Letter from a University Professor
Letter written by Canadian Professor, Lena Bykhovsky who teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa
You have broken my heart. No: shattered it, irreparably. I don’t know how I will ever set foot in a classroom again. I don’t know how I will ever see you the same way. I know now that I was deluding myself that I ever had any impact, would ever leave any positive legacy, that my work ever made any difference.
But I thought I taught you how to evaluate arguments. I thought I taught you the importance of understanding context, both historical and rhetorical. I thought that I taught you that the world did not operate according to dichotomies, like black and white, oppressor and oppressed, villain and victim. I thought I taught you about complexity, about judgment, and to examine your sources and not to take anyone’s statements at face value. Zionism is the Jewish right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. Israel is that ancestral homeland. Jews are the indigenous peoples of that land; not the only indigenous peoples of that land, to be sure. But Israel is the only land to which we are indigenous. After 2000 years of longing, the result of the Holocaust – a Nazi movement which sought to ethnically cleanse the world of Jews by systematically exterminating us – was that the international community granted us a sliver of that ancestral homeland.
It was to be shared, partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Arabs rejected the partition and attacked the Jews when they declared the state of Israel in 1948. The Jews won. Arabs who remained in Israel became citizens with full rights and freedoms. 20% of Israel’s population today is Arab. They fight in the army, they are doctors, lawyers, members of Parliament and supreme court judges. There is no apartheid. Israel’s Jewish population consists of Jews from Arab lands, whose parents or grandparents were kicked out when the state of Israel was formed, and of descendants of refugees from Eastern Europe, Holocaust survivors who had no homes to return to. Some are more recent refugees from Europe, Russia, and the Americas who either returned to Israel for religious reasons or because the Jew-hatred in their communities grew too excessive and they decided to emigrate, to head for the one place in the world Jews can go if their neighbours or governments turn against them.
When you say “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” this is a call to ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homeland, from the only state in the entire Middle East that would look remotely familiar to you in terms of basic rights and freedoms and a democratic system if you were to visit the region. When Hamas supporters – like those who led you all in a rally on my home campus today – talk about Jews as “occupiers,” they don’t mean Gaza. They mean the whole state of Israel. They want Jews eradicated from the entire land. Hamas actually wants us gone from the whole world, as they have stated many times. Who are the Nazis now?
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