion as a core value. However, the discourse that has consumed campus since the violent escalation between Hamas and Israel on Oct. 7 has been disheartening, isolating, and frightening.
First and foremost, I think it is a disservice to everyone to ignore the reality that being on Brandeis’ campus has given many of us a privilege we’ve never known before. I was born and raised in the Midwest, so coming to a place like Brandeis where Jewish students like me make up over 30% of the student body was unlike anything I’d experienced in my life.
While I, and those just like me, are intimately aware of our marginalization in the world, I reject the idea that we are a marginalized “minority” on campus. According to Hillel International, we have the sixth highest percentage of Jewish students at any university in the country — second highest when looking at only non-sectarian institutions.
We are absolutely a university founded on Jewish values, and were thus created to provide a space for students impacted by historical prejudice in higher education. But let us not ignore the immense power we wield as members of the Jewish community on this campus. It is our job to uplift other students who are marginalized both on and off campus.
And realistically, it is our job to do that regardless of what we may receive in return. American Jewish women were heavily involved in the suffrage movement, we marched right alongside Civil Rights activists in the 60’s, and we have historically supported LGBTQ+ rights.
However, to invoke our name in the claim that we are owed some sort of activism in return is disgusting. We do not, and will not, engage in activism to receive something back in return. We fight for others simply because it is the right thing to do, regardless of whether or not they choose to fight for us. To imply anything else questions the integrity and sanctity of our allyship in the first place.
As a proud member of the American Jewish community, it is our guiding principles of “Tzedek” — justice — and “tikkun olam” — repairing the world — that have led me here. My Jewish roots do not command me to fight for Israel. They command me to fight against the violence perpetuated by both Hamas and the IDF. They command me to stand up for those in the West Bank being displaced by Israeli settlers. They command me to advocate for every civilian in the Gaza strip facing starvation, power outages, and a lack of humanitarian aid. And they command me to stand boldly against the use of chemical agents against millions of civilians. This is not a matter of indigeneity; it is a matter of rejecting violence being committed in my name against a people being charged with the crime of merely existing.
For years I have joined my Jewish peers as we’ve screamed from the rooftops that Jews are not a monolith. The act of one is not the act of all or even many. Though we all gather every Shabbat to read the same text and chant the same prayers, we are millions of people with millions of independent thoughts. It has unbelievably pained me to see so many of my brothers and sisters arguing against this fact we’ve spent years trying to normalize. My social media feeds have been flooded with self-righteous infographics asserting that “all Jews” notice your silence; “all Jews” want you to support Israel; “all Jews” are hurting right now.
I am hurting. But my pain is rooted in this idea that I can’t hold space in my heart for my family in Israel while also holding space for Palestinians victimized every single day by the Israeli government. I’m hurt that so many members of my community feel dignified in the fear they have imposed onto our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim peers in my name. I am hurting because my resistance to oppressors who look and sound like me has led some to question the validity of my faith at all. I have neither forgotten my roots nor am I “self-hating.” It is precisely through a profound love for my religion that I disavow the “obligation” to stand on one specific side of this issue. And fundamentally, I am devastated that there seems to be no room in so many hearts to mourn for everyone.
I too hope that Brandeis honors its namesake. I hope it stands on the side of justice and humanity. I hope it remembers that at the root of this war, before religion and land, are people. Just like you and me.