U.S. has right to protest suffering

The following is the response I made to an Official Poll received via email on May 1 from the Office of Rep. Nicholas Langworthy that asked “Should Columbia Students Be Expelled?”

Dear Representative Langworthy,

I agree with you that student protesters committing crimes — terroristic threats or intimidation, violence against persons, or property damage on campus — should be expelled, and I would think that the university’s student code of conduct already outlines consequences for such behavior.

It is ignorant and highly unfortunate that some of the protesters — not all of them, I’m sure — are blaming, targeting and harassing American Jewish citizens for actions taken by the Israeli government, since the two groups are hardly identical in beliefs and responsibility just because they share the same religion.

However, I understand and agree with the campus protesters’ objections to Israel’s over-reaching and shameful conduct of its retaliatory war on the civilian population of Gaza. If randomly killings tens of thousands of non-combatants, destroying nearly all infrastructure, and leaving millions without adequate food, water, housing, sanitation and health care isn’t genocide, I don’t know the meaning of the word.

Of course I’m concerned for the safety of American Jewish students on our campuses.

That said, I believe it is important to recognize, empathize with, and protest against the suffering of the people of Gaza in a war waged by the Israeli government, with the help of US military aid.

Since our tax dollars are making all U.S. citizens complicit in the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, I heartily support our government’s ongoing diplomatic efforts to rein in the worst of Israel’s excesses, seek the return of hostages, and work toward a peaceful solution before the Palestinian population of Gaza is entirely destroyed.

Just as all American Jews cannot be assumed to support the Israeli government’s conduct of the war against Gaza, neither can it be assumed that all Palestinians in Gaza support the Hamas terrorists whose actions precipitated it. Anybody paying attention also knows that not even all Israeli citizens support the actions of their government. Benjamin Netanyahu faces significant criticism and public demonstrations at home against this and other controversial actions.

Thank you for asking for my opinion.

Mary Rees is a Dunkirk resident.


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