Boycott hate, not hummus

George Mason University is an honored academic institution, a home of diversity and tolerance, that in light of events of this past week, deserves better.

One student organization, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, has sought to advocate through posters in the Johnson Center that the State of Israel should be eliminated, while harboring classical anti-Semitism messages that Jews control America and are to blame for its problems.

It’s time we stood up to these voices of hate and division, and make it clear that they have no place at Mason.

SAIA politicized the International Week parade which is meant to be a celebratory event. Instead of participating in an event to celebrate and unify the diversity at Mason they chose to deepen the division amongst students.

They ought to be ashamed, not only for spreading hatred, but for using the Palestinians as a pawn in their hateful message of intolerance.

What is it that SAIA stands for on campus? They are not interested in peace, for if they were they would advocate for causes that support peace.

Instead, as the name of their organization insinuates, they believe that the world’s only Jewish State, the only democracy in the region, and the only place in the Middle East where women, homosexuals and Arabs have the right to live freely, should not exist.

They are not interested in protecting human rights, for if they were, why are they silent on human rights violations conducted against Palestinians by the terrorist group Hamas.

These human rights violations include prohibiting women from participating in the Gaza Marathon, torturing prisoners and throwing political opponents off buildings.

Surely, SAIA must believe in a better future for Palestinians?

Why, then, would they align themselves with the BDS movement, whose leader explicitly stated that his end goal is the elimination of the Jewish State.

Instead of working to create a hopeful future for Palestinian children, they simply focus on demonizing Israel through symbolic boycotts, like Sabra Hummus, a company that manufactures half of its products in Virginia.

This, and similar boycott efforts, would not only be ineffective in impacting Israel, but would actually have the biggest negative impact on the livelihood of everyday Palestinians. Weakening the Palestinian Authority’s $20 Billion trading partner harms the average Palestinian significantly, while having a negligible impact on Israel’s economy.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered as a result of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, and a new wave of hatred and incitement, both in the Middle East and here on campus, is not the solution.

President Obama has declared “a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace”

If you’re a student who believes in division, inciting hatred and in isolating a portion of the Mason community because of their race or religion, then support SAIA.

If your goal is mutual respect, cooperation, and dialogue on campus, and a lasting peace, and a more hopeful future for Palestinian and Israeli children, then instead of seeking to destroy one side or another, George Mason University can take a moral and ethical stand.

Instead of boycotting hummus, invest in opportunities that strengthen Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, and create mutual respect at Mason and abroad.

Erez Cramer Sophomore, Economics major

Israel: So Much Good for Such a Small State

When I think of Israel, I think of how amazing it is that a country slightly smaller than the size of New Jersey thrives with so much culture and activity.

From the mountains of the Golan Heights in the north to the vast desert of the Negev in the south and everything in between, Israel is more than a piece of small land in the Middle East. It is the only true democracy in the region. With so much history, is home to the holiest sites of the three major world religions.

Developed into a global tech center, it is the country that invented your USB flash drive you use to save projects, and the instant messages you send to friends which derive from Israel’s creation of the first instant messaging program, ICQ. It is the country that gives back to the world: it provided emergency response training in the US which improved the disaster team that was at the sight of the Boston bombings last week.

When Haiti faced its devastating earthquake, Israelis immediately rushed to send doctors and rescue teams out to help. It’s Israel: a beautiful, interesting country worth reading about.

A fine example of Israel’s diversity and culture is its capital, Jerusalem. On my most recent visit back last summer, I was about to walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the famous church in Christianity where people stand in line for an hour to pray to the tomb of Jesus.

Before entering I noticed Orthodox Jewish men and women walking outside in their orthodox attire, the men’s payot, or side curls, seeming so beautifully distinct to their own culture. I heard the enchanting sounds that project from the minarets, the Muslim prayers recited from intricate spires throughout the city. I felt moved by all the culture I saw and heard around me.

Lately there has been talk on campus of Israel being an apartheid state. With such a diverse population which respects one another’s cultures, one could think, “How could this be true?”

As complex as the Arab-Israeli conflict is, one fact is certain: there is no such thing as Israelis segregating anyone. The democratic state was founded with a legal system based on equal political and civil rights for all no matter religion, race, or sex.

We can see this still today with Israeli Arabs having seats in Israel’s government. They were the first Arabs in the Middle East to gain the right to vote upon Israel’s independence and are treated exactly the same as any Israeli.

Israel’s security barrier was built to protect citizens from terrorist attacks emanating from the Palestinian territories.

Since the construction of the barrier,  suicide bombings in Israel have significantly decreased. Claiming that Israel is an apartheid state is insulting to the real apartheid of South Africa, a country whose legal system was based on discrimination and segregation.

South Africans would never have been allowed a seat in government or have voting rights. Incorrect accusations create a false understanding for students who may not know much on the subject, thus preventing them from seeing the good of the country.

Israel is not perfect but it strives to build a stronger democracy in an area with bordering enemies sworn to wipe it off the map.

As president of the Israel Student Association at George Mason, I invite you to join me in educating others about how wonderful Israel is in a peaceful and engaging manner.

We provide students the chance to learn about Israel through cultural events such as showings of Israeli films on campus and eating Israeli food with an Israeli fellow who travels here to offer knowledge of his or her homeland, and I want to offer that to you.

Because for what Israel lacks in size, it makes up in its diverse people and culture, its inventions and humanitarian aid it gives to the rest of the world, its history, and everything else that contributes to its splendor.

Miranda Lapides Co-president, Israel Student Association

Drug war failure

I support the legalization of marijuana. Chances are you do, too, as according to a recent Pew Poll, a majority of Americans now think marijuana should be legal. More and more states are now allowing the use of medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington are bucking federal policy by legalizing recreational marijuana use.

The War on Drugs, though, is still going strong. Students for Sensible Drug Policy provides some disturbing statistics: the United States spends more than $51,000,000,000 on drug prohibition each year, or $97,031 each minute—enough to pay for a Mason undergraduate degree twice over. Those numbers are your taxes, paying for the enforcement of drug prohibition and the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders.

Almost half of our prison populations are made up of non-violent offenders, according to the ACLU. In addition, prison populations have risen 700% since 1970, dwarfing the general population growth of 44%. The cause behind the huge spike in prison population after 1970? The start of the War on Drugs.

While these incarceration numbers are outrageous, so is the way these laws are enforced. Despite the fact that the majority of drug users are white, middle class Americans, those imprisoned for drug use are overwhelmingly black or Hispanic. The drug war, then, helps perpetuate racial stereotypes and discrimination while harming minority individuals and communities.

The uneven enforcement is even evident in the White House. Current and past Presidents of our United States have openly admitted to using drugs in the past—had they been arrested and incarcerated for these victimless crimes, would they have ever achieved the highest office in the land? It’s certainly doubtful, considering the many barriers to employment ex-convicts face. In Virginia alone, there are 202 barriers to employment resulting from controlled substance offenses.

In case these negative results of United States drug policy have not dissuaded you, consider the fact that drug use in the United States has remained fairly constant since the 1970s, while expenditures on enforcement of drug laws have skyrocketed. These unintended consequences of the drug war have been getting worse each year, but there has been little to no positive effect.

I do not write to convince people that drugs are good, or healthy. I do not wish to persuade people to use drugs. But I hope I have demonstrated that drug criminalization and the efforts of our government to enforce drug policies harms our country more than drugs ever could, and that the continuation of current drug policies is unjustifiable.

Cassie Whalen Junior, Economics major