Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shalom & Salaam

I just came back from a lecture and discussion with David Keyes regarding "The Arab Spring: Human Rights and Revolution in the Middle East." The event was part of Israel Peace Week, the second annual Friends of Israel event promoting the peace process in the Middle East. This week followed so-called "Israeli Apartheid Week," a protest by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against the state of Israel.

Jumbos focused on the Israeli/Palestinian peace process

Having listened to, and spoken with, SJP members railing about Jewish supremacy and Israeli rights violations, I was at first appalled. But during the Keyes lecture, one Palestinian Tufts student raised her hand and (unlike her more disruptive peers at the previous day's speaker) agreed with much of what Keyes had said. She then asked where her place was as a Palestinian who does not support Hamas, does not idolize suicide bombers, and does not teach hatred of Jews and Christians. Keyes' answer: "You have a role to play. Support moderation in Gaza...convince people that Hamas is not the answer." And now, for the first time since the anger and frustration began on this campus, I am beginning to see what we all have in common.

Keyes, Executive Director of Advancing Human Rights, spoke about rights issues throughout the Middle East, beginning with Saudi Arabia. He focused on the textbooks in Saudi Arabia which describe Jews as "descendants of monkeys" and Christians and "descendants of pigs," and both as enemies of Islam. He spoke about the women who died in a building fire in the state because they were not legally permitted to flee the building without modest coverings. He spoke about the Saudi Arabian travel policy, which explicitly states for all to see that women may not enter the country without a male chaperon.

The focus moved toward Palestinian leadership, specifically, Hamas. The argument was, essentially, that with the current treatment of women and gays by organizations like Hamas, a Palestinian state established today under their rule would not be free, democratic, or respectful of human rights. Palestinian television depicts suicide bombers as heroes, and Palestinian parliamentary leader Ahmed Bahar has said to "kill the Jews, down to the very last one." Knowing, too, that Hamas has smuggled at minimum 60,000 rockets into Gaza for use against Israel, thousands of which have been fired, what kind of neighbor would be created in a Hamas-controlled state?

Fatah, a major party of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), has called for the destruction of Israel, and the PLO charter calls "the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal" and desire that "the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence." One poll put 76% of Palestinians reporting the that the removal of Israel as a state is essential.

The fear, then, is that the current Palestinian leadership does not seek peace, but destruction. But that is not to say that the Palestinian people are well-represented in these governments. In fact, the self-identifying Palestinians at Tufts would seem to argue that they are not. Perhaps there is a silent majority, and they needs to be encouraged to speak up.

If so, then we need to be careful with something as misleading and confrontational as "Israeli Apartheid Week." During the week, SJP members participated in, among other things, a hunger strike. As one observer noted in the Tufts Daily, this strike honored Khader Adnan, spokesperson for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who has orchestrated an estimated three-dozen suicide bombings and who is quoted asking a crowd, "Who among you will carry the next explosive belt ... Who among you will have his body parts blown all over?" This is hardly a demonstration of peace, but rather dredges up memories of suicide bombings against innocent Israelis of all nationalities and religions.

Calling the Jewish homeland an "apartheid" state is also, perhaps intentionally, deceptive. The issue, the real issue, that we should be discussing is the future of the Palestinian people. What land will they populate? What government with they live under? What will that be like? Earlier, we touched on why it would be very important that organizations like Hamas do not become this new future.

Yet "Apartheid Week" identifies not the real problems of Palestinians living without autonomous government, but rather implies a separation between Jews and non-Jews. With events like "The Brand Israel Campaign and Taglit−Birthright Israel", SJP attempts to show that Birthright, an organization which provides trips to Israel for Jews, is reflective of a Jewish supremacy in the state of Israel.

Israel is 76% Jewish, at least based on 2008 data. The United States is 76% Christian. Not much of a discrepancy, eh? There is no supremacy, no superiority. Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, and everyone else have the same voting rights, driving rights, and every other kind of right. This isn't Saudi Arabia, where women cannot legally drive. This isn't Jordan, where citizens cannot legally be Jewish. This is Israel, what Keyes calls the single freest nation in the Middle East.

Salim Joubran, Arab (Israeli Supreme Court)
In Israel, Arabs and Jews alike perform all kinds of functions. An Arab-Israeli judge sentenced a Jewish-Israeli past-president to 7 years in jail recently. Arab-Israelis serve as ministers, Supreme Court justices, or Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv. This is not mistreatment, this is not racism, and this is not a Jewish domination plot. The last time we heard people talk about the Jews as attempting to control the world, we had the Nazi party. Now we have the Hamas party.

Palestinian students, Israeli students, Arab students, Jewish students, and every student should not resort to screaming matches about "apartheid" any more than they should call one another a "terrorist." No one here loves terror; no one here loves apartheid. To support Israel, a Jewish homeland, and the right of a state to defend itself against rocket fire is not to support of racism, apartheid, or rights violations. It is support of a thriving democracy, doing more for human rights than any of its neighbors. Likewise, to support the struggle of an uprooted group of people, suffering under the terrifying leadership of genocidal governments is not to support terror. It is to support a people in need, a people who, as we have seen, do not simply hate.

So here is where I can see us all agreeing: Moving forward toward peace. Let's figure out how to replace leadership like Hamas with leadership that loves peace; let's say "no" to suicide bombings and human shields; let's show the world that the Palestinian people are not represented by terror media, terror governments, or terror at all.

I want Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace. To get there, we must stop protesting the existence of one another, and start working toward coexistence. Because Israel is not going anywhere...and neither are the Palestinians. Demonizing one another will not create peace. What we should be asking was expressed so eloquently by my fellow Jumbo. When it comes to notions of peace, the question should be: "What is my role to play?"


  1. Speaking as the Palestinian you are quoting, I agreed with the fact that I denounce terrorism.

    I am appalled that this is how you used my quote. Terrorism does not represent me or the people I know, and I agreed to fight injustice everyone. Including my own.

    After the speaker said he just wanted to flirt with "girls on the beach" I said I did not have the right to do so. To which he responded, "We can flirt. How about Boston Beach?" Did you not find that insulting, sexist, and irrelevant to my argument?

    I am not seen as an equal. I agreed with fighting injustice. Including my own. I found this event to be so demoralizing and demeaning to me as a human. Please do not quote me out of context.

  2. Reading over my response, I realize am fuming so much that I can't even write a grammatical sentence. Our common ground is fighting injustice in whatever shape is takes. Hamas was formed in 1987, there have been problems well before their establishment. To view Hamas as the root to all these problems, and to say it is my obligation to stop with without ANY left me feeling completely demoralized and more alone than I have ever felt. The fact that you were present at the other event appalls me as well. Did you not see the way the speaker treated me and other students? I would rather say this to you personally but yes, what is my role to play in fighting oppression, terrorism and fixing civil society all by myself? A fair role indeed.

  3. Anonymous,

    I'm deeply sorry that I offended you. I am afraid I honestly do not understand the point of contention! The quote I wrote down involved you saying you do not stand for terror, and I represented this:

    "She then asked where her place was as a Palestinian who does not support Hamas, does not idolize suicide bombers, and does not teach hatred of Jews and Christians."

    I don't understand why using your quote this way is offensive.

    Regarding how the speaker treated you about flirting, I admit, I was not present for this comment, and cannot form an opinion.

    I cannot count how many times in my post I say that supporting Palestinians is NOT supporting terror, that Hamas does NOT represent the people.

    Please, what did I say about you, that you find offensive? I respect you greatly!


Have something to say? Add to the conversation!