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On Friday afternoon, Nov. 10, my friend and I were walking up campus to our weekly Orthodox Shabbat prayer services, as we do every week. We did not expect to have our peers who were rallying shout at us the words “Intifada, Intifada.” The tensions on campus recently have been high, due to students’ passionate feelings regarding the complex and nuanced issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, this is the first time I have experienced explicit and direct antisemitism on Brandeis University’s campus. It is my greatest hope that the people shouting those words do not know their real meaning. I hope they will learn and make sure this never happens again.
On Dec. 6, 1983, my grandfather, Dr. Morton Freiman, was traveling in Israel for my great-aunt’s wedding. This was the day that he got the news that the Number 18 bus in Jerusalem had been blown up by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), and one of the bridesmaids for the wedding had been on the bus. My grandfather visited her in the hospital and decided that he could not let this act of terrorism go unnoticed. My grandfather then proceeded to bring a piece of the exploded bus back to the United States and created an exhibit to discuss the extreme acts of terrorism going on in Israel. Terrorists had planted explosives on this bus and from this attack alone four Israelis were killed and 46 were wounded. This horrific act of terrorism was only a precursor for the “First Intifada” that began in 1987, and in which thousands were killed, including both Israelis and Palestinians. Though the word “Intifada” literally means “to shake-off” in Arabic, in context it refers to two time periods of violent rebellion and terrorism in Israel, led by the PLO. The PLO’s original goal was to establish a Palestinian state through the means of abolishing the Jewish state. A “Second Intifada” began in 2000. The violence induced by these attacks included suicide bombers, the throwing of molotov cocktails and hand grenades, the use of weapons, and many bus bombings.
Since Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, I have been absolutely distraught by not only the murder, rape and kidnapping of the people of my nation, but also by the tragic number of civilian deaths in Gaza. My peers and I are devastated by this war, and are praying for the end. We want all of the hostages to be freed and we want to see an end to civilian deaths.
Furthermore, in response to events on campus, I do not believe in police violence, and let me be clear that despite my feeling that the protest on Nov. 10 was not peaceful due to hate speech, this does not mean I condone police violence against protesters.
All that considered, Brandeis University’s campus has now become a hostile environment to be a Jewish student. When I hear my fellow classmates chanting, “Intifada, Intifada,” I hear them chanting for the death of my friends and family members who are living in Israel through brutal acts of terror.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” another phrase that was chanted at the rally on Nov. 10, is classified by the ADL (Anti Defamation League) as a phrase that “seek[s] Israel’s destruction through violent means.” Though I don’t believe many of the people shouting this phrase know this, the phrase is referring to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and the people living between those two bodies of water are mostly Jews. When one chants “From the River to the Sea,” you are calling for the obliteration of my friends and family. It is possible to wish for freedom for Israelis and Palestinians, but this language does not embody that hope, and these phrases are harmful, dangerous and classified as hate speech.
I would like to reiterate that I do not condone police violence. I do, however, want to point out that the walkout staged on Monday, Nov. 13 was not simply an act of social justice against police violence, but also a walkout against the protection of Jewish students on campus against hate speech. As it stated in the demands for the walkout, “We demand Brandeis stop constructing language as hate speech when it is not.” I hope that the educated students of Brandeis are able to think critically and fight for the safety of their peers on campus, whether it means protecting protesters from police violence, or protecting their Jewish peers from having students in front of the Shapiro Campus Center chant for the death of their families.