Souza ’14 and Zacks ’15: Oppression is the IDF’s ‘proud truth’

By and
Guest Columnists
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Wednesday, the Brown/RISD Hillel is scheduled to host an invite-only talk entitled “The IDF Firsthand: A Dinner and Lecture,” featuring Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, a veteran and reservist of the Israeli Defense Forces. Anthony is the founder of the organization Our Soldiers Speak, which facilitates presentations by members of the IDF at U.S. and U.K. venues and seeks to spread the “proud truth” of what the United Nations has deemed an illegal military occupation.

In an email sent out to invitees last month, Hillel described Anthony’s speech as “a rare opportunity to hear firsthand from a participant in one of the world’s most complex geopolitical conflicts.” But what does it mean to have “participated” in the IDF? And what truths are silenced when we bring members of an illegal occupying force to campus?

Participation in IDF activities means the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes, the bombing of schools and mosques and the continued siege on Gaza. It means participation in the micromanagement of Palestinian access to food, housing, education and social services, which is in direct contravention of human rights and international law. It means being provided with firsthand “experience” in the extrajudicial execution of civilians, the use of live ammunition on peaceful protesters, and the systematic detention and torture of an occupied population. In other words, participation in the IDF means participation in the daily execution of an illegal occupation and the systematic denial of Palestinian dignity.

The Israeli military has long held intimate connections with repressive regimes worldwide. Beginning in 1972, Israel became involved in training the Salvadoran military, police and death squads that were responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 civilians. Furthermore, IDF technology — developed for and tested on a captive Palestinian population — can be found in the hands of Brazilian police tasked with the proto-occupation of favelas in Rio de Janeiro. IDF profiling tactics are mirrored in the New York Police Department Demographics Unit and its continued surveillance and harassment of Muslims in New York, while Israeli weaponry and pacification tactics continue to be employed by the Indian military in the suppression of Kashmir protests. Former Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer is explicit: “People like to buy things that have been tested,” he said in the documentary “The Lab.” “If Israel sells weapons, they have been tested, tried out. We can say we’ve used this 10 years, 15 years.”

IDF activities have received broad and sustained censure from the international community. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, calls for the withdrawal of the IDF from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, meanwhile, has been repeatedly rejected by the UNSC, including in Resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476 and 478. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled illegal Israel’s construction of the Separation Wall in the West Bank, while U.N. General Assembly resolutions dating back to 1948 support the right of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes and to receive compensation for any damage to property.

In defiance of a half-century of international outcry, the Israeli military continues to destroy Palestinian villages, repress freedom of movement with an expanding Separation Wall and an extensive, arbitrary permit system, and inflict daily violence on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and within Israel’s ever-changing borders. At the same time, Israel’s international military contracts and training agreements only expand, and the trade in technologies and tactics of repression has direct and dire consequences for occupied peoples across the globe.

Elevating Anthony’s voice serves only to perpetuate a violent narrative and legitimize the continued repression of human dignity in Palestine and in our own community. To invite an apologist for war crimes to this campus, especially in the context of a closed forum with “student leaders,” is profoundly disrespectful to the members of our community who have direct experience with IDF violence and repression — whether it be in occupied Palestine, Rio de Janeiro or New York City.

If this is to be a safe campus for all its students, faculty, staff and extended community, we cannot hand the occupier a microphone. If we seek what Anthony terms the “truths” of the IDF, we need only to engage with those around us. Until we recognize and take seriously the struggles of all members of our community, this will be neither a safe nor a “happy” campus.

As a diverse community, we stand with Palestinians and all those affected by Israel’s international military apparatus. In solidarity with those being racially profiled by Israeli-trained police forces from New York City to Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro and beyond, we condemn the violence the IDF perpetrates internationally. We would hope Brown/RISD Hillel could do the same.



Josette Souza ’14 is amazed to find herself having to write two op-eds against two different human rights violators being brought to Brown in one academic year. She can be reached at 

Mika Zacks ’15 hopes the organizers recognize the errors of their ways and cancel the event. She was born and raised in ’48 Israel and can be reached at


  1. Alum from 90s says:

    Here are some untruths in the above poorly researched opinion piece:

    Resolution 242 does not mention “Occupied Palestinian Territories” anywhere nor does it state Israel has to return all land captured. Firstly, there was no Palestine as the territories were captured from Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Israel returned the Egyptian lands, while Jordan gave up its claim on what is now the West Bank. If Israel did hand over lands, it would not be a “return” at all. Secondly, the persons that actually wrote the resolution did not intend or agree with Israel returning all lands captured, hence the specific language in that resolution.

    The so-called separation wall is mostly fence, is not completely in the West Bank (parts actually run through pre 67 Israel) and the ICJ ruling does not constitute international law or form a specific basis for it, per its own scope and remit: it is advisory only.

    The occupation itself is not illegal nor considered illegal in any venues of international law. This is because of points in the first paragraph above. It is the settlements that are considered illegal. There is a major difference between the two, and the IDF therefore is not in principle violating any international law merely by its presence, though some of its tactics likely are illegal much like most military entities.

