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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Poleshuck-Kinel and Hirsh: Discourse on Ice

Dartmouth can do better than vandalism and dangerous speech.

Recently, a controversy arose on campus over the vandalism of a Winter Carnival ice sculpture that displayed the title “River2Sea” and portrayed the territory of both Israel and Palestine enveloped by a Palestinian flag. We can hold two truths at the same time: As a community, we should condemn this vandalism — destructive action undermines constructive discourse. We must also thoughtfully examine the problematic implications of the sculpture and its title.

Advocacy is an important form of political engagement. But, for the sake of an inclusive, vibrant and successful campus environment, we must not elide advocacy with messages deliberately used by groups that seek to annihilate Israel and its Jewish residents.

We, as Jewish students, are familiar with this sculpture’s words. They are hurtful and dangerous. We cried upon seeing this message from our classmates and friends. This message breaks and does not build. These words hurt and do not bring us together. Violent calls do not heal or solve.

The phrase “from the river to the sea” has a history and an intent. The Palestinian Liberation Organization popularized the saying in the 1960s to call for a Palestinian state encompassing the entirety of modern-day Israel. Since then, terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas have used the phrase to advocate for the complete and violent elimination of Israel, a stance fundamentally at odds with the pursuit of peace.

Hamas’s founding covenant explicitly calls for the eradication of Israel and the propagation of violence against Jewish people: “The Day of Judgement will not come about” until all Jews are killed. In 2003, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi explained, “By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine.” Nine years later, on the 25th anniversary of Hamas’s founding, senior leader Khaled Mashal reaffirmed, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the South to the North.” Throughout its history, Hamas has never sought to advance a two-state solution or Palestinian and Israeli coexistence. We believe the sculpture gives voice to their violent aims.

On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas acted on this ideology and launched a terrorist attack that killed around 1,200 innocent civilians — the single deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. Following the attacks, a senior member of Hamas, Ghazi Hamad, stated publicly, “We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do it twice and three times. The Al-Aqsa Deluge [the name Hamas gave to Oct. 7] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

To us, the “River2Sea” sculpture evoked memories of Oct. 7 and countless other days scarred by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terrorism. To our parents and grandparents, these eliminationist words, and images of large crowds chanting them, evoke the 1930s. Regardless of the creators’ intentions, the sculpture communicates a deeply unsettling message for us and many others — one that disregards the Jewish peoples’ self-determination and echoes violent calls for Israel’s complete annihilation.

During a time of alarming antisemitism, especially on college campuses, where, according to polling done by the Anti-Defamation League, 73% of Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed antisemitism on campus, and less than half feel physically safe, we must work hard to confront antisemitism when it arises. Former Harvard President Claudine Gay got it right when she declared, “Phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea’ bear specific historical meanings that to a great many people imply the eradication of Jews from Israel and engender both pain and existential fears within our Jewish community.”

If the sculpture’s creators intend to speak out against Israel’s policies, they can articulate this message without amplifying violent rhetoric. We believe that effective advocacy should promote understanding and bridge divides; we all may begin with respecting the humanity and dignity of one another.

In the spirit of fostering a constructive and inclusive campus environment, we urge everyone to move beyond harmful messages and vandalism. Let us uplift our Arab, Muslim and Jewish peers and work together to stand up against Islamophobia and antisemitism. Let us engage in discussions that recognize the complexities of this conflict and work towards peaceful solutions that affirm the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Oren Poleshuck-Kinel and Samuel Hirsh are members of the Class of 2026. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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