This week I was so proud to help create a positive mural on campus, but today I am ashamed that my fellow Gauchos defaced our sign of peace. Let me explain.
Last week was an extremely difficult time to be a Jewish, Zionist or Israeli student at UCSB. SJP erected a display with direct attacks on Zionism (the right of self-determination of the Jewish people), a fabricated quote from a founder of Israel, and a map that outright denied the existence of the State of Israel. This was not just an attack on the State of Israel. This was a direct attack on our religious and cultural identity.
Yet I was never prouder to be a UCSB student, and especially never prouder to be President of our Students Supporting Israel chapter. Our students, while deeply hurt and distressed, acted with the utmost bravery and class. Through respectful debate, we successfully convinced SJP to fix their map and remove their fabricated quote. Our students skipped lecture to stand in front of their display to make sure that anyone forced to walk through their ‘wall’ would hear our perspective. Not once did anyone engage in violence, destruction, or vandalism. When I saw someone had stuck a piece of gum onto one of the panels of their display, I removed it and said, “while I disagree with so much on this wall, it does not deserve to be vandalized.” Despite our differences, we are all Gauchos, and I believe we all deserve the same respect and dignity.
Today however, I have never been more ashamed to be a Gaucho. Last Thursday, in partnership with the Santa Barbara Hillel, and as part of our “Israel Peace Week,” Students Supporting Israel hosted a group of artists to paint a large mural in front of Lot 22. The mural simply had the words, ‘Israel’ painted on it along with the Gaucho mascot and some positive messages in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. By Friday, someone had already taken a sharpie to vandalize it in small, black writing with anti-Israel graffiti. Thankfully, it was confined to a small area, and I was able to paint over it without ruining the mural. Today, as I excitedly skated past the mural on the way to my 8 a.m., I was horrified to see the same vandalism, but this time in big gold letters across the entirety of the art-piece.
Look. I get that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a divisive issue. But destruction of the artwork of another religious and cultural group is disgusting. If someone wants to stand by our mural, hold up a sign, and talk to people, I fully respect your right. In fact, I encourage you to do so. But that does not give you the right to commit a criminal, hurtful, and destructive act on the Jewish students and the entire community of UCSB.
Throughout the last few days, dozens of students have reached out to me to express how during this difficult time, this mural made them feel safe and comfortable as Jewish, Zionist or Israeli students. It saddens me so much that there are students here who want to take that away from them. Please UCSB, I urge you, I beg you, to act with respect and dignity to those who you may disagree with. We can achieve peace, but we can only do so together. Join me in condemning this heinous act. I pledge to work to create a campus climate that offers the proper safety, dignity and respect we ALL deserve. I hope you will too.
President, Students Supporting Israel