Say yes to peace

From left: Shira Grossman (president of Wash U Students for Israel), Matan, Hen and Paul Felder (2013-14 StandWithUs MZ Teen Intern and current board member of Wash U Students for Israel).

By Paul Felder

My name is Paul Felder. I am a freshman, and I serve on the board of Wash U Students for Israel. On Sunday, I organized an event that brought two Israeli soldiers, Hen and Matan, to campus to share their stories. Hen and Matan are now college students who work for StandWithUs, an Israel education organization. I would like to thank them and Liz, the StandWithUs Midwest program coordinator, for coming to campus and sharing the truth about Israel that the media fails to report on.

I wish I could focus on how great the program was, but instead I must address anti-Israel protesters who came to the event with the intent to cancel it. A member of the Washington University faculty, graduate students and others from the St. Louis community came to the event late and began yelling at the speakers. One of the Israel detractors said, “The people you call terrorists [referring to Hamas], they are protecting their land…their people,” and that the protesters’ purpose for coming was “to disrupt [the] event.” A protester also said, “I don’t fear the security on this campus. I don’t fear the cops. I have been arrested several times standing up for justice, so that doesn’t frighten me.”

Hamas does not protect its people. Hamas is an internationally recognized terror organization that uses its own people as human shields. Hamas also stores rockets in Palestinian homes, schools and mosques. The protesters who support Hamas are not pro-Palestinian. They are just anti-Israel.

Hen and Matan asked other protesters to stay and ask questions after the presentation. Only one protester, a Palestinian graduate student, stayed behind and waited until the end of the event to discuss with the soldiers. While disagreements still exist between the soldiers and this protester, who eventually walked out, progress was made as the protester began to see that both he and the soldiers want peace for Palestinians.

Hen and Matan both work for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. While in the Israel Defense Forces, Hen coordinated the transportation of aid from the Israeli government and outside relief agencies to Palestinian civilians. Matan uncovered Hamas weapons stores and rocket launchers in Gaza.

Wash U Students for Israel seeks to share the truth about Israel and promote a dialogue between those who recognize the right of Israel to exist. We welcome anyone to come to our events unless they cause a disturbance that prevents the event from continuing.

I would like to thank the Washington University Police Department for ensuring the safety of students attending the event. No protesters were removed from the event by force. Those who left chose to do so on their own. We will have security at all future public Wash U Students for Israel events. This is to ensure pro-Israel students’ right to free speech.

I hope that Wash. U. remains a place where students feel safe wearing the shirt from their Birthright trip or talking about their cousins who live in Israel. Tonight after the event, I overheard people in my dorm I had never met before spreading rumors about me. If this hatred continues, this campus will no longer be a safe space for pro-Israel students.

Paul Felder, a freshman at Washington University, is on the board of Wash U Students for Israel. He was the the StandWithUs MZ Teen Intern from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa last year and will be the SWU Emerson Fellow at Washington University next year. Felder’s commentary was originally published by Student Life, the Washington University student newspaper.