Princeton student government candidate called ‘poor choice’ because he served in Israeli army

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A letter in Princeton University’s student newspaper said that a candidate for the Undergraduate Student Government is a “poor choice” because he served in the Israeli army.

Junior David Esterlit entered Princeton in 2014, and in 2016 took a three-year leave of absence to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He is running on a platform that includes remedying financial injustices for disadvantaged students.

In his letter to the Daily Princetonian, fellow junior Braden Flax said that Esterlit “is as poor a choice as one can possibly conceive, given his front-and-center background as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Flax said Esterlit “was part of an organization known for the torment and abuse of an entire population of human beings,” and urged student voters to “consider life in Gaza, where blockades have starved out a largely defenseless population.”

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

He concluded that Esterlit “unabashedly advertises his participation in the Israel Defense Forces, which continuously inflicts injustice that dwarfs proportions of anything most of us have ever encountered.”

Junior Clem Brown defended Esterlit in a letter that said Esterlit did not serve in the Palestinian territories, but was “stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border, defending Israelis and Thai migrant workers from ISIS.”

Brown criticized Flax for his “broad and sweeping generalization and rejection of all that the Israeli military accomplishes and stands for,” adding that “rejection of a nation’s right to self-defense is a call for its destruction.” He also said that with the hostility toward Israel and fellow Jewish students, “I’m just another Jew trying to say that I feel unsafe around a lot of students here these days.”

The student government elections were held Wednesday. No winner was announced as of Thursday afternoon.