Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Upsetting, but not surprising

This morning checking headlines I came across this in Modern Art Notes. Brandeis has apparently removed an exhibit of drawings made by Palestinian children that was put in their library by a Jewish-Isreali student and former member of the Isreali army. The argument? It was offensive to students and was declared one sided.

First of all I agree with Tyler Green that an art exhibit does not need to show balanced opinions. And I think that removing the exhibit shows a respected university's weakness that it must at some point face if it hopes to continue to say that it is a non-Jewish school (well, on paper maybe) and if more than that, if it wants to continue dreams of keeping it's place in academia.

But I am not surprised by the Brandeis reaction being an alumn myself. While some put the percentage of Jewish students at 50%, when attending Brandeis it feels much more like 80% and I would be curious to hear actual numbers. Personally I am not Jewish but have an interesting background having lived in Jerusalem for a year as a child where I attended an Israeli public school. Although I was young then, I got a unique sense of the conflict. Because of my family's background and reasons for going to Israel (which I won't go into on a public blog) I visited a few places like East Jerusalem and Jericho. Yes, I was a child and didn't know the complexity and politics of the situation-- but being approached by a Palestinian child (about 8) with no shoes living in a ramshackle shed of a house trying to sell me candy in order to support his family is something that sticks in your mind. Being only 12 myself, I found myself giving the child my entire allowance and turning down the candy that I wasn't really interested in. But the Palestinian child insisted I take the candy so I did. It was experiencing things like this that I became very curious about the Palestinian experience-- the one that is not represented on American television. And while I'm not necessarily booksmart about the conflict-- I left Israel firmly believing that there is a story of Palestinian life that is not heard.

At Brandeis, I could never express to my fellow students that I believed Palestinians had rights, including the right to government representation, or more than that the right to their own state. The allegiance to Israel is strong among students at Brandeis, and all the years I attended, the discussion of the MidEast conflict was one-sided on the side of Isreal. I remember even apolitical Brandeis students get riled at any person who dares suggest what I suggest. There I became accustomed to staying silent on the topic.

So when any portrayal of the Palestinian experience appears on Brandeis campus-- it is not one sided. It is the first glimpse of Brandeis actually having a balanced opinion and it is unfortunate that the university chose to censor progress.

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