Students Supporting Israel (SSI) is a nationwide grassroots student organization that was established over six years ago. SSI has dozens of registered chapters with universities across the country. We have hundreds of activists, and we represent the legitimate view of a segment of pro-Israel students, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Our programs are held in different campuses and communities, with our message not being limited solely to campuses where we have a registered group. By now we have held activity in all Ivy League schools and major US universities, but the response our activists received in Brown was unprecedented.

Without exception, on every campus we’ve held events so far, our table and message drew a productive dialogue with by-passers. Some agree with us, some disagree, but overall it is always a great intellectual exchange. When our activists arrived to Brown, we set a folding table with our messages at a public space, as usual, but very soon students began approaching us and asking us to leave. Yes, numerous times, like the opinion writers confess. Not only that, but some even went above and beyond and called the police, which of course arrived just to tell us we can stay here as long as we want. The toxic exchange, eye-rolls, and disrespectful behavior we encountered at Brown was something we’ve never experienced before. 



Reading the opinion article made us think of the following Israeli expression which literally translates to “the camel does not see its own hump” and means that a person is not seeing his own flaws. So were the Brown students who claim in the opinion article to support conversations, but practically seem interested in only supporting a conversation that aligns with their own views. Unfortunately, they may have forgotten what freedom of speech is all about. Here is a reminder: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants individuals the freedom of speech and expression, especially in a traditional open public forum.


When our activists arrived to Brown, we displayed our message at a public space. The writers of the opinion stated they had an issue “with SSI decision not to consult with members of the Brown community before visiting.” As free individuals, we do not need to consult about when or where to express an opinion, especially as the writers added themselves a sentence later that “outside and national groups can, and regularly do, participate in the conversation about Israel and Palestine on Brown’s campus.”

The posters we display, like the writers noted, are on “very complex topics” but put into “simplistic slogans” on purpose, to draw attention and dialogue. However, it seemed that the ones who “did not know how to engage with intellectually curious” individuals are actually the few students from Brown, who instead of listening wanted us out of their sight. Here is another reminder to those students: you have the privilege to attend an academic institution, a place that teaches to listen to all kinds of opinions. If you are, like you write, incited or angered by opinions, the academic and intellectual way will be to listen and discuss it and not try to dismiss or remove it, especially that there is a large segment of people who hold the same opinions as SSI does. Yes, even in Brown. Yes, even on your campus and within your community. Some people, believe it or not, approached us to express support and agreement.

In addition, you wrote that SSI does not know to engage with “justice-focused students, and they were neither prepared for nor interested in, serious, nuanced discussion.” This sentence is a pure arrogance. SSI is composed of students just like you, and perhaps, just maybe, justice means different things to different people, and justice-minded people do not have to be like-minded. By setting a table in a public street with our message, we were nothing but ready and interested in a discussion, which we did have with many individuals who did not repeatedly ask us to leave and were not uncomfortable with our presence.   

Thus, if like you write you “worry that Israel-Palestine discourse on campus tends to become uncivil,” maybe it has to do with those who call the police attempting to shut down free speech more than the speech itself, because from our experience using our “tactics” as you refer to it on nearly 100 campuses, the discourse was always civil.  You do not need to be concerned that “SSI’s provocative language has the potential to excuse attacks on Zionist or Jewish students more broadly” because SSI is composed of Zionists, many of them are Jews and Israelis, and we are free to use the type of language we are comfortable with and we deem appropriate. If someone attacks Zionists or Jewish students, it is not because of an expression, but it is most likely due to a deeper hatred and anti-Semitism. No one should attack a person simply because they are in disagreement with their opinion, especially within academic settings.

Of course, we do share the writers’ concern that Jewish students nationwide “have been bullied, harassed, silenced, slandered and subjected to anti-Semitism and even to threats of violence” and in SSI we stand strongly against these concerning phenomena, which by the way SSI members have also personally experienced in the past. However, we believe that the way to deal with this is not to hide our opinions like you attempted to hide ours, but to stand firmly and confidently behind what we believe in. What you need to be afraid of, is not SSI’s guest message on your campus, but the fact that in 2018 some students at Brown tell us that Israel, the one Jewish state in the world, should not even exists. Clearly, with some in Brown holding such opinions, your ways may also not be perfect.

If you want to learn more about SSI and what we stand for, we invite you to give us a call, join an event, or attend one of our national conferences or seminars to learn more.



Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share