Israeli-Palestinian conflict: myths and facts

Editor’s Note: The printed version of this op-ed incorrectly listed Hannah Hoang as the author. The piece was in fact written by Chad Kramer. The Daily apologizes for this error.

Our buzzword culture continues to thrive.

Through its advertisement in the Tufts Disorientation Guide, Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) promotes reckless policies and false or exaggerated claims. Let’s have a look:

“Israel’s expansion onto Palestinian land…mirrors the methods through which the land we stand on was ‘settled by the original colonists.'”

        Though I am against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the continued displacement of Palestinians, this statement ignores some key differences between American and Israeli settler colonialism. Most importantly, the Jews, along with the Palestinians, are indigenous to the land. Don’t believe me? Countless genetic studies, along with endless archaeological evidence, prove that Jews (European/Ashkenazi Jews included) trace their ancestry to the land and that the Jews’ closest genetic cousins are indeed the Palestinians.

“Stealing land, displacing [people]…committing genocide continuously and using brutally dehumanizing technologies of population control against indigenous peoples are just a few methods of occupation shared by the U.S. and Palestine.”

        Israel continues to unjustly oppress — sometimes violently — the Palestinians, but it is not Nazi Germany. The United Nations defines genocide as actions perpetrated with the intent to destroy a people, including killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within it or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. By claiming Israel commits genocide, SJP accuses it of deliberately and systematically murdering the Palestinians en masse — with intention to exterminate — what the Nazis did to the Jews, Hutus to the Tutsis and Ottoman Turks to the Armenians. That is genocide. Not the war in Gaza, nor the occupation.

“On campuses all over the world, students have come together in outrage at the…aid the US government supplies to Israel to fuel its war machine, military occupation and apartheid system.”

        This convoluted conflict has been perpetuated by violations on both sides; to place all of the blame on Israel is shortsighted. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as actions or policies “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one group over another.” While Palestinians living in Israel suffer discrimination, they also enjoy citizenship, the right to vote, political representation, state-funded Arabic language schools and media, affirmative action and freedom of movement (without checkpoints) within Israel. Since all parties (with the exception of Hamas, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance is pretty murky as well) support a two-state solution, checkpoints and barriers along the West Bank border are the legitimate precursors to the future international border.

“To resist against the fabulously-funded and well-oiled zionist indoctrination machine that is alive and well on college campuses. Tufts being no exception (pst. Hillel).” 

        SJP fails to understand what exactly Zionism is, which is why it continues to be snubbed by the mainstream. Zionism, like every form of nationalism — French, Vietnamese, German, Palestinian, American, etcetera — comprises a spectrum of beliefs that should not be defined by those on its extremes. At its core, Zionism supports the existence of a national homeland for the long-persecuted Jewish people within a part of the historic Land of Israel (Palestine) — simple self-determination. The actions of the current Israeli government do not define Zionism. The small proportion of Jews living in the West Bank known as “settlers” do not define Zionism. Tufts Hillel, which officially endorses a two-state solution and sponsors the Tufts Students for Two States coalition (which SJP has not joined), clearly shows its opposition to the Israeli Occupation. While I don’t support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), I believe it’s in the Jewish community’s best interests to encourage debate over its legitimacy and efficacy. And maybe Hillel could tone down Israel a bit. But does the principle of freedom of speech warrant Hillel to host (anti-Zionist) promotion of the destruction of the world’s largest Jewish community?

“SJP at Tufts supports the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against the Israeli state until it extends equal rights to Palestinians.  Wherever they reside — be it in the diaspora as refugees, in the occupied territories or in ‘Israel proper’.”

        Extending “equal rights” (which starts with citizenship) to the entire Palestinian diaspora of 12 million would risk making the 6 million Jews in Israel proper a minority. The position SJP takes on the Palestinian “right of return” illustrates its de facto political goal — a one-state solution in which Israel is dismantled and replaced by a Palestinian state. Why should the liberation of one nation come at the expense of another? Wouldn’t that just be repeating 1948? And a binational state would be a chaotic failure. Israel is obligated to help alleviate the burden of the Palestinian refugees, but the future Palestinian state (alongside Israel), that I and a majority of Israelis and Palestinians support, should be where most of them receive citizenship.

“We designate one week…as ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’…to end all facets of our institution’s complicity in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

        Since Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians does not constitute apartheid, SJP’s accusation is distracting. Israel’s human rights violations need to be addressed, but singling it out from among all of the world’s nations, including U.S. allies and friends (Saudi Arabia? Turkey? Pakistan? France? Switzerland?) paints Israel as an illegitimate pariah.

I urge everyone to challenge both the Zionist and the Palestinian narratives you have been exposed to, including SJP’s. And if, like me, you’re sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, know that you don’t have to adopt the unreasonable stances of SJP to be a student for justice in Palestine.