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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Hillel Response to Israel Apartheid Week

The Hillel Club is located on the 3rd floor of the Campus Center
The Hillel Club is located on the 3rd floor of the Campus Center

Early this month Students For Justice in Palestine held a series of events under the heading Israeli Apartheid Week. The Mass Media posed some questions to the UMass Boston Hillel House concerning these events. The following is the official UMB Hillel House response to those questions.

 

What do you think of a 1 state solution? A 2 state solution?

The term “one-state solution” itself began as a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization first spoke in these blunt terms in the 1970s. They soon recognized that the frank language of the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction was not well-received.

The State of Israel was established as a Jewish state out of the nationalist aspiration of the Jewish people and an international recognition of the rights of Jews to a homeland following millennia of persecution.  It is unrealistic and unacceptable to expect Israel to voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and nationalist identity.  Israel is a self-declared Jewish state with founding principles that guarantee the equal treatment and protection of all its citizens – regardless of religion, ethnicity or color.

Bi-nationalism requires Israel to forsake its Jewish nationalism and identity, along with its status as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution.  Furthermore, bi-nationalism is unworkable given current realities and historic animosities.  With the high birth rate among the Palestinians, along with the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants now living around the world, Jews would be a minority within a bi-national state.  This would likely end any semblance of equal representation in the government and voting population.  That in itself is not the main issue, rather it is the fact that this situation would likely lead to persecution. 

Additionally, given the degree of hostility to Jews by many Palestinians, what is euphemistically called “bi-nationalism” would mean risk of persecution and oppression for those Jews allowed to remain on the territory of their former state. 

Finally, as Israeli analyst Yossi Klein-Halevi has argued, “the notion that Palestinians and Jews, who can’t even negotiate a two-state solution, could coexist in one happy state is so ludicrous that only the naive or the malicious would fall for it.”

Within certain intellectual circles the call for a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state has gained traction.  While couching their arguments in terms of egalitarianism and justice, proponents of a bi-national state are predominantly harsh critics of Israel, and use this proposal as a vehicle to further their advocacy against an independent Jewish state.

Any just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be based on two states, living side by side in peace and security. 

 

 

Have you seen the film Roadmap to Apartheid? What are your thoughts on it?

“Roadmap to Apartheid” is an anti-Israel film that compares Israel’s presence in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa.  It is very disturbing that the film analogizes Israel with Nazi Germany.  And while the film does not expressly support violent resistance against Israel, it notes that violence was used to dismantle the apartheid regime in South Africa and seems to partially condone or apologize for Palestinian terrorism in this respect.

 

 

What do you think of the idea of “Israeli apartheid”? Do you think this is an accurate representation of the situation?

The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in any way to the treatment of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid. There is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat the Arab population.

Apartheid was a uniquely repressive system, through which South Africa’s white minority enforced its domination over the black and other non-white racial groups who made up more than 90 percent of the population. Apartheid – which means “separate development” in the Afrikaans language – was put into effect through a host of racist legislation, including laws which banned blacks from “white areas,” prevented blacks and whites from marrying or even having sexual relations with each other, and which regulated the education of black children in accordance with their “subservient” social position. The regime imposed “Bantustans,” impoverished autonomous homelands whose borders were designed to exclude economically viable land, upon 12 million black South Africans.

No such laws exist in Israel, which in its Declaration of Independence pledges to safeguard the equal rights of all citizens. Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the full range of civil and political rights, including the right to organize politically, the right to vote and the right to speak and publish freely. Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish Israelis serve as members of Israel’s security forces, are elected to parliament and appointed to the country’s highest courts. They are afforded equal educational opportunities, and there are ongoing initiatives to further improve the economic standing of all of Israel’s minorities. These facts serve as a counter to the apartheid argument, and demonstrate that Israel is committed to democratic principles and equal rights for all its citizens.

As in every country, much more needs to be done to promote greater educational and employment opportunities for minorities, particularly for Israeli Arabs. The Israeli government has committed to investing in the necessary infrastructure and assistance for these communities. As in the United States, non-governmental organizations publicly advocate for increased investment in Israeli Arab communities.

Moreover, Israel has declared its acceptance, in principle, of a sovereign Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to be established as the result of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  Israel has made numerous peace overtures to the Palestinians, only to be rebuffed time and again by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.  

Divestment and boycott campaigns singularly demonize Israel and designate Israel for pariah status, while ignoring other states, including many in the Middle East, which systematically abuse human rights. If anti-Israel divestment and boycott activists were truly interested in aiding Palestinians and promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, they would advocate constructive initiatives between Israelis, Palestinians and others.  Unfortunately, most of these activists ignore such initiatives, and focus solely on bashing Israel and promoting punitive actions against the state. Indeed, former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone wrote in a New York Times op-ed that accusing Israel of apartheid “is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.” 

 

What are your thoughts on Israel’s foreign policy?

Israel is the Middle East’s only true democracy where fundamental human rights are respected. Minorities are not excluded from political participation. Arabs hold prominent positions in key Israeli government offices, including the Supreme Court, the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry, the police force and regional councils. Israel is also the only country in the Middle East that respects women’s and gay rights. In fact, on Thursday, Tikvah hosted an event about LGBT rights in Israel. Women comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament, and gays have long been able to serve openly in the military. Israel’s economy is buoyant, affording its citizens great opportunity, while a welfare state shelters Israel’s poor.

That is not to say that Israeli society is perfect or that its record regarding the Palestinians is perfect. Yet, in light of the fact that Israel has been consistently under attack since its founding, its record is truly exemplary. No other free or democratic society has held so true to its values despite constantly being under threat. Although the peace process can sometimes seem interminable, the majority of Israelis remain committed to it. They want to see a Palestinian state alongside theirs and to coexist without fear of suicide bombings or rocket attacks. At the very least, Israel should be commended for its many virtues in addition to the harsh criticism.  Unfortunately, most of these condemnations are not only unaccompanied by well-deserved praise, but they are often factually inaccurate as well.

 

 

Do you feel that people see the whole situation of the conflict? If not, what do you think they are not seeing?

 There is a lot of anti-Israel bias and influence on college campuses and often in the media as well.  Narratives often leave out…

  • Israel’s constant offers for a two state solution which were rejected by Palestinian leaders.

  • The millions of Jewish refugees from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East who had nowhere to go, but the State of Israel.

  • Palestinian aggression towards Israelis culminating in the most recent intifada which killed and injured thousands of innocent Jewish, Muslim and Christian including men, women and children.

  • Most recently, the thousands of rockets launched from Hamas controlled Gaza raining down and terrorizing civilians of Southern Israel. 

 

 

 Is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Judaism? Are anti-Zionists anti-Jewish?

There are many different expressions of anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism.  Anti-Zionism can certainly be considered anti-Judaism. Certainly not all opposition of Israel or Zionism is anti-Semitism.  People can and should be critical of the State of Israel, and critical of different aspects of Zionism.  But to reject or defame Zionism outright as an ideology, and to say Zionism is illegitimate, is to deny the Jewish people the right to a nationalist movement – something not denied to any other people, religion, or nationality in the world.  To single out the Jewish nationalist movement is an expression of being anti-Jewish.