The past few weeks have taught American voters an important lesson about delving into crass and bigoted political language: A politician who spouts unsavory rhetoric often commits unsavory acts as well. Investigating what lies beneath public figures’ smears and insults is an unpleasant task, but one that leaves us clearheaded and better equipped to participate in the political decision-making process. Yet even as we hold our own leaders up to the light this election season, the mainstream political and media establishments ignore the racist, violent and downright pro-fascist language spouting from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior leaders.

A prime minister who, according to a video of the leader translated by Tablet Magazine, advocates beating Palestinians “repeatedly,” until the pain is “unbearable” cannot be trusted to command a military. A Justice Minister who believes that Israel needs to destroy Palestinian homes because, as quoted from an article the minister posted on Facebook, “otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there” will never be an agent of equality. A country whose minister of culture Miriam Regev proudly proclaims that she is “happy to be a fascist,” according to Haaretz, cannot be called a democracy. 

The violent rhetoric of these leaders underscores the violence that Israel has meted out, again and again, against the people of Palestine. That’s why the Palestine Advocacy Project has launched its new “In Their Own Words” advertising campaign in university newspapers. We wanted to pull the curtain back and expose what sorts of people are driving Israeli policy.

University campuses have long provided a home for social justice struggles. At the University of Michigan, as well as at many other schools, students have taken up the cause of Palestinian rights. Student movements have been key in raising awareness, building political pressure and demanding their schools join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which calls on institutions and individuals to remove their economic support for companies that profit off Israel’s military.

They do this because Israel, “America’s closest ally,” has enjoyed special privileges in the international community due to its relationship with the United States. Yet the United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more times for human rights violations than any other country on Earth. Why? Israel has maintained a 50-year occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, kept the Gaza Strip under a suffocating siege and turned Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent, who make up 20 percent of the population, into second-class citizens with more than 50 discriminatory laws.

Despite all of this, the United States refuses to impose any penalty. Quite the opposite — Israel is by far the largest recipient of American foreign aid, despite already having one of the most powerful armies in the world, far more generous social benefits than the United States offers its own citizens (including single-payer health care) and one of the strongest economies in the Middle East.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel to increase its military aid to $38 billion over 10 years. This is a truly unprecedented figure — the largest military aid package the United States has ever provided any nation. It’s time for American voters to start thinking critically about whether Israel can truly be trusted with that kind of money, and whether this handout is the best use of our tax dollars. We, at Palestine Advocacy Project, believe that ending military aid to Israel is long overdue. In order to achieve this, public institutions must also remove their financial commitment and political support to the Zionist cause.

I hope that seeing our advertisements opens a window for campus communities nationwide to look into the world of Israeli politics and begin to understand the hatred that we encourage there with each installment of military aid. What you see won’t be pretty, but as we’ve learned at home, the cost of not looking is just too high.

Clare Maxwell is president of the Palestine Advocacy Project.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *