President Ahmad Daraldik: A Vote of No Confidence
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
According to FSU Global, Florida State University has over 2000 international students from over 130 countries. This includes students of Jewish and Arabic descent along with Israeli Students, and Palestinian students. Since the founding of Israel in 1948 it has been a hot topic of geopolitical debate around the world with tensions between Israel and Palestine having continuously remained high over decades.
Summation of Events
The current SGA Senate President, Ahmad Daraldik, is a Palestinian-American. A few days into his tenure, after the ousting of former Senate President Jack Denton for transphobic remarks, he was accused of being anti-Semitic. This was due to a now deleted Instagram post he made posing with a statue of the South African President, Nelson Mandela. The statue reads “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Daraldik captioned the post with “Iconic.” and hash tagged the post with “#f-cktheoccupation” and “f-ckisrael.” His posts received widespread attention from the student body.
Daraldik made a statement within the “FSU Class of 2022” Facebook group in which he clarified that his anger was with the Israeli government rather than the people. Daraldik expressed legitimate criticism towards the Israeli government based on prejudiced treatment he experienced during visits, and his residency in Palestine. This included having tear gas and rubber bullets shot at him by Israeli soldiers while going to school. Legitimate criticism of the Israeli government does not constitute anti-Semitism according to the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by U.S. Department of State. However, Daraldik also stated, “I do not condone the crimes Hitler committed against the Jewish people... and I will not allow racist Israeli policy to commit those same crimes against my people.” Student speakers brought up the fact that this statement was anti-Semitic under the definition adopted by U.S. Department of State – which was a point of disagreement amongst a few speakers - including Jewish students. More specifically the statement meets this criteria: Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Soon after more information would resurface causing outrage amongst many of the Jewish Florida State University students. A vote of no confidence was called when Facebook posts that Daraldik made when he was in middle school surfaced. In one post he said “Stupid Jew thinks he’s cool” in reaction to an image of an IDF soldier with a gun pointed at a young child, which some have stated is fake. Under the assumption that this image was real, Daraldik expressed outrage at what he believed was a representation of the treatment of his people by the Israeli government. The second involved a maze made of swastikas. More recently, a website surfaced featuring a high school thesis he wrote in which he compared Israel’s governance to Nazi Germany. After seeing what they believed to be a pattern of anti-Semitism, Jewish students at Florida State University rallied together to have Daraldik removed as President. A petition on change.org gathered more than 5000 signatures in a week. One comment on the petition stated, “Ahmad has expressed that he wants to give a voice to everyone and respect everyone of their nationality, sexuality, race, and gender but in reality he is proven hypocritical in his words.”
Those who supported Daraldik believed that his anti-Israel stance came from his lived experiences under the Israeli government, which included human rights violations according to Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch. During the SGA Senate meeting for a vote of no confidence, Daraldik repeatedly stated that while under the occupation of the Israeli government that he watched friends and family members die and constantly feared for his life. Students against the removal of Daraldik also believed that he should not be held accountable for posts he made as a child, especially growing up in the warzone of Palestine. They believed that his actions differed from Jack Denton’s as his comments were not made during his tenure as SGA Senate President. Senator John Alvarez, during a round of debate against Daraldik’s removal, mentioned that Daraldik has had a proven track record of voting for issues of importance to FSUs Jewish community including a resolution denouncing the sale of Nazi paraphernalia by Market Wednesday vendors. The executive branch of the FSU SGA also weighed in; the Levin-Javier-Hall administration denouncing the statements made by Daraldik asking him to consider “...regardless of vote, whether he would be an effective President, and if he would truly be able to move forward having an unbiased, neutral opinion on all matters regarding the Student Senate.”
After dozens of testimonies by students, and nearly 300 viewers of the five-hour Zoom Senate meeting, the vote-of-no confidence against Daraldik failed. He kept his position as FSU SGA Senate President. Some students were ecstatic about this decision, while some students were dismayed. No matter one’s opinion on the outcome the latest social grievances on campus have shown that although we are diverse, we are divided, and many people are hurting. Whether Black, Palestinian, Jewish, queer, woman, or other marginalized identities many students feel as though they are not represented on campus. This is unacceptable as the FSU I know, and love should be a safe space for people to express their intersecting identities freely and openly.
I disapprove of the notion that in the past few weeks things have gotten worse in terms of ethnic and racial relations. That would be disingenuous and dismiss centuries of injustice. The pain and emotional wounds caused by racism, ethnocentrism, and discrimination have become more exposed. One of the first steps towards collective healing as a community is treating the symptom – ignorance. I don’t believe that Daraldik came from a place of hate, but rather a place of ignorance – a gap in knowledge between his lived experiences and the experiences of the FSU Jewish community. As the acting SGA Senate President, it is his job to bridge that gap to make all students feel welcomed. I hope that rather than remain defensive of his actions President Daraldik takes this as an opportunity to open a dialogue between the Arabic and Jewish communities in order to foster learning and greater empathy.
Author: Chance Preshia