To the Daily:

Does Israel have a right to defend itself?

In their viewpoint, Danielle DePriest and Naomi Scheinerman assert Israel’s right to defend itself according to international law (The blame game and Israel, 10/11/09). The mantra of self-defense is useful for Israel and the Zionist movement for two reasons: it is simple to state and hard to deny. Who in their right mind could possibly say that Israel — or any other nation — does not have the right to self-defense?

Israel’s constant refrain of its “right to self-defense” is analogous to our own nation’s use of the phrase “global war on terror.” Under the guise of fighting against terrorism, the Bush administration and the neo-conservative movement led our country in the wrong direction. This phrase justified two major wars, illegal detentions, renditions of U.S. citizens, domestic spying programs, and the biggest power grab by the executive branch in our nation’s history.

Likewise, Israel has consistently used their right of self-defense to justify preemptive military incursions into Gaza, targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, the building of a 24-foot high concrete wall around the West Bank, confiscation of Palestinian lands, the building of “Israeli only” roads that Palestinians are forbidden to use, the establishment of over 600 checkpoints surrounding and within the West Bank, the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves, the use of white phosphorus against civilian populations and the systematic dismantling of the Palestinian economy — not to mention illegal detention and torture.

I would assert that using the justification of “self-defense” to justify this type of oppression and apartheid is just as nonsensical as the United States using the justification of “fighting terrorism” to condone the blatant disregard not only for human rights but for the rights of U.S. citizens that has become all too common since the inception of our global war on terrorism.

I would call on those who defend Israel’s right to self-defense to be more specific as to what that actually means. In this way, the dialogue can progress past blanket statements that everyone can agree on, like “Israel has a right to defend itself,” to more pertinent questions dealing with which actions by Israel are legitimate self-defense and which are not.

Matthew Bussey
Grad student

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