Guest Opinion: Kanazi opens dialogue, others shut their ears

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Guest Opinion: Kanazi opens dialogue, others shut their ears


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As Remi Kanazi touched down in Iowa City, a firestorm of negative writing streamed from Guest Opinions in The Daily Iowan. Many accused Kanazi of not maintaining an open dialogue, but these people didn’t show up to the event, and they didn’t ask questions at the Q&A; the dialogue was open and waiting for them.

Instead of attending to get a better understanding of the nature behind the systemic destruction of Palestinian homes and the brutal way Palestinians get treated and killed by Israeli police forces or the Israeli Defense Forces, the protesters chose to stand outside, waving Israeli flags. People cannot claim that the dialogue wasn’t open when they were too busy bumbling around outside the event in an echo chamber.

Those who didn’t wave flags outside decided to hand out literature in the room in which the reading was going to be held. One man passing out pamphlets even yelled at another attendee without being prompted. It is these kind of aggressive actions that prevent a dialogue from occurring, not a poet reading her or his work on the University of Iowa campus.

The job of a poet is to communicate — to facilitate dialogue. By protesting Kanazi’s presence, these Zionists weren’t seeking dialogue, they were aiming for silence. It’s easier to disregard a narrative when you polarize it. And there is only a “rift” between students when people decide to push empty nationalist narratives without knowing a single fact about the stark reality of Israeli occupation.

People would rather run away from this horrific reality than confront it head on. But we have to remember: To criticize the people and places you love is often an act of love — a desire to make things better.

As a Jewish student at the University of Iowa, I find the phrase “the Jewish students” or even “many Jewish students” to be problematic. Journalists seem to use this phrase when they really mean Hillel, Hillel members, or Zionists. It sickens me that anyone would write a piece that eliminates the broad spectrum of Judaism that isn’t associated with Hillel, a sorority, or a frat.

The Hillel based in Iowa City likes to masquerade as a place that welcomes anyone, but it has systematically attacked any information that shows Israel’s oppressive regime and any person that backs that information up. The people would rather come out and protest a poet than reassess what their beloved state is doing to their own residents and neighbors.

On top of this, journalists like to play along with this spiteful narrative, pinning Kanazi against Jews as a whole — a sensationalism that angers the masses in an extremely misinformed way. And it’s not about Jewish people in the first place — we should be incredibly wary when others mention “the Jewish students” as a whole — that concept is a hypocrisy in itself, and in context of the occupation of Palestine, this polarized stereotype is incredibly dangerous.

The issue at hand is the welfare of the Palestinian people, and anyone who aids in or remains neutral about their demise should be fought relentlessly through action, compassionate or otherwise. Thankfully, Open Hillel seeks to hold Hillel International accountable in this way. But Open Hillel is not a loud voice on every campus — especially not this one.

The frivolous protest that occurred outside the Kanazi event was a clear indication of this. The protest was absolutely shameful, and the people who were waving flags and flaunting IDF shirts should be disgusted by their actions. Ultimately, they polarized a narrative that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with the marginalization of people whose lives are on the line every day.

-— Brad Pector, 

UI student