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Letter to the Editor: Alumni weigh in on student protests


Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the S&B or its staff. Letters to the editor can be submitted through email at, or mailed to the College at box #5886.




Dear editors and Grinnell community,


As Jewish, Israel-supporting Grinnell alumni, we want to express our support for

pro-Israel Jewish students on campus who may feel unsafe and unwanted. We affirm

that no decent person should celebrate the terrorist Hamas slaughtering of Jews in the

worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust.


We also want to express our concern about very one-sided reporting by the S&B, with

little attempt to speak to people on campus, among the Grinnell Board of Trustees or

among the many Grinnell alumni who support the right of Israel to exist as an ancestral

homeland for the Jewish people.


Many of us pro-Israel alumni are also pro-Palestinian and have been critical of the

policies of the current Israeli government. We all believe in saving human lives, today

and in the future.


But we worry about the blurring of lines between legitimate criticism of Israel,

demonization of Israel and plain antisemitism which is happening on college campuses

now. We believe all Grinnell activists should condemn Hamas raping, torturing and

killing Israelis, including babies and college-aged Jews at a music festival. We

believe that activists who care about human rights should demand that Hamas release

the 240 hostages.


The history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is long and complex. Some facts overlooked by the false racialized settler-colonialism narrative that pro-Hamas activists apply to Israel —


  1. Jews have been indigenous to Israel for 4,000 years, since around 2,000 BCE. In

fact, both Jews and Palestinians have DNA from the ancient Caananites who

lived in Israel before 2,000 BCE.


  1. Jews have lived in Israel during Jewish empires and through the Greek, Roman,

Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Ottoman empires, etc.


  1. The majority of Jews in Israel are not European. They are Jews, and the

descendants of Jews, who were expelled or fled from their homes in the Middle East and

North Africa, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and Tunisia

among others. Israelis also are Black Jews, including a large community of

Ethiopian Jews, plus Latin American Jews, Asian Jews, Arabs and Christians

from the region and around the world.


  1. Israel has not occupied Gaza since 2005, and Palestinians elected Hamas soon

after Israel left. Hamas won a bloody civil war against other Palestinian factions.

Since then, there have been no elections, and Palestinians risk death if they

criticize Hamas.


  1. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, Hamas would want you dead

regardless of where you lived.


You can believe that Palestinians deserve statehood, as we do, without chanting, “From

the river to the sea,” which means the extermination of Jewish Israel. That is not

coexistence. Iranian-backed Hamas has repeatedly said it does not want coexistence. It

wants to kill all the Jews of Israel and calls for the slaughter of Jews worldwide.


As painful as it was for us as alumni to watch the oversimplification of the conflict by

many progressives, we can only imagine how painful it must be to be a Jewish student

at Grinnell College right now who loves Israel and believes that Jews have an

indigenous right to their historic, ancestral homeland.


Please consider printing articles that represent more diverse views, including this letter.




Sharyn Obsatz `93

David Silverman `93

Rebecca Lansky `92

Ron Medvin `73

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  • N

    nate crail '19Jan 31, 2024 at 6:34 pm

    Your 5th “fact” is dishonest and completely erases the real LGBTQ+ Palestinians who exist in Gaza despite Hamas and Israel. Please read the 2023 article on Time, “In Gaza, ‘Queering the Map’ Reveals Heartbreaking Notes of LGBT Love and Loss” and a Haaretz op-ed from 2018, “The Real Oppressors of Gaza’s Gay Community: Hamas or Israel? LGBTQ life in Gaza is arduous and dangerous. I would know: I grew up there. But only blaming Palestine’s conservatism and Hamas, whitewashing Israel’s siege and military assaults, is dishonest and exploitative.”

    • S

      Sharyn ObsatzMar 18, 2024 at 12:56 am

      Perhaps from the Haaretz you have already read from Feb. 21, 2018: “What It’s Like to Be Gay in Gaza: Meeting Israelis on Dating Apps, Evading Hamas and Plotting Escape — In a society where homosexuality could be punishable by death, gay Gazans keep their identity secret”

      or from June 25, 2019: “Pride and Prejudice: The Hellish Life of Gaza’s LGBTQ Community — Four gay men and one woman tell Haaretz what life is really like in a ‘homophobic society’ where pretending to be straight is often a matter of survival”

      or from June 9, 2022: “What It Really Means to Be Queer and Palestinian in Israel and the West Bank — LGBTQ Palestinians in Haifa enjoy a supportive community while fighting the occupation. In East Jerusalem, they escape to the Jewish side of the city. And across the Green Line, living authentically is more complicated”

      or from Oct. 16, 2022: “Opinion | LGBTQ Palestinians Are Being Buried With Their Secret — When I became the chair of the Knesset Special Committee on Foreign Workers, I took upon myself the care of a community that lives under the radar and in chilling neglect: Palestinian LGBTQ people who fled to Israel from the territory of the Palestinian Authority…”

      or from Nov. 11, 2021: “Opinion | For Queer Palestinians Like Me, Intersectionality Isn’t Working — Palestinian, queer and disenchanted: How constant talk about pinkwashing, settler colonialism and intersectionality pushed me out of the Palestinian LGBTQ movement”

  • L

    Laura PooleDec 4, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you, Sharyn, David, Rebecca & Ron for eloquently expressing in written word what many are experiencing. ~Prayers for Peace~

  • D

    David Nathan '01Nov 23, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Thank you, letter writers, for including some perspective that seems missing or at least unacknowledged in this discussion.

  • B

    Br Vishwam Gurudas Heckert '97Nov 22, 2023 at 11:56 am

    The actions of Hamas and the Israeli state are both, it seems to me, acts of desperation stemming from intergenerational trauma. Neither side is acting in a way which is healthy (not that we would necessarily expect them to given the historical situation). What would enable a healthy response to the tremendous suffering occuring in this area of the world and among those who identify with the pain here? This seems the more important question than trying to decide who is ‘right’, and who is ‘wrong’.

    Of course , it can be deeply uncomfortable to question the actions of any institution with which we’ve come to identify. Hopefully, a Grinnell education encourages us to face what is uncomfortable.

    On the question of what makes a healthy society, I warmly recommend Ursula Le Guin’s wisdom teaching story “The Ones who Walk away from Omelas”. ??

    Another potential source of inspiration and engaged, compassionate and critical thinking is Holocaust survivor Gabor Mate. He focuses on healing rather than recriminations or defensiveness. We’ll worth a listen for anyone interested.

    Joining with you all in prayers for peace,

  • A

    Anne Marie WoodNov 22, 2023 at 12:42 am

    Well said. I can only add my deep disappointment at the milquetoast letter from President Harris, who, writing just a few days after the horrific attack, could not even explicitly denounce the cold-blooded and barbaric murder of well over a thousand men, women and children.

  • H

    Howard CohenNov 21, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    Sharyn, David, Rebecca, and Ron, I also have been concerned about the stories of anti Israel protests on campus, which seem to excuse at best, support at worst, the attacks on civilians.

  • J

    Julie Luner, ‘82Nov 21, 2023 at 9:51 am

    Thank you for writing this letter. I agree with you 100%.

  • D

    David Ressner, '92Nov 20, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    Well said. Thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking and feeling.