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My name is Maia Kofman, I am a Jew, I am critical of the Israeli government and I am a Zionist who does not support the annexation of Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

I would like to start by saying that Zionism does not equate to anti-Palestine. I would also like to mention that personally I was there not to counter-protest, but to show people driving by and the people at the protest that there are various sides to this very complex issue.

The definition of Zionism is the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the indigenous Jewish homeland. Jews are historically and biblically indigenous to the land of Judea, which is now modern day Israel/Palestine.

In the year 70 BCE the Romans had control of the land of Judea which was home to the Jewish people. This is when the first of many persecutions which lead to the diaspora of Jews occurred. Since then it has been a constant struggle for Jews anywhere they went. In Russia it was the pogroms, in Spain it was the Spanish Inquisition, in Ethiopia it was forced conversion, and in Europe it was the Holocaust.

While the Jews have undoubtedly experienced hardships, this does not mean that, as a Zionist, I refuse to acknowledge that Palestinians have lived in that same land for generations and have settled their roots there as well.

I wanted to write this in response to the recent article written by The Alligator covering the protest on the annexation of Palestine.

There is a clear lack of pro-Israel representation and a bias within this article. What surprised me the most while reading this article was history professor Paul Ortiz’s antisemitic remarks comparing Zionism to settler colonialism. He goes on to compare the Jewish people’s return to Israel to the killing of Native Americans by colonialists with no prior connection to the land. The implication that Jews do not originate from the land of Judea is not only incorrect, but also diminishes the connection Jews have to the land.

Another quote in this article that took me by surprise was the comparison of Zionism to white supremacy. To call my stance on the conflict ignorant and then compare Zionists to white supremacists without having a conversation, is ignorant in itself.

I acknowledge that one reporter cannot document every person’s experience at this event, which is one of the many reasons I want to write this. The same way the article reported that middle fingers were pointed towards the protestors, a group of three protestors leaving the event yelled profane words and pointed their middle fingers at me, calling me racist for supporting Israel.

After getting yelled at I asked to have a respectful, open, and honest conversation on the topic. Although we still had our differences we came to an understanding on certain topics such as how Zionism does not equate to anti-Palestine, which is something they had believed before our conversation. They left the conversation apologizing for being aggressive with me initially, but I understood they were coming from a place of emotion and hurt.

Having a conversation on difficult topics is the first step to coming together and finding some sort of resolution. But articles like the one published propel people to be further divided, rather than united toward a common goal.

The piece is written in a way that only grants one side of the argument to the reader, completely undermining the fact that there are multiple sides to the story. The issue is one that carries a long history, yet this article is written in a way that disregards the Israeli point of view.

By acknowledging the injustices made from both sides of this conflict, it will finally allow people to come together and empathize with one another.

*This open letter is meant to show the bias in The Alligator’s piece, which is missing the differences in views regarding this conflict. By no means am I trying to push my views of this topic onto anybody. I recommend anyone reading this to look for unbiased sources so that you may become more educated on the conflict and form your own opinions.

Maia Kofman is a 20-year-old UF student majoring in animal science.