As Israel’s human rights violations continue to be exposed, university divestment movements across the nation are gaining momentum. Considerable efforts have been made to contain the growing outrage that has surrounded Israel’s blatant disregard of international law and human rights. On Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America gave a member of the Israel Defense Forces, Izzy Ezagui, a platform to rationalize war crimes and humanize the individuals who commit them.
As students attending a university that continuously dehumanizes and silences students of color and other marginalized identities on every campus setting, we would not allow a war criminal to further perpetuate this dehumanization and silencing.
At 6 p.m., SAFE members seated themselves in the League’s Kalamazoo room where the Israeli soldier would soon speak. It was clear our presence was unwelcome, as they introduced the event with a warning about disrupting the speaker and inappropriate behavior, suggesting that pro-Palestinian students would be rowdy, aggressive or a threat. Our mere presence at this event was enough to provoke the attendance of campus police. This ousting attitude continued as a non-white Muslim student was denied entry, while four white male students were permitted shortly after her attempt. Unfortunately, this anti-Arab and Islamaphobic sentiment is by no means atypical whenever Arab, Muslim or pro-Palestine students are concerned.
Izzy began his lecture by promoting Birthright, claiming, “for those of you who haven’t (been), you have to go.” He continued to say they should “all try it someday.” That statement was purposely meant to erase the existence of non-Jewish bodies in the room, specifically Palestinians who do not get the privilege of a free trip to their own homeland. As he continued to spew disinformation, SAFE members and allies stood up and revealed the names and ages of murdered Palestinians. On everyone’s back was a paper with the word “SILENCED,” marking the physical silencing of innocent Palestinian voices. After allowing time for Izzy and the remaining audience to read and absorb the names, SAFE members silently left the room.
This past summer, Israel launched a military operation titled Operation Protective Edge — a monstrous euphemism for massacre. In the short timeframe of 51 days, Israel managed to murder 2,104 Palestinians, of which 1,462 were civilians. Of the Palestinians murdered, an astonishing 501 children were killed. This operation left over 100,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes, with power cuts from electricity lasting a minimum of 18 hours a day. This all took place on top of the continued blockade and siege on Gaza that has been taking place since 2007. This siege continues to block basic supplies like pasta, paper and shoes from entering Gaza, and has brought the local economy to a near standstill. The siege is condemned by both the United Nations and leading international human rights organizations as illegal because it engages in collective punishment and uses starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.
The primary motive of this event was to conceal war crimes by humanizing the soldiers that committed them as well as garner support for the state of Israel and its so-called “defenders.” As students who are well aware of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, we could not let them ignore the innocent lives that were taken at the hands of these brutal soldiers. Zakariya Ahed Subhi Baker. Ahed Atef Ahed Baker. Ismail Mohammad Subhi Baker. Mohammad Ramez Ezzat Baker. The names of only a few of the children murdered by the IDF. We will not sit back idly as this University continues to give war criminals, in accordance with international law, platforms to speak on.
During our walk out on Thursday, the silence spoke clearly: the justification of atrocities will not be welcomed at our university. Similarly, the international community’s continued outrage with Israel’s government signifies the approach of a day when the audience willing to listen to its self-exonerations will also disappear.
This viewpoint was written by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.