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Striving for a proportionate peace

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012 07:03



I am very pleased to see that the Israeli occupation has finally entered the realm of public discourse on our campus. It seems that Tufts students are rising to the challenge and grappling with some of the very real issues that have been addressed as of late by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in regard to the systematic racism and oppression that exists in Israel. However, I would like to touch on one aspect of the conflict that has not been sufficiently addressed and that is vital to reaching a nuanced understanding of this complex issue.

You may remember hearing about the clashes between Israeli and Palestinian militants in Gaza two weeks ago. Israel carried out an extrajudicial execution — otherwise known as an assassination — of a Palestinian man who was rumored to be part of the Islamic Jihad group. In response, rockets were fired from the Gaza strip into southern Israel, resulting in four days of violence across a border that had previously been relatively peaceful. The Western media have always been very careful in their depiction of any violence between Israel and Palestine, and this case was no different. Journalists are obsessed with striving for objective reporting and in turn feel the need to include both “sides” in every article they write. Palestinians did this, and in response Israel did this, and then Palestine struck back and so on. This is the narrative that we have become accustomed to and that has largely shaped our opinion of the conflict. 

We are led to believe that this is a conflict of two equal sides. However, the media so often overlooks the daily institutionalized racism and segregation that Palestinians face. Similarly, those who have been peacefully protesting the occupation every Friday since 2005 in Palestinian villages such as Bil’in seldom, if ever, find a voice on the international stage. Nor do we see the IDF soldiers — who show up to these protests donning riot gear and armed with tear gas and rubber bullets — who have injured and killed countless of unarmed civilians. While the two parties are equally represented on either side of the hyphen commonly seen in its onomatology, this conflict is in no way a struggle of equals. This is a situation of oppressors and oppressed.

The gross misunderstanding of these power dynamics allows the advocates of the Israeli occupation to brandish slogans like “peace takes two” and to paint Palestinians as rejectionists within the context of the peace process. However, we must be aware that this peace process has not diverged from the framework that has characterized the conflict since its inception. Instead, what the past two decades reveal is a continuation of this dichotomy of inequality and Israel’s refusal to approach Palestinians as equals. These “peace talks” prove to be little more than a disingenuous ideological cover.  This trend of unending negotiations under a biased U.S. custodianship simply facilitates the theft of Palestinian land through the construction and expansion of settlements and the continuation of Israel’s system of apartheid, oppression and occupation of Palestinians. So if we are to understand the peace process itself as an obstacle to peace, what are our options?

One answer to this impasse that has gained incredible popular support over the past decade is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a resistance effort that mimics the one carried out in opposition to apartheid in South Africa. This campaign aims to challenge Zionism as an ideology that has led to a system of ethnic supremacy over the indigenous population of the land. Additionally, it seeks to bring justice and equality to the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel and those living as refugees by: 1) ending its occupation of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the wall; 2) guaranteeing all citizens of Israel — Arab, Jewish or otherwise — equal rights and 3) recognizing the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. BDS seeks to achieve these goals by boycotting goods whose revenues support the occupation (i.e. Tribe and Sabra hummus), divesting from companies complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights (i.e. Caterpillar and Motorola) and calling for sanctions against Israel.

The BDS campaign has been said to call for the destruction of Israel and the abandonment of the efforts to work toward a two-state solution. However, BDS does not subscribe to a specific solution to the conflict; it will not render companies or the state of Israel bankrupt, and this is not the mission of the campaign. Instead, it aims to give the Palestinian struggle a voice in the international arena and put pressure on the Israeli government to respect the basic human rights of Palestinians. Following international pressure on South Africa in the ‘80s, which included boycotts and divestment and sanctions, the country was by no means “destroyed.” Instead, it was civilized.

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