Guest Opinion: Kanazi’s presence troubling

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Guest Opinion: Kanazi’s presence troubling

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I am only a freshman at the University of Iowa, but I am already impressed with the diversity and engagement I see. However, events can sometimes have catastrophic effects on relationships and open dialogue.

One subject that can divide people is related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The campus here is fairly neutral, and that all sides have concerns is acknowledged. While there are groups supporting either side, they coexist, and dialogue can happen.

This neutral relationship is something that all sides want to retain, especially in the current political climate in which they need each other’s support. However, a speaker who came to campus Wednesday might threaten this coexistence. The Arab Students Association, in conjunction with the University of Iowa English Department and the UI Student Government, brought poet Remi Kanazi to campus to speak.Kanazi is an Palestinian-American poet and writer based in New York who promotes anti-Israel messages, such as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. On the surface, his appearance seems like a way to get another perspective, but Kanazi doesn’t seem to be open to any dialogue with those who disagree with him. His presentations are expected to be one-sided and take an anti-Israel stance; he has been quoted saying, “I don’t want to coexist.” The fear in the Jewish student groups has been that this event will create a rift among students, including a divide between Muslim and Jewish students as we see on many other campuses.

If true dialogue were an option, I think that having Kanazi come to campus would be valuable. That Kanazi gives a one-sided presentation, however, does not address the issue on both sides. I fear that students only got one viewpoint. Kanazi has the right to speak his opinion and be heard; I just worry about its effect on our neutral campus environment.

The event was cosponsored by UISG and the English Department. That two influential bodies that represent a spectrum of students and embrace diversity sponsored this event is troubling. A representative from the UISG reached out to show support, and he indicated that he would try to promote the concerns of Jewish student groups to his colleagues. The fact is, though, this event happened and was sponsored by UISG.

Originally, the Panhellenic Council listed this as an educational event, but, thankfully, after seeing the one-sidedness of the event, it withdrew its support. In the future, I hope that all groups can find a way to be educated on issues before inviting speakers to campus.

The Jewish students on campus are working to find the best response to this event and still keep their respectful relationship with other student groups and keep a broad view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We hope to find ways to coexist and host events in conjunction with the Arab Students Association and others on campus.

-— Alyena Zerkel 

UI freshman