Pro-Israel Petition Garners Support

More than 1,000 students sign on

A petition supporting Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself has collected more than 1,000 student signatures since January, and organizers say they hope to present it to Representative Michael Capuano, D-Mass. before spring break.

The petition, organized by Harvard Students for Israel (HSI), calls for a peace that ensures Israeli security, urges all nations in the Middle East to stand against terrorism and supports a continued alliance between Israel and the United States, according to petition organizer Suzanne B. Gershowitz ’04.

But some students said the petition is not a constructive statement on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hebah M. Ismail ’06, the secretary of the Palestinian Students Coalition, said she thinks the petition unfairly associates people who are criticize Israel with those who espouse terrorism.

“It makes it sound like people who want to make peace with Israel combat terrorism, but people on the other side would be terrorists,” she said. “That perpetuates the idea that Muslims are terrorists.”

Gershowitz, however, said the petition isn’t intended to condemn Arabs, but instead to build support for Israel.

She said that the goal of the petition is “not to make policy prescriptions, not to condemn either side for their actions, but to formulate a foundation for pro-Israel movements.”

According to Gershowitz, what she refers to as basic pro-Israeli beliefs have gone unstated at Harvard in the past year, while divestment and other anti-Israel movements have been in the media spotlight.

She said she hopes that the petition will be seen as an alternative and possibly as a more accurate representation of the students’ sentiments toward Israel.

“A lot of people don’t feel the need to express fundamental values,” she said, which she added is one reason that she believes Harvard has been misrepresented in the press. Gershowitz said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if a majority of Harvard students shared the sentiments of the petition.

She said she hopes to demonstrate to Capuano “that students in his district hold these views.”