By Fadi Kiblawi, Lisa Bakale-Wise, Nagmeh Shariatmadar, Salah Husseini, Brittany Marino, Hugo Shi, Stephanie Chang, Tarek Dika and Rama Salhi
We found last Wednesday’s viewpoint, Support Israel to help ‘U,’ to be a fascinating piece of literature. Not only does it mischaracterize the divestment campaign, but the authors, including members of the American Movement for Israel, misrepresent the conflict as a whole.
Absent from the viewpoint is any mention of the occupation! Are we to assume that this defining characteristic of the conflict simply does not exist? Are we to ignore Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian lands, demolition of houses, uprooting of olive trees, construction of Jewish-only settlements, checkpoints, roadblocks, etc.? Is this the foundation of the “constructive effort” for peace that AMI envisions? This is comparable to encouraging “collaborative dialogue” between whites and South Africans in the 1980s without making reference to apartheid.
Whether they are ready to admit it or not, there is a rich history to this conflict that transcends AMI’s showcase of Israeli contributions in the medical sciences. In 1948, upon the founding of Israel on land that was almost entirely Palestinian-owned and inhabited, nearly one million Palestinians were dispossessed of their homes and forced into exile. Over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed, their inhabitants living as refugees for 56 years now and denied their inalienable right to return. Why? Because they’re Christian and Muslim and, as indigenous Palestinians, not granted the rights assigned universally to all human beings. Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip while illegally transferring more than 400,000 of its citizens onto more land taken from native Palestinians. Let us disclaim here that we are not suggesting a pure Palestinian society; naturally, both sides of the violence have their share of virtue and vice. However, it is essential to view the totality of these in a proper context. This is a backdrop of decades-long dispossession and occupation, with one side being the dispossessors/occupiers and the other the dispossessed/occupied.
Furthermore, we are not suggesting that University students should just absorb what we write without question. On the contrary, we encourage readers to do your own investigation and discover the history of this conflict for yourselves; We’re sure history professors at the University would be more than willing to offer recommendations of useful books and resources.
Certainly, concentrating on “constructive efforts” to “achieve … peace” is a noble objective, but is that possible by ignoring Palestinian suffering under Israeli aggression? Will we get there by outweighing atrocious human rights abuses with a list of medical contributions, or must we acknowledge and address the potent history of atrocities and denial of rights?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who struggled against apartheid for decades, seems to disagree with the authors of Wednesday’s viewpoint. Tutu, one of many South Africans who have compared the Palestinian struggle to that against their apartheid regime, has proclaimed, “If Apartheid ended, so can the (Israeli) occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction.”
Kiblawi, an alum, is the founder and former chair of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and former co-chair of the MSA Minority Affairs Commission. Bakale-Wise is an LSA junior and MSA representative. Shariatmadar is an LSA senior and a minority peer advisor at South Quad Residence Hall. Husseini is an LSA senior and co-founder of the Progressive Arab-Jewish Alliance. Marino is an LSA sophomore. Shi is an Engineering graduate student. Chang is an LSA senior. Dika is an LSA senior, vice chair of SAFE and member of Critical Moment editorial collective. Salhi is an LSA sophomore and external affairs chair of SAFE.