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A Response to The Recent Letter To the Editor

 

I must begin this response with a message to all the Palestinian students on campus: This bigoted, uninformed, and hurtful letter is not the view held by most students on campus. Knowing several of you personally, I can only say that your presence on campus has been nothing but positive. I hope that you will understand that your many friends on campus recognize the absurdity of this letter and will stand with you no matter what.

 

Now, to the actual letter at hand. Beyond his passive-aggressive use of quotations, let us take a look at the internal logic of his letter so that we can reduce it and demonstrate what a ridiculous show of prejudice it really is.

 

He begins by saying that flying the Palestinian flag “defies our position as a politically neutral institution and ignores the true nature of the Palestinian “state”.” At first, glance this might perhaps appeal to those of the mentality that the college should not involve itself in the politics of the day. Yet, when one examines the fact that 1) All flags are political in nature. They represent the particular government and national entities as well as the people of the region. It is simply impossible to avoid the issue of identity politics. This brings us to 2) If the school has a policy of avoiding political statements, why is it that we fly the American, Virginian, and ELCA flags in addition to the Roanoke College flag? It is because we are making a statement of political identity and affiliation. Unless the author also proposes we take down these flags his claim to hold the “neutral” position is facetious and exposes his personal prejudices.

 

Now, I don’t want to ignore the second part of that statement, “the true nature of the Palestinian “state”.” I was unaware that the author was either an expert on the nature of the Palestinian state, or had lived there himself. So what exactly does this author claim to be the true nature of the Palestinian nation? 1) He claims that most of the campus, which includes himself, “looks on Palestine as terrorist threat to Israel”. 2) Has a government “led by Hamas”. 3) Plans to “install Sharia law as the basis of its legal code”. 4) And finally “a rogue “nation” that threatens the safety of a large population.” This of course doesn’t even touch on the contentious issue of the Israeli apartheid state, but I will leave that for another discussion. To the first point I have already suggest that a majority of the campus does not hold this view and that for those that do hold this view, they could perhaps develop a greater sensitivity to historical nuances – something I would have hoped the author would have developed, being a senior with a History major and something which I hope does not reflect too poorly on our wonderful faculty — by taking Dr. Willingham’s course on Modern Middle East. To the second point, it is simply incorrect and shows another layer of prejudice-induced distortion. To the third point, I was not aware that he or the college was in the business of judging what the correct basis for a constitution was. Perhaps the author also feels this way for other nations which, having a well-enshrined Islamic character, decide to incorporate Islam into their governmental bodies. Then again, is that any different than the Republican insistence on ignoring our constitution, in order to enshrine Christian values and ethics in our government? To the fourth and final point, on how many occasions has this statement not described our own country? Was it not only 8 years ago, that in defiance of the international community the U.S. invaded a sovereign nation, endangering the lives of millions, creating a massive refugee population, and ultimately leading to the deaths of untold thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis? All while in this past year we have seen in Palestine the rise of non-violent demonstrations — brutally repressed by the IDF, and an attempt by the PA to achieve legitimate statehood through the international body of the U.N., only to be thwarted by the U.S. and Israel. I haven’t even begun to mention the number assassinations, political coups, and other “extra-curricular activities” the U.S. has been involved – now including the possible assassinations of Iranian nuclear physicists. Who is the real “rogue” nation, the one with protest for freedom, or the one that has been the most aggressive military force in the 21st century?

 

To conclude, I think this author says much more about his own distorted political narrative in his letter than he ever does about the “true nature” of the Palestinian state. His offensive remarks ought to bring our campus to action in support of our fellow students. I would call for the College Republicans and the author to make a formal apology to our Palestinian students and those who have been hurt by his untrue and biased remarks. Further, I would call upon students who believe there has been a great injustice done here to rally against bigotry on campus by joining me this week at teach-ins about Palestine, Islam, and politics in the Middle East with the hope that through education we can rise above hatred and learn to understand other cultures – in other words, the real mission of this college.

 

 

Sincerely,

Jaymes Inman

 

 

P.S. If you are interested in contacting me I have provided my email: jrinman@mail.roanoke.edu