Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Letter to the Editor: In response to Cal Mazumder’s ‘All burn, no heart’

Your passion and concern for the suffering in Israel and Palestine is laudable. 

There is tremendous suffering that you can help alleviate by volunteering for aid organizations, or if politics is your focus, by directly engaging with a national government of your choosing (and there are MANY to choose from) that could make a real impact on the conflict if they changed their policy.  All of the intellectual, emotional, and creative energy you are investing could make such a positive impact on the world.

I think you have correctly recognized that it would belie your intent to suggest that your arrest is in any way equivalent to the suffering of the people of Palestine and Israel. It would distract from your real purpose to suggest that rage towards Emerson College, or focused on the person of Jay Bernhardt, should become a de facto animating force. You rightly mention in your article that you don’t want the means of your struggle to become the ends of your purpose. The journey from being outraged and aggrieved would be better suited as a constructive movement towards the goal you have clearly stated that you wish to serve: peace. 

The familiar sermon from Dr. Martin Luther King, in the spirit of Easter, seems apt: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Or, in the spirit of Ramadan, to use Safi Kafka’s translation of Qur’an 41:34 “Good and evil are never equal. Repel evil with good, and your enemy will become like an intimate friend.”

As a student of Emerson College, imagine how you might lift up the institution and your fellow students—not out of rage and opposition—but instead to find partners and call people in, and seek out opportunities to make practical changes that will directly impact the suffering. Instead of Emerson becoming the target of enmity, it can become a pool you can draw from, as you have already achieved with the FSJP. Using that platform of Emerson voices to then go out into the world can make a difference. Inspire others at Emerson to join your efforts because of the impact you have on those in the conflict. 

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Comments (8)

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  • S

    Snezana Sazdic / Apr 5, 2024 at 9:34 pm

    I am embarrassed to be an adult and read this disgraceful input from what I assume is another adult. You are writing in response to a student, a young human being. In addition, you are a College staff member. I would have expected that one of your primary contributions in that environment is to encourage the younger generations to take active part in improving an imperfect world and to do so in an educational institution of which the core should be to provide a safe place for young to learn to participate in civic activity. Instead you are disempowering, humiliating and discouraging. You may wish to re-evaluate your perceived contribution as a role model to the young people surrounding you in your working environment.

  • N

    Norma Miller / Apr 5, 2024 at 3:24 pm

    May I suggest, dear editor, that you also read King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

  • C

    Celia Fischer / Apr 4, 2024 at 7:33 pm

    I find it so fascinating how quickly a response to Cal’s letter was published in the Beacon. Not even 24 hours and there’s already a letter from an “anonymous staff member” policing him and the other students and telling them the “appropriate” response to his arrest. You ask Cal to “Lift up the institution and your fellow students” and suggest he move from being “outraged to aggrieved”. You frame your letter as an advocation for joy instead of peace, love instead of hate. Let me be clear, Students for Justice in Palestine is full of love and support. We lift each other up every day just like we waited hours in the freezing cold for our friends to be released. When Cal stood outside the Culter Majestic and was in turn arrested for his exercising of free speech he did so because he believes in a better, more joyful world where Palestinians are free from their oppressors. But how dare you suggest that he should “lift up the institution” that arrested 12 of its own students. How dare you hide behind an anonymous article and criticize how a 19-year-old reacts to a traumatic event such as this. You write off Cal’s anger as if there is no justification or use for anger. And since you find it so useful to include quotes, here’s one of my own. Malcolm X said “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” Over 30,000 civilians have died in less than 6 months in Gaza, how are you not outraged? How are you not angry?

    You also suggest instead of focusing on punishing Emerson, Cal should take his advocacy and point it towards a state government, which speaks in ignorance to the many many events SJP had organized to do just this. Just last week on “Land Day” SJP marched all over the streets of Boston with Presidential Candidate Claudia De La Cruz calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza. Our anger towards President Berhardt and the institution of Emerson College is because, unlike the Governments of the United States, Israel, and the UK, this is a place where we have a voice and one that can be loud. For the 80,000 dollars a year, it seems fair that the college listens to the voices of it’s students especially one that includes “appreciation for diverse ideas” as one of its core values. Not to mention it wasn’t any government that called for the arrests of Cal and the 12 other students, it was the Emerson College Police Department.

    You claim Cal has clearly stated his goal as “peace”, which never once does he say or write. The goal of Students for Justice In Palestine (as clearly identified in the name) has always and will always be justice. We want a free Palestine, not a return to the status quo. Anger and joy can coexist and they will continue to do so, but I challenge you to ask yourself why instead of “volunteering for aid organizations” yourself, you chose to write this passive-aggressive response statement, one that you didn’t even feel confident enough to sign.

