“It was sort of a microcosm of the Arab-Israeli conflict” Rozen-Wheeler told me. “After we set up, an anti-Israel student told the UW Office of Student Activities that we were too close to SUPER-UW’s display”. Rozen-Wheeler was struck by the absurdity of the demand considering that SUPER-UW set up on Red Square well after CHAI-UW and deliberately chose to assemble their anti-Israel display near the pro-Israel table.
Recalled UW bio-engineering student Uri Zvi, “the pro-Palestinian group, with their offensive borderline antisemitic display, arrived after we did. They saw where we were located, which was far enough from their original location, but decided to bring their “wall” about 20 meters away from us and then complained that we were too close.”
The provocation did not concern Zvi or the other Jewish students. “We were there to promote dialogue, we didn’t protest their presence or have any issues. If anything, we welcomed the chance to show people both sides and confront them with the facts. I can’t see a person in the right mind who won’t at least understand that things are not really black and white.”
“Unfortunately” noted Zvi “the other group didn’t feel the same. After setting up unreasonably close to us, they complained to the university that our display is offensive and “triggers” them”. Noted Zvi, “our display was all about peace and coexistence, that the anti-Israel group found it offensive is a real self-indictment against them”. Soon after, a representative of the UW Student Activities Office arrived and told the Jewish students to pack up and move. They said that they had been inundated with dozens of complaints from SUPER-UW students and their allies.
The pro-Israel students refused to budge. Said Zvi, “the complaints were just because we are Jews that promote peace and oppose discrimination and hating narratives. “We firmly declined to take down or move our Israel display” said Rozen-Wheeler. “We told the staff from the Student Activities Office that “in America we have a right to free speech”. Added Zvi,”we were not going to be silenced by racists, especially when our message is coexistence, peace, facts, and chocolates.” The Office of Student Activities backed down.
The CHAI-UW students continued to use their display as a platform for peace education throughout the week. The message of coexistence unfortunately was not absorbed by all. Late Friday morning the Israel education display was vandalized. According to UW student Jessica Schwartz who was manning the table at the time, “someone in a green hoodie and black backpack came past us and tore down our Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine Pro-Peace poster and ran away”.
Lamented Schwartz “We have been tabling all week to promote dialogue, negotiations, and cooperation as the best path toward a peaceful solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This man did not stop to talk to us and ask us what we were doing or what we believed in. He just came behind us, said “F*** you guys” and tore down our sign. Someone ran after the guy and brought back our sign.”
UW police were called for assistance but according to those present, the police did not arrive until 56 minutes after being summoned. The perpetrator of the attack was by then long gone. According to a study completed by the AMCHA initiative, the University of Washington was among those US colleges with the highest incidents of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents.
Throughout the week the anti-Israel student coalition repeatedly spurned efforts at dialogue initiated by the Jewish students.
Despite the hostility the CHAI-UW volunteers felt the effort was worthwhile and noted that they had many more positive, rather than negative exchanges. Said Schwartz “We had a chance to meet some more curious minds and hopefully educate them a bit”. The Pro-Israel students were appreciative of the support given them by several individuals, most notably Rob Jacobs and Elizabeth Davis of StandWithUs. TMR reached out to the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for a comment, but as of press time they had not yet responded, nor have they issued a press release as of yet condemning the vandalism and harassment of the Jewish students at the UW.
Will the harassment and vandalism they experienced this week discourage the CHAI-UW students from teaching the truth about Israel? “We will never stop standing up for our beliefs” said Schwartz.