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Letter to the Editor

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The recent letter penned by the College Republicans regarding the flying of the Palestinian Flag on campus was inaccurate, distasteful, and offensive in its rhetorical style.  After talking with a couple of Palestinian students, both from the Gaza Strip, they each told me how offended they were by the text, wondering why the Brackety-Ack would publish such a letter?  I do not want to engage in a flame war with the College Republicans or trounce on their freedom of speech.  They have every right to voice their opinion, no matter how much I, or others, disagree with it.  Part of the academic experience is listening to differing opinions and offering a constructive response to foster a successful discourse.  Out of this, there are three main points I wish to address.

First, the College Republicans state that the RC is taking a political stance by flying the Palestinian flag.  I would counter this is not the case.  The four flagpoles on the back quad fly four different flags everyday: the American flag, the Commonwealth of Virginia flag, a Roanoke College flag, and a rotating flag every week representing different countries for which the college has students.  The last category of flags is important.  By having the college fly a flag from different regions of the world, it symbolizes that we are a global academic community.  Furthermore, there are several Palestinian students on campus.  It is only right that the college recognize these students and their nationality.  It does not mean RC is taking stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, nor should they.  However, it is important to represent all students at the college, no matter where they hail from.

Second, there are numerous political errors in this letter.  It should be noted that Hamas only controls the Gaza Strip and not the West Bank  eaning Hamas is not the government for all the Occupied Territories.  Fatah, a secular group by nature, has control of the West Bank.  News reports also indicate that both might enter into a unity government soon, although the final status on that is still undecided.  The U.S. also does recognize the Palestinian Authority, the congressional body of the Palestinian territories and the PLO.  Currently, Fatah is the main representative group in Washington because the U.S. classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.  On a personal note, I’ve met with the representatives from this organization on two separate occasions.

Finally, the divisive rhetoric used in this letter was unnecessary.  Palestinians were referred to as terrorists and grouped together as all Muslim multiple times.  Are there more radical elements within the cause for Palestinian statehood?  Yes and some are Islamic based and others are not.  It should also be noted that there is a large Christian population in Palestine as well.  But to say lump all the Palestinians in with certain brands of Islamic terrorism hardly begins a nuanced conversation about the topic of peace in the Middle East.  Roanoke College should always strive to accommodate its student body and students should be respected no matter where they are from.  That is why I support RC’s decision to raise the Palestinian flag!

 

–John Stang