What Do You REALLY Rally For?

 In Compassion, Promoting Tolerance, Student Rights

I eagerly stride through George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom campus on route to the UN Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees building. In my hand, I carry words passionately crafted to be delivered via speech, to promote children’s rights, tolerance, and peace. The rally I’m about to attend, organized by the global campaign, #endjewhatred, will call out and condemn UNRWA’s failure to stand firmly against the indoctrination of refugee children with anti-semitic blood-libel, the glorification of terrorism, and the encouragement of child martyrdom.

Concurrently, on campus grounds, a Palestinian student organization plans to protest a rightful cause— one involving the administration’s alleged selectivity in offering Palestinian students trauma services (GW Hatchet, 11/18/21). I fully empathize with this effort, as EVERY student deserves equal rights at ANY institution. This well-merited gathering, however, quickly turns into a condemnable act of antisemitism, defamatory misinformation, and pure hatred. The juxtaposition and irony of the moment suddenly hits me: On my way to
rally for a peaceful cause, its antithesis is personified.
I find myself standing face-to-face with the cumulative effects of mistruth and hateful indoctrination of our GW student body. 

As I walk across Kogan Plaza, my body tenses from the outrageous language of signs and hate speech: “GW is a ZIONIST propoganda machine,” “2,4,6,8, Israel’s an Apartheid State!” “War crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing…” Surely nothing we haven’t heard before— the misinformation, the lies, the fact-twisting, the libelous propaganda. But the rhetoric’s timing is viscerally offensive considering the current climate on campus: Anti-semitic attacks continue plaguing our campus grounds, and with no serious accountability or abatement in sight. 

As a Jew and an Israeli, my stomach churns in disgust. Engagement with the group would be utterly useless, if not confrontational and ugly.  I make my way through to find my friends (also appalled) on the plaza’s north end. Despite the anger stirred up inside of me, my feelings lead me elsewhere— thinking of the prospect of educating these students about the facts and objective reality on the ground. Here we witness what UNRWA has engendered, allowing the perpetuation of hatred to tear through our community. 

I now feel more than ready to deliver a speech countering the hate that just hit our campus. I relay the message that this rally surpasses the purpose of “ending Jew hatred.” It is to call out organizations like UNRWA who enable the indoctrination of children with radicalized notions of the world that result in the tragedy over triumph seen in our world today. It calls on the very hate speech witnessed just moments ago, which empower children toward violence, sacrificing personal dignity and futures to their own detriment. 

Today, it has become normalized to weaponize matters of equality and human rights to promote political agendas.  This student group’s potentially legitimate claim has, in fact, led them astray from the empowerment and support they seek. It strikes directly at credibility, and leaves one wondering whether their allegations are indeed legitimate. Or is this, rather, an opportunistic excuse— a means to promote hateful propaganda aimed at slandering Israel, the Jews, and whatever else it’s packaged with? 

How does a matter concerning GW’s alleged mishandling of trauma services turn into one involving Israel, genocide, apartheid, and anti-Zionism? Why divide, why hate, when given the opportunity to unite and promote peace? Right. We know too well that, of course, Jews are to blame!

So here we go again– Jews and “dirty-zionists” are responsible for the world’s problems and personal ailments! This is no different than the rhetoric infiltrating European societies in the 20s and 30s. Speech as such brings dangerous consequences, as witnessed in history and through the modern era: The Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms in Russia, the horrors of the Holocaust—and here we are today in the 21st century! Nothing’s changed. An endemic virus that mutates wildly if uncontainted, I fear what can happen next. 

What we witness in our own GW microcosm is a reflection of a far grander scale: Children are actualizing the words in UNRWA textbooks— “To fight for the motherland with bloodshed.” On the Universal Day of the child, is this the future we see for generations to come? Is this protection against “any form of exploitation?” Exactly what it is IS exploitation, a corruption of an innocent mind that transfers to the soul. Beliefs embedded deep in the soul morph into dreams, aspirations, and one’s life purpose. 

The purpose we must imbue in children and future generations is grounded in teaching them truth and tools for building peace. Every child must learn the skills to manage adversities in their close communities, college campuses, and countries through a dialogue of facts aimed at collective solutions. They must be taught to shed the influence of breaking bread with their neighbors rather than shedding blood against them. Despite the hatred we see deeply embedded and even normalized, there is still hope only if we act. 

This week, I completed a paper titled “The Unjust Political State: A Catalyst for Human Flourishing.” The paradox seems unsolvable, but I argue that with basic needs and education, transformed into principles to fuel a collective purpose, one can bring virtues of the self outward and obtain utmost fulfillment within. Education is at the very core of my thesis— but if weaponized for hate, it almost certainly yields to personal and collective demise. If implemented to benefit the collective good, however, individuals flourish through the advancement of communal benefits.  

I bring this up so you may consider what YOU do with your education on a daily basis to flourish as an individual. Do you simply check the boxes and move along with life? Or rather, do you think about your purpose? Fulfillment comes not with the grades or the résumé boost, but with how your principles and passions impact your community. It takes the same energy to rally for a positive cause as does for a negative; the difference lies in the impact on the community and oneself. Triumphing as an advocate or resorting to complicity yields these same effects. 

Perhaps we are all called on here, in the face of injustice in our communities, to become agents for principles toward a collective purpose. At least I feel this way, and have found that simply sharing a truth-bound story with someone builds a bridge of understanding although we may not necessarily agree. Despite the disagreement, the peaceful interaction that emerges, and knowing that we both wish to benefit the community at large, inspires us to construct solutions through open dialogue. By knowing we are both interested in the collective purpose, we feel good on the inside educating each other for a just cause. 

So, what do you really rally for? And how do you do it? Maybe your feelings, given the realized impact, lead you to shift your personal prerogative. Behave with an outlook of tolerance and a voice of compassion. Shift from blatant hatred, complicity, or complacency to rallying for truth and the collective good. Then evaluate how you really feel. Even if you don’t accomplish the end goal, your principles are moving in the direction of necessary future progress. Know that your role in a rally always matters. Choose wisely.

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