On Thursday, on these pages I spoke of the need to repair the damage caused by the ASUCD vote and we focused on ASUCD Senator Azka Fayyaz, whose picture and comments posted on her personal Facebook page have become the posterized moment for this controversy.
She posted, “Hamas & Shariah law have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience.” These words generated a huge public backlash that has really not subsided.
As I noted at the time, I see little to be gained by the public flogging of a UC Davis student, even a student senator who does not seem to be able to extricate herself from a self-created mess.
One comment noted, “nobody talked about a “public flogging.”” They added that they supported “having her removed as a senator who obviously does not feel her mission to represent the student body as a whole seems in order.”
There was a similar sentiment expressed in a recent letter to the editor: “I am disgusted with what I have witnessed throughout the UC Davis community as of late. Jaded statements aimed at mitigating both Israel and Palestine have spread like wildfire. These harmful statements have been said in person, painted onto the sides of buildings and strewn throughout social media.”
They continue, “ASUCD Senator Azka Fayyaz think so. She felt so strongly that the Israeli genocidal forces were closing in that she brought Hamas to UC Davis in a Facebook post stating “Hamas & Shariah law have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience.” For those of you who don’t know, Hamas is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization. One of its primary goals is the annihilation of Jews.”
“Shortly after this Facebook post was made, large red swastikas were painted on the building of Alpha Elision Pi, the only Jewish fraternity on campus. They were painted the evening of the Jewish Sabbath, the same week as the 70th anniversary of the European liberation from the Nazi Party,” they write. “Since posting her intimidatory comment on Facebook, Fayyaz has issued an open letter with a slighted explanation of her “satirical caption.” She then attempts to justify her nihilist, racist remarks. Fayyaz has since removed her Facebook profile.”
“Azka has embarrassed not only herself but the community of Davis. It is with no doubt that a suitable replacement could be found with less intolerant views,” they argue. “The Davis community demands that Azka Fayyaz resign from her post as ASUCD senator.”
Our poster is correct – no one has talked about a “public flogging,” they are simply engaging in it. And to what end? My experience is that such heated rhetoric will not change hearts and minds, it will only harden them, entrench, kill whatever moment we may have had for somber reflection and common goals and visions.
It is ludicrous to state that the Davis community “demands” she resign. We in the Davis community are not her ostensible constituents. It would be like Davis residents demanding that West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon resign or that Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann resign.
We have no moral authority to do so because we do not live in their jurisdictions and they do not answer to us.
Demands from the “adults” in this community ring hollow – this is an issue that ASUCD has to grapple with.
The issue brings forth all sorts of questions ranging from the legitimacy of ASUCD as an organization to whether this an issue that ASUCD should involve themselves in, in the first place.
That said, I am more than a little troubled by one thing – the amount of noise generated by the extremes on both sides of this issue. There is a lot of heat being generated especially on the part of the US right, who strongly back Israel, and at the same time relish the chance to poke a stick at what they see or at least want to portray as a rising tide of radicalism and anti-Semitism on liberal US universities.
The trouble here is that the amount of noise that rises leads moderate voices on both sides of the issue rushing for the exits.
As one reader put it, “When this issue comes up, I walk away. It is not for us to resolve and there are too many people interested in having no resolution.”
In effect, the reader is suggesting they concede argument and the debating grounds to the noisy radicals. The problem is that this is a serious issue – granted an issue that will not be resolved at the low levels of American society.
Nevertheless, when the reasonable voices leave the room we are left with the radical voices. Those radical voices are on one side screaming Allah Akbar, calling things a Zionist conspiracy and complaining that critical voices are really an embodiment of Islamaphobia and on the other side and on the other side we have legitimate concerns cast aside.
As one reader put it, “The settlements are nothing. They are just something for the collection of those that are Antisemitic, anti-Israel, irrationally victim mentality-obsessed or just plain ignorant about the topic… to latch on to.”
Both sides miss the point, and both sides are screaming so loud that no one else can get a word in edgewise.
How we carve out a place where the reasonable people in the middle can be heard. Those who understand the need for the Jewish state coming out of centuries of Jewish persecution in Europe at the hands of Christians. Those who understand that the Palestinians are themselves displaced citizens who were caught in between the west and local powers in the middle east.
Those who understand that acts of terrorism must be condemned but that Israeli policies often are instigators of those acts of terrorism to generate the excuse for overly heavy-handed response.
Both sides have rightful claims to being victims and neither side is blameless in this dispute.
But more importantly, if we cannot resolve these conflicts at the local level, how can we hope to tackle the ever-more complicated problem at the global level.
Instead of flogging Azka Fayyaz, perhaps we can engage with her. A restorative justice process might be in order where Azka can sit down and explain her passions and how the response to her statement has done her harm, but people in the Jewish community can confront her as well.
I know it’s largely wishful thinking, but my hope is that something good can come out of all of this.
—David M. Greenwald reporting