Ingber ’15: An unsavory alliance

Opinions Columnist
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

As I walked to class just the other day, I was struck by the large “fence” erected on the Main Green opposite Sayles Hall. Covered with spray paint and graffiti-esque writing, I knew this was either a political demonstration or modern art exhibit. Curious, I walked closer and saw two tables in front of the display: a table run by the students organizing Immigration Week and a table manned by Students for Justice in Palestine.

Why were these two groups demonstrating together? Was it because they were the only two student groups dealing with border issues? I knew that this couldn’t be the case. Looking a bit deeper, it was clear what these groups were trying to do – they were trying to equate the Mexican-American border fence with the West Bank separation barrier. And if some believe that this was purely coincidental, the previous collaboration between the SJP and the Immigrant Rights Coalition that was featured in The Herald (“Fence gathers thoughts on immigration,” Oct. 19) signifies an unsavory alliance.

The alliance between these two groups undermines the legitimate arguments of each organization. Let’s compare the two barriers for a moment. One was erected to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States while the other was constructed in the wake of the Second intifada – the worst wave of terror Israel has ever seen. Are these students suggesting that people attempting to enter the United States are analogous to Palestinian terrorists that target Israeli citizens? I doubt it.

If the two barriers do have something in common, much to the chagrin of the demonstrators the other day on the Main Green, it is that they are extremely effective. After the construction of the fence on the Mexican-American border, the number of border apprehensions declined 61 percent from 2005 to 2010. In fact, the number of arrests on the border is the lowest it has been since 1972. Likewise, the number of terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens has declined dramatically since the barrier was built in 2003. From 2003 to 2006, 12 attacks were carried out, killing 64 Israelis, compared to between 2000 and 2003, during which terrorists carried out 73 attacks, killing 293 Israelis. And given the escalated violence caused by drug cartels on the Mexican-American border, for students to suggest that America has strict border policies because it wants to control who can call themselves “American” is ludicrous. For these students I have some breaking news – countries have borders.

Yes, this was frustrating. But it didn’t really bother me that much. I am open-minded, I like to see people expressing their political views on issues that they are passionate about, and I enjoy demonstrations that foster discussion. But I was appalled when I read in the Oct. 19 Herald article that this initiative was organized by the Third World Center, an organization that is supposed to be a safe space for collaboration and discussion. The TWC’s sponsorship of such a highly politicized and polarizing event runs contrary to its very mission.

The first principle of the TWC’s mission statement is “to provide an environment in which Arab, Asian, Black, Latino, Multiracial and Native American students can feel comfortable celebrating their cultural heritages.” What if a student falling into one of these groups was offended that there was a Students for Justice in Palestine table at this Immigration Week demonstration? Would they feel “comfortable” discussing this at the TWC? Probably not. It logically follows that there are students involved with the TWC who are passionate and engaged with immigration issues, but to have the entire TWC sponsor an event like this isolates those who seek a community in the TWC but disagree with its apparently institutionalized political stances. In fact, I know a Latin-American student very in touch with issues surrounding both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the Mexican-American border, and she feels frustrated and even offended when the two situations are conflated.

I am not writing this piece to question the importance of the TWC on campus. Its cultural programming, advising and social resources play a large role in making Brown the dynamic community that it is. But to me it seems inappropriate that an establishment dedicated to incorporation could sponsor something so divisive.

The demonstration on the Main Green has facilitated some interesting conversations, but the implications of the display, both through the coordination with Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as the sponsorship by the TWC, will marginalize students. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants – my grandparents all emigrated from Eastern Europe. But civilization, nations and the international order are built on countries having strong and secure borders. While this is not a rejection of the call for immigration reform, we as Brown students cannot be so naive as to think that nations can survive with open borders.



Zach Ingber ’15 believes strongly in borders and international law. He can be reached at

  • Anonymous

    I see your logic and raise you: some people are offended by words. We shouldn’t ever have words be printed, especially when it is being endorsed by Brown through the Daily Herald. They shouldn’t have a stance on this worded issue.

    Also, if Israel/Palestine isn’t an immigration issue, then what is it?

