The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.
The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board recently called on “both sides” of the Caterpillar referendum to “put their ideological goals aside” for the purpose of ending threats to student safety, which have been issued by groups opposing the Referendum.
The appeal suggests that the Palestinian struggle is a self-indulgent thought experiment and not an urgent humanitarian concern. The Editorial Board states, “If a revote will end this controversy, we’re fully in support. There may be many ways to end this specific situation fairly, and we won’t weigh in on which one is appropriate.” In other words, the Board hesitates to weigh in on how the vote should be settled. It did not hesitate, however, to equate Palestine activists with their opposition in actions for which only the latter are responsible. The Board is unsure of what measure would be just, but it does not hesitate to validate the idea of a revote — a position that has not been taken for any previous passing referendum among the student body.
The Board obscures the fact that only one side was responsible for the attacks that it condemns — groups aligned against the Referendum, including organizations that have run thousands of dollars worth of ads encouraging students to vote “No.” By contrast, organizers supporting the Referendum built a strong, diverse coalition of students on campus who tabled in Frist Campus Center and spent no money on ads. The campaign in support of the Referendum focused on Palestinian rights and the opposition that denies Palestinians those rights. And the Referendum passed.
The Editorial Board should recognize its biased judgment in stating that a revote would be a fair solution for Palestine activists. Palestine activists used safe and grassroots means to reach the student body and achieved a passing vote according to the constitution of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). They should not be blamed for acts of counter-protest and have their successes annulled on the grounds that they are equally to blame for the resulting controversy. Such an argument is barely coherent in the context of any campaign.
For Palestine activists, demands for sovereignty and the right to return have always brought "controversy” to campus. A Board that represents a community paper would do well to defend their right to do so.
The USG’s suppression of the referendum results is an example of its functional inability to communicate a stance on the Palestinian cause and the reticence which even “liberal” institutions display on dissociation from the Israeli occupation. In the language approval session prior to the campaign, USG’s DEI chair motioned to vote on whether the referendum protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes could be considered “frivolous.” After the referendum passed, an executive “remedy” was exercised to curb the single function of the referendum, which was to communicate the will of the student body to the administration. We now live with the absurdity of a referendum which “passed” but on which USG “will not make a statement on behalf of the student body in favor of or against.” Such a move, held by secret ballot among 24 students, is a stunning erosion of the democratic process.
The paper that the Senate resolved to send to the administration now includes four entire statements delegitimizing the referendum but excludes the referendum sponsor’s rebuttal.
The Editorial Board’s “both sides” fallacy obscured what should be done to ensure the safety and humanity, as well as a just process, for all members of our community and in the world at large. Its opinion amplifies the double standards that Palestinians face in attempting to achieve just coverage and action through so-called democratic institutions. We watched while Israeli soldiers in riot gear stormed Al Aqsa Mosque, injuring and arresting hundreds of Palestinians, as they have for decades, and will continue to under the violent and unbearable status quo. It is difficult to believe that we are still deciding whether we can tolerate protesting corporations and governments for their role in the military occupation of a people, subjecting them to permanent abject poverty and destroying their homes, institutions, and lives. We should pay attention to the attribution of violence in these narratives and whose interests we are willing to sacrifice with inaccuracy and neutrality.
Braden Flax is a senior from Merrick, N.Y., and a member of the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celine Pham is a sophomore from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and a member of Princeton Committee for Palestine (PCP). She can be reached at email@example.com.