    • O

      Owen Buxton / Apr 5, 2024 at 12:03 am

      Incredibly put Celia!!!!

    • N

      None / Apr 5, 2024 at 3:51 pm

      I appreciate your critique and I respect your devotion to justice.

      You provided an excellent quote from Malcolm X. His December 20th speech in 1964 is powerful. He cites the value of anger in motivating African independence movements. His speech later that same night further this theme, and he educated his audience about the importance and promise of Africa. He eloquently laid out the post-colonial challenges African nations would experience due to the struggle between East and West. He understood this dilemma, and the harm it could do to newly independent African countries. On the same day as your quote, he explained:

      “Today, power is international, real power is international; today, real power is not local…. When you build a power base in this country, you’re building it where you aren’t in any way related to what you build it on.“

      Malcolm’s further discussion about the importance of non-alignment on this same day also offers contemporary insight into the Middle East. Which nations are aligned and why? What is the position of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, and why? How has the role of the Americans and British changed over time? How has the position of the Israeli government changed over time, and how did international affairs influence these changes? What is the influence of Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and where are they aligned? How do these alignments and competing influences impact the situation in Palestine?

      Is Emerson College, or any other American university, the battleground for justice in Palestine? Which nation in the Middle East will be influenced by an American University, or the City of Boston? No, Malcolm is still correct: power is international. Being outraged and being offended on an American Campus is easy. Fighting for change — where it actually impacts those suffering and who desperately need help — that is incredibly hard. You’ve done a lot of work, but you are fighting on a battleground that won’t impact those who need it.

      Your platform is currently on center stage. One path is a sectarian approach, to demand ideological conformity. Call out all who do not support your party line, and seek out new causes for grievance and righteous indignation. A different path is to seize the opportunity to expand your audience. Advance your cause where it matters most with good works. The first path is easy, the second is not.

      • C

        Celia Fischer / Apr 5, 2024 at 4:14 pm

        Almost all American institutions that we participate in are at the center of the battleground for Palestine. Malcolm X was right, power is international, meaning that the fight for Palestine’s freedom is not just in the Middle East, it’s international because internationally our tax dollars are funding the genocide against the Palestinians. It’s our on-campus programs that are sending students to Israel on “birthright trips” spreading Zionist propaganda across our school’s publications, and censoring teachers, staff, and students when they try to speak about it. Like any Genocide, what’s happening in Palestine is not only on the Israeli government but the institutions that benefit from the extermination of innocent civilians. Solidarity is how movements are successful.

        Re: demanding ideological conformity, I think if you actually spent any time in Students for Justice in Palestine or attended Pro-Palestinian spaces you would find there is a lot of debate and diversity in opinion, as is typical in any large group of people. However, it is not a sectarian approach to hold our communities to a moral code and respect for human rights. In the United States, we all are held to the standard that Murder is bad and should be punished. Similarly, SJP is holding the Emerson Community to the standard that the murder of 32,000 innocent civilians is bad, and we should do everything in our power to stop it. Do you not agree? Is this too high of a moral standard for us to have for our community?

      • J

        Jessica / Apr 5, 2024 at 4:48 pm

        It is incredibly frustrating to read comments that want to dictate how and when these students should protest, or that question whether or not our schools and universities are an appropriate place for these protests to occur (spoiler alert-they are). It is also jaw-dropping to see the assumptions that some of the dissenting commenters have made regarding what these students are or aren’t doing in the interest of global justice. How could you possibly know what else these brave and informed students are doing in the name of justice? You can’t, and yet you refer to these protests as if they are their sole defining action. (Frankly if it were I would absolutely still applaud that.)

        This sense of “Let me tell you how to protest” is something we have all witnessed in the recent past. Remember Colin Kapernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem? How offended so many people got, having to have their football watching experience “ruined” by such a thing. The sentiment was “yeah we care, but not enough to sacrifice our football watching privileges.” People were continually asking for the protest to take on another form in another place – kind of like what the comment from “None”
        suggests here. My words to the students on that would be “Well done! You are making people uncomfortable in order to make them pay attention. It’s a critical and reasonable rationale when no one is listening. And you have demonstrated that no one has been listening to you, as they should be.

        Calls for a ceasefire are not demands to conform to an “ideology” as you (“None”) also say; the idea that genocide is wrong is kind of fundamental to humanity. Stop slaughtering people. That’s enough of an argument for me, and suggesting it is some “ideology” mischaracterizes that.

        Students, you are on the right side of history, and the obstacles that some people are throwing your way right now are a sign that your protests are working. Keep your heads high and know there are many of us out here who support you whole heartedly.

  • M

    Mike H / Apr 4, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    (This comment has been removed because it does not follow The Berkeley Beacon comment section policies.)