For the past 20 years, there has been a consensus on a starting point to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Two states for two peoples” is something that experts including government officials, academics and journalists have espoused. The Jewish people deserve a sovereign nation as do the Palestinians. Yet there is a growing movement among Israel’s detractors and campus pro-Palestinian movements for a “one-state solution” in the region.
The proposed state would be a singular nation with rights for all citizens. There would be no religious identity and no distinguishing characteristics of the country. While this proposal sounds fair and just in theory, this would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state - and it seems that most pro-Palestinian movements are okay with this. But this new bi-national state would look no different than Belgium or Switzerland. Israel was created in the wake of the greatest tragedy in human history because there were only Belgiums and Switzerlands. The Jewish aspect of Israel is the fundamental component of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
Unfortunately, the recognition of the other side’s sovereignty is unbalanced. I currently serve as Vice President of Brown Students for Israel – which is often accused of being Brown’s most right-wing pro-Israel group - and I can confidently say BSI endorses and supports a two-state solution. BSI sponsored a lecture earlier in the year by Barney Frank, a very liberal former member of congress, who preached a two-state solution as the only logical way to move forward. In fact, if BSI were to bring a speaker who advocated for a greater Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, it would be dismissed as right-wing nonsense.
Yet, as part of “Israel Apartheid Week,” Brown Students for Justice in Palestine brought Ali Abunimah, a scholar who supports the creation of just one state in the region. The publications on his website, “Electronic Intifada” - which conjures nasty memories of busses exploding and suicide bombers in Israel – advocate a state without a religious identity. That means no Israel as a Jewish state. Fundamentally, as evidenced by Abunimah, SJP does not respect Jewish sovereignty. I do not quite understand why there is no reciprocity between Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine. BSI has been vocal about Palestinian sovereignty, but we get no love in return.
“Israel Apartheid Week” is not about the security barrier, nor is it about Israeli settlements. SJP’s protests are not about human rights violations, nor are they about Israeli land grabbing. These small policy issues are a diversion from their fundamental objection to a Jewish state. Abunimah’s tweet, “Isn’t it time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?” further illuminates his opposition to Israel and is perhaps a temptation to violence.
I fundamentally respect the rights of others to have an opinion, and I am glad SJP has the right to organize. But please don’t mask your denial of the right to a Jewish state under the guise of “end the occupation.” That is simply deceptive.
If you want to complain about ethno-religious privilege – what SJP is calling “Apartheid” – I suggest you focus on Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims cannot enter Mecca, or Egypt, where Coptic Christians have been persecuted for decades. The only time Jerusalem’s holy sites have been open to all religions has been under Jewish rule. Until 1967, Jews did not have access to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, which was under Jordanian control.
The other day on the Main Green I had a student in SJP tell me she feels that what has been done to the Palestinians greatly exceeds the pain caused to Israeli citizens. I wish she would tell that to the remainder of the Fogel family, whose close relatives were murdered around one year ago by two Palestinian militants in the Israeli town in Itamar. Yes, they lived in a settlement, but that is hardly justification for such brutal action.
When people ask me why there is a security barrier, or “Apartheid Wall,” as SJP likes to call it, separating the West Bank from Israel proper, I struggle to find the words to explain the answer effectively. Surprisingly, I found my answer on Wikipedia. Looking for the story surrounding the death of the Fogels, I searched “Itamar attack,” and it brought me to a page. I was struck by the words “not to be confused with ‘Itamar attack (2002).’” In 2002, Palestinian militants murdered a mother and her three sons in Itamar. The fact that there exists two Wikipedia pages entitled “Itamar attack” is why a security barrier stands today. Protecting your citizens is hardly apartheid. Let us continue to have an open dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I urge both sides to respect the sovereignty of the other. It is only then that discourse will move forward in the most productive way possible.
Zach Ingber ’15 would like to dedicate this article to the Fogel family as we mourn for them one year later.
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