Dante Alighieri once said in his Inferno “the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” He called this the “great refusal.”
It is clear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a moral crisis, yet I find a significant portion of my peers avoiding actively supporting a side. I do not blame them.
I highly doubt the reason behind this neutrality is because, as Dante put it, they are “hateful to God and to His enemies.” Rather, the pro-Palestinian chapters functioning on American campuses breed an attitude that makes involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian issue morally deterring for the student body. This is primarily carried out by the rampant antagonization and intimidation of not only Israel supporters but also Jewish students. Even as an avid Palestinian supporter myself, I cannot participate in such activities that strain the fabric of our society.
Pro-Palestinian organizations in universities such as the University of California’s Riverside and Santa Barbara campuses and Vassar College, among others, have already called on their schools to pass sanctions against businesses with Israeli ties. This movement, called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was spawned from the larger Palestinian BDS movement that called for international boycotts against Israel. The key difference is the latter initiative places the pressure on the Israeli government, the occupiers themselves. The former promotes eroding key business connections with universities; an act that is financially detrimental to American institutions.
Other pro-Palestinian university chapters such as those of New York and Rutgers have resorted to more immoral means of “activism” by slipping mock eviction notices into student dorm rooms or holding mock “Israeli military checkpoint” demonstrations in a distasteful attempt to simulate the actions of the Israeli government in Palestine. This has led many Jewish students to voice concerns for their safety.
I can’t help but think that despite these pro-Palestinian chapters preaching “justice” and “freedom” on their Facebook pages, their actions and toxic rhetoric suggest they seek a more insidious commodity: vengeance.
It is not difficult for me to see how these organizations got to this place; after all, Dante describes wrath as a “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite.” Perhaps they are justified in their anger; Middle Eastern students have felt alienated and even unsafe in America for more than a decade. I also think their venomous rhetoric holds some truth, and their actions are lawfully carried out and deserve to be called activism, yet, they are axiomatically unproductive.
I do not think the Palestinian refugees currently fearing for their lives need their overseas supporters to advocate that the Palestinians are on the right side of this bloodshed. Right now, they need aid that the U.N. is trying to provide, which can only occur if the Israeli government lifts its roadblocks and a cease-fire is agreed upon by both sides. This is a problem that needs to be solved diplomatically, and according to the staff of The Wall Street Journal, “real diplomatic leverage comes with trust.” We are now seeing the manifestation of a lack of trust that has been perpetuated for decades in Gaza.
Back on American campuses, this lack of trust, which erupted mostly after the aggressive actions of pro-Palestinian organizations, has pitted us against our classmates by promoting a “be an enemy or make an enemy” mentality, introducing fear into our schools and sabotaging university business partnerships.
We do not need a “pro-Israeli/pro-Palestinian conflict” in our country, and the attempt to create one, for any reason, is a betrayal to our nation, a betrayal to our peace.
The darkest places in hell may be reserved for the great refusers, but it is treachery that is punished inside the jaws of Satan.
Patrick An is a junior biology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.