Jewish group criticizes flag display

A flag display arranged this week on the Campus Commons detailing the destruction of Palestinian villages in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War has raised objections from the university’s Jewish organization.

Hillel president Daniel Zidell, a sophomore pre-major, said the university’s Peace Action group flag display neglected to mention certain facts in its remembrance of Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in 1948, such as the fact that Israel was defending itself from Arab attacks.

Arnold Barkman, associate professor of accounting and the Hillel faculty adviser, wrote in an e-mail that the Peace Action display omitted information detailing the fact that the destruction in Palestine was the result of an invasion by five Arab nations. The attacks came after a United Nations vote to partition the former British mandate territory, he said.

“The new State of Israel was acting in self-defense, and whatever unfortunate incidents may have occurred happened in a war environment which was initiated by the governments opposing the creation of Israel,” Barkman said.

Fidaa Elaydi, a senior political science and sociology major and president of Peace Action, said the display was meant to bring up an issue that history books do not mention and was not intended to attack Hillel or Israel.

“It sheds light on an issue that most people already have decided on (and) helps increase awareness about an issue that most Americans already feel like they already understand enough, but really have little knowledge of,” Elaydi said. “We just want to make TCU more inclusive and more tolerant of differing perspectives and help them understand the facts a little bit more.”

The display consists of pink flags with names of Palestinian villages written on them and stuck in the ground close to the Brown-Lupton University Union. One sign reads, “These are the names of the Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948 by the new Israeli state.”

Two signs contain quotes describing how the destruction was forgotten by history and two others promote today’s showing of the film “Occupation 101,” a documentary about Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as human rights issues related to Israeli policy in those areas.

Although Peace Action has an awareness room at this year’s Tunnel of Oppression, the flag display was a separate entity and was only related to the event in subject matter, Elaydi said.

Kyle Orth, a freshman piano performance major and a member of Hillel, said he thinks the display was offensive to some of the university’s Jewish students, especially because the display was outside the BLUU, where the Hillel Holocaust Museum was held.

Orth said that even though Jewish students might find the display offensive, Peace Action still had the right to present it.

“Everybody can say what they want because nobody is trying to shut down anybody’s voice,” he said. “We’re just a little concerned about how it’s being presented.”

Despite objections to the display, Elaydi said the fact that the display could exist while the Holocaust Museum was held in an adjacent building was a testament to the campus’s diversity.

“Everything is so close in proximity and the fact that we’re able to coexist in this way and tolerate each other’s perspectives.just shows that we do have a diverse campus,” she said. “We are part of one larger global community, and the only way we can solve issues worldwide is if we work together.”

Trisha Teig, chair of the Tunnel of Oppression planning committee, said participants in the event were free to illustrate the perspective of an oppressed group of people by presenting only one side of a multi-sided issue.

Elaydi said Peace Action received permission to plant the signs from BLUU officials.