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Letter to the Editor

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Being a Roanoke College alumnus, I do not generally keep up with everything that goes on at the college, only seeing minor blurbs about happenings that, frankly, do not affect me as I am no longer a student there. However, I heard about the college’s flying of the Palestinian flag and the subsequent letter to the editor by the Roanoke College Republicans. I found their response to be inaccurate, misleading, and, most of all, much ado about nothing. I felt inspiration to write a response of my own.

First of all, I must nitpick at the semantics, particularly from this statement: “By flying the Palestinian flag the college is appearing to recognize Palestine as a nation, something which the United States does not currently do.” The undeniable truth, however, is different. Palestine is a nation. A nation is defined loosely as a group of people who share regional/cultural similarities, which the Palestinians definitely do. The Palestinians are, in fact, a nation- I believe the author meant to say that they are not a recognized state (a similar but different concept).

Of course, semantics are the least of the issues. The author asserts many times that the flying of the flag is an endorsement of Palestinian nationalism and a violation of political neutrality. This is simply untrue. First of all, the author admits that “…on the fifth pole rotates between the flags of the various nations from which our international students hail.” Going by the earlier-mentioned definition of a nation, that is exactly what the college has done. When I attended Roanoke College, there were more Palestinian students than Israeli; clearly the college is merely representing them on its flag. Moreover, the author argues that Roanoke College should not do anything endorsing one side of politics, but how should Palestinian students feel when the college decides to fly the Israeli flag? Worth noting as well is the fact that Palestinian nationhood is not an idea supported by one side: both Presidents Bush and Obama have come out in favor of a two-state solution to the region’s conflict.

More troubling, though, are misrepresentations of fact brought forth by the earlier letter. First, it is stated that Palestine is run by Hamas, a terrorist organization. This is only partially true. The Palestinian head of state is a member of the secular Fatah party. While Hamas did win a majority in the Legislature, they have had difficulty actually governing due to Israeli detainment of its members. Other misrepresentations of the situation were mentioned that overlook the complexity of the Israel-Palestine issue, but these are too lengthy to truly address in a letter of this length. Finally, is the disturbing implication by the author that it is the Palestinian people are the ones who carry out terrorism. While we should be very firm in denouncing terrorism in all forms, the entire nation cannot be to blame for the actions of some of its members. I find this not to be personally insulting, but a slap in the face to the Palestinian students of Roanoke College, who are likely attending not to set off car bombs, but to achieve an education that will allow for upward mobility.

To conclude, it may be worth mentioning is the fact that the college has had the flag of the United States Virgin Islands on its fifth pole, so, by the logic brought forth by the RC Republicans, Roanoke College clearly believes that the Islands should be an independent country. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I also seem to remember seeing the flag of Taiwan flying on the quad. While the United States maintains relations with Taiwan, they are not recognized officially by our government. The point I make with this is that it does not matter, and Roanoke College is surely not trying to endorse any single political view. Merely, the college is representing the diverse areas and nations from which its students hail, just as the author had stated.  I’m sure that Roanoke College would agree on this stance regarding Palestinian statehood: keep it in the classroom.

Cryptologic Technician Technical Third Class, United States Navy, Paul Amestoy ‘10

-The views expressed above are the opinion of the author and do not in any way reflect the beliefs held by the United States Navy.