    By all means criticize the IDF and its representative. But at Brown, and hopefully in the broader world facts should be sacred even if they do not fit one’s narrative, which is all the above opinion piece is.

    • fact check says:

      Here are some relevant documents on the illegality of the occupation:
      UN Charter (1945), article 2, para. 4:

      Paragraph 4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

      Art. 54 of the Geneva Conventions states, in part:

      “The Occupying Power may not alter the status of public officials or judges in the occupied territories, or in any way apply sanctions to or take any measures of coercion or discrimination against them, should they abstain from fulfilling their functions for reasons of conscience.”

      Declaration On Principles Of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations And Co-Operation Among States In Accordance With The Charter Of The United Nations (1970):

      PRINCIPLE I: The principle that States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations…

      Every State likewise has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate international lines of demarcation, such as armistice lines, established by or pursuant to an international agreement to which it is a party or which it is otherwise bound to respect. Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed as prejudicing the positions of the parties concerned with regard to the status and effects of such lines under their special regimes or as affecting their temporary character…

      The territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of the provisions of the Charter. The territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force. No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal…

      Art. 55 of the 1907 Hague Regulations IV states, in part:

      “The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.”

      • Good job genius. Your UN charter para 4 actually defends Alum’s point as there was and is no “state” associated with the land in question… Palestine is not a state and Jordan gave up what was a non-recognized (except by the UK) occupation of its own.

        Your Article 54 falls under the same issue as there were no recognized administrators or judges etc for the West Bank as there was no state recognized whom Israel captured the land from nor to “return” it to. The same is true for Principle I: there is no state to apply this principle to.

        Article 55 is well quoted, but that indirectly at best refers to illegality of settlements, not the occupation, which also was part of Alum’s original comment.

        Good try, but your proved the other poster’s case.

        • “Guest Genius” – The “no state” were Egypt and Jordan were the deemed protectorates of that land. The United Nations recognized that arrangement.

          So for you to invent law here is specious.

          • Another guest says:

            Fail on your part. Egypt was but Jordan was not deemed to be a protectorate over the land it occupied. Actually, the land in the West Bank was considered abandoned as such after the UK withdrew its protectorate status from the mandate. Jordan was recognized as an occupying power actually, and the situation was one occupying power replacing another.

            Guest above is correct. It is you who does not understand the difference between occupation and protectorate.

          • “The International Court of Justice ruling of 9 July 2004 however found that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is territory held by Israel under military occupation, regardless of its status prior to it coming under Israeli occupation and the Fourth Geneva convention applies de jure.[32] The international community regards the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as territories occupied by Israel.[33]”


            Hold the Hasbara bro

          • Another guest says:

            Mxm… Your point states nothing. No one argues that Israel is or is not an occupying power per se. But occupations are not automatically illegal in case you do not know your law, which clearly you do not. And the ICJ as has been pointed out does NOT constitute international law – that would be the UN Security Council. The ICJ is advisory on these matters. So in fact your post has two fails insofar as attempting to prove whatever point you are trying to make.

            And so clever of you to use the term “hasbara”. Change it to “facts”… And do not assume I am a “bro”.

            The Palestinian Arab side of this issue has so many right points, it is amazing that you fail every time to get them correct. You really are a disservice to what is a decent cause.

    • Huh ? It states in in the preamble. And our Alum is busy making stuff up.

      (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

      • Note: not ALL territories… The authors of the resolution purposely did not intend Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank. Don’t believe me? Read any interview with them.

        Sorry, alum above is absolutely right. You, however, do not know how to read and interpret what was written back in 1967. Hope you are not a Brown alum… Does not make the school look too good.

        • Note: “from territories” does not state some territories, or territories that we feel, or whatever. And certainly not territories miles deep from ones border.

          The rest is the your usual regurgitation of the usual Hasbara. Same old same old. The endless excuse machine for apartheid.

          • Actually mxm it does mean territories miles deep… Like it says above, read what the authors of the resolution intended. And in case you forgot, there was no “border” between 1948 and 1967, only an armistice line which was never recognized – not even by the UN – as a border.

            Plus, if you read the resolution, it indicates that land should be returned when conditions permit… I.e. When security can be guaranteed. When has that been possible?

            Nice apartheid reference there too. When the facts are not on your side, please go ahead and use that term or claim Israelis are like neo nazis. You just assist the Israeli side that much more.

  2. ever true says:

    oh man, you guys are brilliant. Probably the best April Fool’s piece the BDH has ever done.

  3. My question to each person who was screaming their head off about ACADEMIC FREEDOM when Ray Kelly’s lecture was canceled: WHERE ARE YOU NOW with this INVITE-ONLY event?!

  4. what I don’t understand is how they have allowed him to contaminate over 300 campuses with his propaganda.

    • And you do understand how they got into Brown in the first place? This kind of level does not qualify for junior high, let alone higher ed school

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