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EDUCATE * EMPOWER * ORGANIZE
Response from Jonathan Pulphus to Crossroads
Colleagues Gabriel Felsher, Joseph Rovinsky, and Tova Cohen
Regarding Palestinian Solidarity
January 11, 2015
Thank you for your email. I receive it as a fair step to address a disconnect between your understanding,
mission and my work. Throughout this response I will be giving all that I can to bridge minds and hearts.
However, my purpose is neither to make anyone feel good or better about my address nor to suggest that I care
about how, positive or negative, it is received. As an advocate my job is to reassign priorities. Therefore, I stand
When met with real danger, controversy, or offense - I have been taught to speak out. My resistance to police
brutality, political corruption, and oppressive-revisionist narratives is a global challenge to systems and
individuals that abuse their power with impunity. Liars, thieves, and killers know no borders. When the
companies that make the tear gas canisters used to disperse women and children on West Florissant also make
the canisters used in the streets of Palestine - there’s danger. When a Palestinian woman becomes a numb
storyteller at a vigil on the corner of Shaw and Klemm where VonDerrit Myers was killed, there’s controversy.
When the United States barrels billions in aid to a terrorist in the Middle East while St. Louis homes in majority
black neighborhoods wither away from divestment and neglect, there’s offense. To stay quiet, choose comfort,
or accept neglect while your loved ones are dying is cowardly. Black Americans under the United States regime
and Palestinians under the Israeli regime suffer. I speak out.
During my address to donors I center the mission of Crossroads. I make the argument that when making an
investment into the school, this is also making an investment into St. Louis. Crossroads’ best alumni go on to
become good, socially responsible, citizens. Hence, my favorite part of the Crossroads mission statement is as
follows: “Crossroads College Prep… strives to develop respectful citizens, who apply scholarship, imagination,
and critical thinking to civic and social responsibility in their communities and beyond.” What makes Crossroads
special is not that it aims to graduate students who one day become career-success citizens but those that
become virtuous ones. It’s not enough to become a doctor to the indigent; that doesn’t necessarily make you a
good doctor. A good one is obligated to take action by any means necessary to ensure a better tomorrow for the
marginalized. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is a powerful professional but still lacked humanity. Indeed, he
is not an alumni but sometimes even our own fail to use their talents, skills, and knowledge to transform the
The mission of Crossroads, my work in St. Louis, and my speech are interconnected. One can not be wellreceived if the other can not. My speech is an extension of my work; and, my work is an extension of the
Crossroadian expression “smart and good.’ Often being good means receiving more grunts than applause.
However, why preach to a choir? Those finding themselves in opposition or on the fence about my work are
who I prioritize to hear my voice. If the Gala supports the student body, shouldn’t the donors hear from alumnus
on how their investments is paying off? While we may not agree on all facets imaginable, there are some key
points that are not up for negotiation. This includes revisiting the stances that the West gives towards Black
Americans and Middle East.
By centering your criticism on how I highlight the Middle East instead of my larger critique of eurocentrism, a
drama re-emerges. My Gala remarks were as follows:
“Before I begin is like to take a moment of silence for those who've lost their lives to violence in Paris
who've received excellent - but also those whose lives were lost that we don't hear about in Beirut,
Kenya, Palestine, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan; Syria, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere.”
Instead of shaming my defending the weak, shame the ginormous companies that rally against suffering when
only part of our human family endures it. Rather than shame my use of a platform to uplift multiple stories
instead of one, shame to Facebook for making fancy red-white-blue filters to support our families in Paris while
leaving no method for recourse as our family in Beirut burns. Instead of asking questions that center the pain of
European innocents alone who are defended by world military superpowers, ask questions like: what about
state-sanctioned violent occupation motivates suicide bombings? When I say the names of the countries that we
normally do not hear, this is a challenge to make us more human. Good students can be held accountable to
their bias. By overlooking these concerns, making comments that are borderline Zionist, you all aren't being bad
students - but can be better.
According to Amnesty International: “Israeli forces committed war crimes and human rights violations during a
50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded
thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital
services. Israel maintained its air,sea and land blockade of Gaza, imposing collective punishment on its
approximately 1.8 million inhabitants and stoking the humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, Israeli forces carried
out unlawful killings of Palestinian protesters, including children,and maintained an array of oppressive
restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement while continuing to promote illegal settlements and allow
Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their property with near total impunity. Israeli forces detained
thousands of Palestinians,some of whom reported being tortured, and held around 500 administrative detainees
without trial. Within Israel, the authorities continued to demolish homes of Palestinian Bedouin in “unrecognized
villages” in the Negev/Naqab region and commit forcible evictions. They also detained and summarily expelled
thousands of foreign migrants,including asylum-seekers, and imprisoned Israeli conscientious objectors” (197
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories).
In conclusion, I am not open to further discussion about my speech. I am willing to connect you all to
Palestinian-Muslims, some of which are black, that are in full resistance to their genocide. I am not Palestinian
or Muslim - nor are any of you - and I am obligated to center their personal perspective. Hopefully in that space
you all can grapple with the question that Crossroad’s mission calls for us all to answer: What does it mean for
you to be a good “respectful citizen?”
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