Palestinians facing real issues in Israel
This commentary is a response to “‘Apartheid’ doesn’t categorize Israel,” which ran in The Daily Cougar on Wednesday.
Israeli Apartheid Week, hosted by Students for a Democratic Society at UH, is the most important Palestinian solidarity event of the year. It is an international effort to bring attention to apartheid, occupation and human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine.
The SDS, which I am a part of, is glad its support of IAW has initiated dialogue and discussion on campus, though there has been much controversy concerning the nature and accuracy of our claims.
In Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Cougar, Michael Green authored an article in the Opinion section alleging that IAW amounts to nothing more than hate speech and that SDS is being hypocritical in its support of this activity. These accusations are false.
The first claim Green made was that Israel is not an apartheid state.
According to the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and countless other international bodies, Israel is indeed an apartheid state. It completely fits the definition of apartheid, which is “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
For instance, Palestinians in the occupied territories are controlled by Israel and yet do not have any say in government policies.
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are no more than secondary citizens who are not allowed to access a large section of public resources because of their race and their legal inability to serve in the Israeli military.
The protocol in which the Israeli government and military deal with Palestinian free speech both within Israel and in the occupied territories is in stark contrast to the way they deal with Jewish Israelis who express themselves as they wish.
Non-violent protestors without the protection of international or Israeli activists have repeatedly been injured, arrested and even killed. The events of Land Day and the weekly demonstrations in the West Bank are evidence of this fact.
On Wednesday, SDS hosted some local activists who were involved in the South African struggle against apartheid. They explained in great detail the reason they support the claim that Israel is an apartheid state, along with many South Africans today including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Secondly, Green inaccurately depicted Israeli policy in the West Bank as only in answer to a “security” threat of some sort. For instance, he made the claim that the apartheid wall in the occupied territories was only used to stop suicide bombing and protects Israelis and Arabs alike.
While security is one aspect, the primary purpose of the wall is not security whatsoever.
The supposed security wall, as SDS explained during its street theater event Tuesday, has been deemed illegal by the UN and other international bodies. It cuts off Palestinians from their land, jobs, homes and families.
If it were indeed a security wall as Israeli propaganda claims, then it would be on the 1967 borderline between Israel and Palestine. Instead, it weaves in and out of the West Bank, encircling Palestinian towns and villages, cutting off resources so that the illegal settlements can better use them and basically creating an inhumane, unsustainable situation for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Finally, the accusation that IAW and its hosts support racist and hateful speech is absolutely untrue; IAW is not anti-anyone. SDS supports the event because it feels the current situation in Israel/Palestine is unsustainable for both peoples, and we would like to see equal rights for all citizens, an end to the occupation and a dismantling of the apartheid wall that has adversely affected so many lives.
Many of our members come from diverse backgrounds, among them Israeli. There is nothing racist, hateful, or anti-Semitic about standing in solidarity with the rest of the world to support racial equality and human dignity.
Dana El Kurd is a political science and economics sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]