BIRC and BSJP: The real unsavory alliance

By and
Guest Columnists
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Last month, Zach Ingber ’15 criticized the collaboration between two student groups on campus over an Immigration Week “fence” installation (“An unsavory alliance,” Oct. 31). Ingber argued that the alliance between Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and Brown Students for Justice in Palestine was detrimental to the legitimacy of both groups, asserting that the only thing that the wall between the United States-Mexico border and the West Bank separation barrier have in common is their extreme effectiveness.
Ingber, a self-proclaimed believer in borders and international law, conveniently ignored the fact that Israel is the only country that has never declared its borders and that the separation barrier – which expropriates Palestinian land, steals water resources and separates families – is considered illegal under international law. Similarly, he propagates a historically incorrect view of borders as part of civilization. Finally, it is clear that Ingber did not so much as make eye contact with any BIRC or BSJP members, as his portrayal of the collaboration is deeply prejudiced and almost willfully misinformed.
But the intention of this article is not to refute Ingber’s many erroneous points – most of those rebuttals are self-evident. Rather, we would like to challenge and expose the worldview that serves as a basis for his argument and for many oppressive policies that have affected immigrants and indigenous peoples worldwide.
Indeed, borders are extremely effective – effective in dehumanizing people, rhetorically, imaginatively and physically. They are effective at massacring populations and justifying these massacres, effective at enforcing terror in the name of national security and effective at keeping out of the nation-state the very people whose exploited labor sustains it. Borders are an instrument of control used by societies that value some human lives more than others. In these societies, existence itself can be considered a crime, if one possesses the wrong skin color or religious affiliation.
It is the shared belief of BIRC and BSJP in a different society – a society in which no life is more important than another – that unites us. To be sure, the ideals we share are unsavory for those who wish to keep the world as it is. Ingber is right in fearing our alliance, for it represents a fundamental challenge to the carefully segregated universe he inhabits. Threatened by the possibilities of a different vision of society, he seeks to dismiss us as naive.
But we are far from naive. At the heart of our alliance lies the understanding that we are tied together not merely by abstract ideology, but by very material connections. In the 1970s and ’80s, a network of oppression developed between Israel, the United States and Latin American dictatorships. The network consisted of arms trade, exchange of military technologies and teams of Israeli advisers sent to assist Latin American dictators. General Efrain Rios Montt, a notorious Guatemalan despot, stated in an ABC news interview that the coup through which he came to power would not have been possible without the aid of Israeli advisers.
Under the human rights policy of President Jimmy Carter, a deep military relationship emerged with Israel stepping in as an alternative supplier of arms to Latin American dictators. The United States provided old weapons and capital Israel needed in order to develop its own arms industry, and Israel in turn served as a liaison. This gave the United States plausible deniability regarding its ties to the dictatorships. Israel supplied Guatemala with urban counterinsurgency technology that allowed the government to wipe out activists and organizers. They also helped design “model villages” to which populations were forced to migrate, often through massacres and genocide.
The United States and Israel supported civil wars in Central America that resulted in massive displacements, forcing millions of people to seek refuge in the United States itself. As they migrate north, they are met once more with Israeli technology: the wall between the United States and Mexico, built by the Israeli company Elbit. Interestingly, Elbit is the same company that constructed the West Bank separation barrier. Inside the United States, the immigrants encounter Israeli oppression a third time, in the form of Israeli weapons used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation forces.
Thus the real unsavory alliance is the military relationship between Israel, the United States and Latin American dictatorships. This alliance has destroyed countless lives, enabled war and genocide and displaced millions. It unleashes unimaginable terror on entire populations, controlling movement, bodies and ultimately life itself for immigrants and indigenous peoples. Yet unlike two student groups tabling on the Main Green, this alliance is largely invisible.
Therefore, we’d like to say thank you to Ingber. Thank you for reminding us why it is that we work together and for demonstrating the power that this alliance gives us. Thank you for bringing us closer together and allowing us the opportunity to re-articulate the beliefs that joined us in the first place. We hope to provide you with many, many more unsavory collaborations in the months and years to come.

Brown Students for Justice in Palestine and Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition believe strongly that no human life is more valuable than another. They can be reached at and


  1. BAM!! what a great article…

  2. Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere
    without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any Muslims for that
    matter, but if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims will never stop
    protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be
    given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to
    establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated.

    For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years
    after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of
    Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of
    North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

    Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for
    instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there.
    According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to the

    Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or
    have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam.
    That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical. And what about Southern
    Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000
    Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the
    Buddhists are on belongs to Islam. And Southern Russia? Muslims are
    relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it,
    Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern
    section of that country to Muslims.

    Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions have been killed in
    Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal
    the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan
    all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can
    go somewhere else to live, I guess.

    And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years –
    something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir
    belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it?

    And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam. Did you know that?
    It’s true. Even though it’s no bigger than a small pimple on the caliphate’s
    ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their

    Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course
    it is. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

  3. Amazing.

  4. Anonymous’ Tue Nov 27 2012 10:10:
    What a truly bizarre comment. I know the internet attracts weirdos, but man, this “worldwide caliphate” is over the top.

  5. This article is ridiculous

  6. Thank you, BDH, for this intellegent article! Unlike a certain editorial that somehow made the cut today with its misinformed dershowitz&friedman quotes.

    Vive la revolucion

  7. most of those rebuttals are self-evident=we have no rebuttal.

    I think that the people who wrote and agree with this article, should really think about why we have borders in the first place. and it is not for no reason. It is to group people according to the way they want to live. And honestly, if the anti-Americans who wrote this article don’t want to live in America, that’s their choice. But they’re going to have trouble finding a place without borders to move to.

  8. Brother, i think that by anti-American you meant ANTI COLONIAL. 🙂

  9. This article would have seemed much more legitimate had you mentioned these “Latin American dictators” instead of leaving it in the open. There are many countries in Latin America.

  10. Why can’t Israel practice ethnic cleansing like the Kuwaitis do?


    Slavery is widely misunderstood, and as such has been a tool for hustlers and demagogues. Slavery has been part of the human condition throughout recorded history and everywhere on the globe. Romans enslaved other Europeans; Greeks enslaved other Greeks; Asians enslaved Asians; Africans enslaved Africans; and in the New World, Aztecs enslaved Aztecs and other native groups. Even the word slave is derived from the fact that Slavic people were among the early European slaves.Hubbard – is that there are certain topics or arguments that one should not bring up in the presence of children or those with little understanding. Both might see that explaining a phenomenon is the same as giving it moral sanction or justification. It’s as if one’s explanation that the independent influence of gravity on a falling object is to cause it to accelerate at 32 feet per second per second could be interpreted as giving moral sanction and justification to gravity.
    Though racism has been used to justify slavery, the origins of slavery had little to do with racism. In recent history, the major slave traders and slave owners have been Arabs, who enslaved Europeans, black Africans and Asians. A unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive efforts to eliminate it. It was Britain’s military might and the sight of the Union Jack on the high seas that ultimately put an end to the slave trade.
    Unfortunately, the facts about slavery are not the lessons taught in our schools and colleges. The gross misrepresentation and suggestion in textbooks and lectures is that slavery was a uniquely American practice done by racist white people to black people. Despite abundant historical evidence, youngsters are taught nothing about how the Founding Fathers quarreled, debated and agonized over the slave issue.

  11. Whoops! Wrong link.


    The Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait or 1991 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place at the end of the Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled almost 450,000 Palestinians.[1] The policy which led to this exodus was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The exodus took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. The story received little media attention in the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait.

    The policy which led to this expulsion was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The expulsion took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. On March 14, only 150,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 450,000 – many of them fearful for their fate.[4]

    In total, Kuwait expelled 443,000 Palestinians.[1] Several Palestinians were killed by vigilante groups including some with links to the royal family.[5] With the completion of the exodus only 7,000 Palestinians remained.[1]
    Kuwaitis said that Palestinians leaving the country could move to Jordan, and that most Palestinians held Jordanian passports.[4] No reports of where the Palestinans actually went to after the expulsion have appeared.

  12. You want a “real unsavory alliance?” Try this one:

    “To clarify: Wahhabism is the only officially recognized and allowed religion in Saudi Arabia. Other forms of Islam and other religions are banned and persecuted by the state. Saudi Arabia is the only Islamic state in which there is no church, no synagogue and no other place of worship of any other religion. Shiite Muslims have been systematically discriminated against for decades. Jews are even forbidden to enter the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia practices a form of Sharia law that is one of the most brutal systems in the world. Saudi Arabia has at all times rejected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Women may not drive a car and can be punished by flogging. Corporal punishment, including amputations and executions, are part of everyday life in the country. Just two weeks ago a Sudanese immigrant in Saudi Arabia was publicly beheaded for ‘sorcery.’ Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world in which the death penalty is enforced even on teenagers,” the paper said.

  13. These dictatorships included the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua (up until the fall of Somoza), Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Panama, Argentina, and Guatemala. Israel acted as a strong arm of US power, providing weapons where the US, attempting to project a “positive’ human rights image worldwide, did not provide weapons directly.

    Brilliant article! These connections are critical.

  14. Who are these amazing and brilliant students?! I am so honored to share a campus with them…

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