Notice and update: this is a longer version of a letter I wrote to the University Chronicle. You can read the shorter letter that was published in the University Chronicle here. Also see an update I’ve posted below.
Last night, I had the great pleasure of hearing the personal testimonies of SCSU student Amber Michel, SCSU professor Fouzi Slisli, and St. Catherine University professor Nasrin Jewell regarding their trip to Palestine this summer. SCSU professor Tamrat Tademe was also there to introduce the speakers and to give responses to some questions posed.
You’ll remember that it was these two professors, Drs. Tademe and Slisli, who were rudely interrupted last year by professor Joseph Edelheit during their panel discussion on the Gaza offensive. Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies at SCSU, was criticized by myself and other students in the University Chronicle’s opinion page, though some people did also defend him. I also wrote on this blog regarding the blatant bias the University Chronicle displayed in covering these incidents.
Thankfully, last night’s presentation went without incident. The speakers spoke eloquently of the plight of Palestinians and the audience had very engaging and intelligent questions to ask, allowing for a very informative discussion of the Israel-Palestine issue.
I’m very grateful for their very eye-opening reports regarding the massive oppression going on in Palestine. I praise their courage for telling the stories of Palestinians and their plight, for standing up against the predominating view in American society that supports Israeli aggression, and for explaining the perspective that is too often ignored and little understood.
However, I must respectfully disagree with two arguments they made in their presentation. The first is their advocacy for a one-state solution as opposed to the two-state solution. The second is their support for “boycott, divestment, and sanction” against Israel.
I strongly feel the two-state solution is the only way forward on this issue. I can concede that perhaps, in some philosophical utopia, the one-state solution might be a desirable outcome; but it’s completely unrealistic. So I do not pretend that the two-state solution is ideal, but it is realistic and it will improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis quite drastically.
I am not alone in this because this is the international consensus. It is favored by the Arab nations, the Palestinians, the Israeli people, the EU, and so on. The only rejectionists have been the U.S. and Israeli governments. The closet Israel and Palestine have come to a settlement was at the Taba Summit (before Israel pulled out), which led to the Geneva Accord that provides for solutions that, though not ideal, both sides can agree on. Again, that’s the longstanding international consensus.
Second, I disagree with their calls for divestment. We should support an end to arm sales to Israel, but we should not support divestment. One, it’s ineffective; two, it’s the wrong way to think about it; and three, it hurts our cause for promoting peace in the region. Namely, it distracts from the important issues of occupation, war crimes, and continued oppression. Supporters of Israeli expansion know this, and they use divestments to distract us from the primary issues at stake to focus instead on other irrelevancies.
There is no longer any doubt that Israel continues to commit flagrant war crimes, ignore international law, and terrorize the Palestinian population. We must continue to focus and speak out on these issues, stop the boycotts against Israel, and support the international consensus for a two-state solution.
Update: Just so it’s absolutely clear: despite my disagreement over these issues, I am very appreciative of the work these people have done and continue to do to support Palestine and ending oppression. The work they do is important and noble; they do a great service to the SCSU community and help the cause of solidarity with those who suffer injustice. As Amber points out to me, even those who support the freedom of Palestine have differing opinions on how best to accomplish it. I continue to stand by these professors and students who seek to raise awareness on this important issue.