Reader Post: When Anti-Normalization Crossed A Line On My Campus

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pace-universityStudents are held to a high standard of mutual respect, as the university is a marketplace of ideas and a bastion of diversity, where we can all learn and grow from each other – or so I thought.

Personally I had never been ignored, disrespected or mistreated by another student for any reason involving my religion or what I stand for, until I started Students Supporting Israel (SSI) on my campus, Pace University in New York. Since I started the very first pro-Israel group on Pace’s campus, we quickly got noticed throughout, especially by SJP members.

During our second semester of SSI being active on campus, we decided to approach the SJP board during Pace’s club fair. We had two goals: agree on getting a debate going and just be on good terms with the SJP, not to be hostile towards each other and mutually respect each other’s freedom of speech, political differences aside. As we approached the SJP students, we all felt a such negativity from them and not surprisingly they did not want anything to do with us, let alone even have a normal conversation about being peacefully with each other on campus. We weren’t surprised that they turned us down, but we were simply disappointed by the amount of hatred they showed towards us because of what we stood for.

At that moment they didn’t care that we are all Pace students who were supposed to be respectful of one another, nor care that we wanted to host an event with them that would benefit the student body. They only cared and knew about one thing: that we stood for Israel. Therefore, shutting us down was completely acceptable. They no longer saw humanity in us and treated us accordingly.

My decision to support Israel impacted my life outside of advocacy – both academically and interpersonally. It takes a lot of courage to approach a group of people who you know don’t like you and or have conflicting issues with, let alone SJP. But by now we have come to accept the fact that the SJP students do not want anything to do with us. They also made it a point to complicate our lives for no reason. We are in the same learning community where we are expected to act professional and respectful toward each other, putting aside our personal differences while in the classroom; but that wasn’t the case between myself and one of the SJP members.

I found myself in the same class as one of SJP’s active members, something that had never occurred in the past, so I expected it to be an interesting experience and it sure was. This was a small business law class, maybe about 10 students, so it was pretty clear and noticeable that she never acknowledged my presence. I was perfectly fine with her attitude towards me until our professor assigned the both of us to work on some class work together. The SJP student was sitting at the desk in front of me with her back towards me, staying exactly in that position after we were assigned to the same group. I was completely surprised by her lack of professionalism in a business class, and was not at all expecting that from her when politics was not on the table. I understood that our beliefs differed but we were in a college classroom given instructions from a professor for a project that had nothing to do with the Middle East. I then asked her if we were going to start doing our work but I received no answer. Luckily, for some unknown reason, perhaps noticing the discord, the professor decided to give both of us different partners to work with.

This behavior from the SJP student was rude, disrespectful and unprofessional. Our views and positions on the “conflict” should not affect our progress in the classroom. This behavior, probably the result of SJP’s “anti-normalization” policy that purposely eschews dialogue, compromise, and reconciliation, needs to end if we want any hope of peace. You can not negotiate, settle or dispute anything without conversation, which needs to begin within our college campuses.

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