The Arab-Israeli conflict has been brewing for decades, but it fermented at CMC’s campus on Monday, March 4, when the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) set up a mock checkpoint outside Collins dining hall during dinnertime.
For those who have not yet heard about the event, some students associated with SJP (a 5C club) set up a mock Israel Defense Force (IDF) checkpoint outside Collins dining hall that consisted of a wall of students blocking entry. Students eating dinner were required to show their ID cards before entering Collins in an attempt to somewhat simulate what checkpoints in Israel are like for Palestinians.
The students affiliated with SJP never explicitly received permission to obstruct people’s entryway in front of Collins; this lapse is an issue in itself. But regardless of whether or not they received permission, the event intended to provoke an emotional reaction. After running into several peers who were greatly upset by the demonstration, I continually asked myself throughout the next few days: Why? What was the purpose of the event?
Individuals reacted in a variety of ways to Monday night’s demonstration. Those who were of differing opinions of the SJP demonstrators were probably highly offended to see a controversial, multi-faceted issue presented in such a one-sided way. While the issue of checkpoints needs to be addressed, addressing it through pathos is a weak argument and one that demeans the audience, especially at a college campus. I could walk into a TNC and pretend to be a suicide bomber, as suicide bombers have appeared in clubs in Israel before. Would this garner people’s attention? Definitely. Would it inform? Probably, for people who know little about suicide bombers in Israel. Would it provoke and enrage many people? Absolutely.
Other people, who perhaps had few opinions on the matter, either were mildly irritated by the fact that they had to show their ID before entering a dining hall or left the event feeling better educated about checkpoints (which is what I hope was SJP’s ultimate goal). However, education through emotional show is not education. Education through a demonstration that shows one side of the issue is not education.
I hope that those who are not educated about the issue read articles about the issue, talk to friends whose opinions they trust and whose opinions might be different than theirs, and attend lectures on the topic. Attempting to educate through a demonstration is belittling to the intellectual student body at the Claremont Colleges, and it is an unnecessarily polarizing way to educate.
Rational discourse is one of the most important tools to use when addressing someone with an opinion opposite from you. It is easier to hide behind a wall of your beliefs and engage in demonstrations rather than discussions. But this gets us nowhere. It isolates and polarizes the other side, and it minimally educates.
Talk to someone who you respect but who you know disagrees with you. Read articles from media outlets you know have a different political leaning than you. Educate yourself, and educate others. Respect other people’s views on this campus. The best way to do that is to talk with them, not at them.