  • Anonymous

    The BDH is independent of Brown

  • Anonymous

    Right, because the main objection to the West Bank fence is that people don’t believe in borders. We don’t really care about human rights–we just don’t understand that borders exist. Dopey us.

  • Anonymous

    To anonymous from 16:40… isn’t this guy mainly arguing that the conflation of the Israel-Palestine conflict with the US-Mexico border really flawed?

    You and this Ingber guy seem to agree–this isn’t a border issue.

  • Concerned Brown Student

    Please refrain from using the term “illegal immigrant.” It’s super offensive and reveals poor research and writing.

  • Anonymous

    To anonymous from 17:03, from anonymous from 16:40–the point is that “countries have borders” in an absurd way to respond to documented human rights abuses against Palestinians and Mexicans.

    I do not and have never agreed with Zach Ingber.

  • Anonymous

    Almost as foolish and stupid as any post by Cara Dorris

  • Anonymous

    I’m interested that you refer to “the legitimate arguments of each organization” while never addressing either, preferring to speak in dismissive, hateful rhetoric. Let me fill in the gaps you intentionally leave blank: residents of Gaza and the West Bank are denied access to basic resources and subjected to humiliating border checkpoints, and migrant workers struggle to survive in unfairly regulated markers both in the US and in their countries of origin, because of the arbitrary boundaries between countries that you claim “exist,” determined by the dominant power in each region and reified by these barriers. Barriers/boundaries/borders are abstract and arbitrarily pre-determine people’s entire lives, unless those subjected to them fight back and deny them as absolute markers of humanity.

  • Anonymous

    18:05 so ridiculous. dorris is the only reason i read opinions. get a life.

  • d.j.

    haha what this isn’t even her article and 18:05 is bringing Dorris into this?

  • Anonymous

    I have never read a more disgusting, ill-conceived, poorly-researched, and derogatory article in the BDH before. I am not sure which parallel universe the writer of this piece lives in, but it is definitely not one I hope to encounter.

  • Anonymous

    this is one of the most insulting, poorly researched pieces I’ve read. Can’t believe BDH printed this. For someone who ‘believes in international law’, international law 101 : the wall in israel/palestine is illegal by those standards. You should educate yourself before writing such an ignorant piece.

  • Reality Check

    Concerned Brown Student (17:12): illegal immigrants are people entering this country (immigrants) in violation of our laws (illegal). What term would you have us use?

    Btw, ever seen the illegal immigration laws in Mexico?

  • Anonymous

    so at brown, many students believe that border checkpoints are the penultimate injustice and most pressing issue in today’s world. have always been fascinated how the palestinian cause trumps any other. why is this? please explain… someone apparently needs to get out of providence a little…

  • Anonymous

    The truly unsavory alliance here is the one bringing Zach Ingber, a keyboard and the Brown Daily Herald together in badly written, painfully misinformed, willfully ignorant display of hate and bigotry.

  • Anonymous

    This piece quite obviously aims to present Israel as a country that has fair but “secure borders.” Poorly researched with a ridiculous amount of pro-Israel bias, the author is simply angry the demonstration tackled the issue and presented, even if indirectly, Israel as evidence of immigration injustice.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great article. I think it really encapsulates the feelings of many brown students that social and political groups should be kept separate. I don’t see how this could be offensive as so many of my predecessors believe. Israel has a right to exist clearly, and the issue is much larger than a border issue, also any argument for humanitarian violations in Gaza should be checked with the humanitarian violations in the other direction towards Israel as well as the facts behind humanitarian aid to Gaza and the way Israel employs its military advancements. Borders are necessary to maintain what groups of people subscribe to what beliefs, and countries make decisions based on what their members believe. We need to believe in the American and Israeli political processes.

  • Anonymous

    To believe in Israel and yet ‘strong borders’ is an exercise in hypocrisy. Israel, the nation state, has caused too many harms in this world.

  • Anonymous

    “The truly unsavory alliance here is the one bringing Zach Ingber, a keyboard and the Brown Daily Herald together in badly written, painfully misinformed, willfully ignorant display of hate and bigotry.”