This week, Students for Justice in Palestine is holding its annual “Palestine Awareness Week,” a rebranding of their Israel Apartheid Week. Typically, this week serves as little more than an opportunity to spread false or misleading information about the state of Israel, the nature of its founding, and the goals/impact of its policy. Ultimately, SJP’s downfall rests in its inability to appreciate nuance. As is typical of organizations with extreme viewpoints, SJP boxes itself into an unrealistic narrative: Israel is an evil colonialist state- one that lacks respect for democracy or the rule of law- and therefore everything Israel does is a reflection of its nefariousness.
Unfortunately, such views, when expressed prominently and loudly enough, can damage the casual observer’s perspective tremendously, and often erodes the relationship between truth and narrative. On that note, as a Vice President of Bruins for Israel, I consider it imperative to dispel the fiction that a majority of our student-body will be exposed to this week. As a fundamental believer in freedom of expression, and an unwavering respecter of human autonomy, I have no interest in censoring or silencing SJP in any capacity. With that, given the organization’s right to publicly declare falsity as fact, I reserve the right to provide the pro-Israel perspective on these issues. In the following piece, I will present- verbatim- the arguments that SJP sets forth on their “Apartheid Wall,” and either refute the point or provide the context necessary to gain a holistic understanding of the relevant matter. Keep in mind this does not nearly cover the extent of the false or misleading statements on the wall, only those I considered particularly egregious.
SJP: “1948: Israel’s Birth, Palestine’s Catastrophe. Over 700,000 Palestinians driven out, massacres at about 24 villages.”
Reply: This statement fails to mention that Israel accepted the original UN partition plan that would have avoided a refugee crisis. Moreover, following Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, Israel was immediately invaded by the entire Arab-league. Also, it is inaccurate to state that 700,000 Palestinians were driven out. In reality, a majority of those who fled were not forced out, but rather feared living in a war-zone. Those who chose to stay were offered full Israeli citizenship and the equal rights with which citizenship is associated.
SJP: “1967, The Occupation Begins: Israel preemptively strikes Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, seizing Palestinian land. Over 300,000 Palestinians forced to flee.
Reply: The notion that Israel started the war is dishonest. Here is what happened: In April 1967, an air-battle was fought between Israel and Syria. The Soviet Union then provided inaccurate information to Egyptian President Gamal Nassar that Israel was preparing to invade Syria. Nassar then orders troops to expel a UN peacekeeping unit on the Israel-Egypt border, closed the Straits of Tiran, and mobilized other Arab league nations Syria and Jordan. Given that this was a clear declaration/act of war, Israel was prompted to strike on June 5th. Moreover, Israel offered to return Gaza to Egypt following the war, an offer that Egypt refused.
SJP: “2000, The Second Intifada: Israeli political candidate Ariel Sharon enters Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and claims that the site is, and will remain, in Jewish hands. This prompts another uprising and a growth of support for Hamas among Palestinians.”
Reply: The offensiveness of this statement is nothing short of astonishing. Firstly, note that Sharon never actually entered the mosque; he simply visited the Temple Mount, the holiest site in all of Judaism. The al-Aqsa mosque was built directly over the site of the first and second temples in 1035. Moreover, Muslims are invited to worship at the mosque freely, natural given Israelis fundamental right to religious expression. Regardless, the fact that SJP is using an inflammatory political statement to justify the murder of 1,137 innocent people, a majority of whom were civilizations, is repulsive. It truly demonstrates the little regard in which they hold human life, and is the clearest example of how a fundamentalist political perspective can corrupt decency and rationality.
Ultimately, Israel and Bruins for Israel maintain a similar ambition: achieve peace in the region, and live in a world in which Israel’s intense security measures are no longer necessary. Unfortunately, little progress has been made recently, but Israel has been unwavering in its willingness to make concessions in the name of peace. Examples include exchanging the Sinai Peninsula with Egypt in 1978 in exchange for peace, giving up control of 40% of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority in 1993, on multiple occasions offering that same Palestinian Authority 99% of the West Bank, and unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza in 2005.
Bruins for Israel hopes to serve as a model of the decency of Israel and her people. This week, we will be holding our annual “Choose Love Week.” We will be available on Bruin Walk to discuss what Zionism means to us, and why loving your neighbor is the only sensible path to peace.
I did not have the space to provide the entirety of context to Israel’s founding, or the Jewish connection to the land. With that, I would be more than happy to address any questions that any reader has. My phone number is (561) 843-4072. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Vice President, Bruins for Israel