On Thursday February 11, Angela Davis, considered a preeminent force in the world of political activism, spoke to the Denison student body. I am writing to comment on her lecture because I feel obligated to point out the misleading and false statements she made regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During her talk, Ms. Davis consistently mentioned her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS). She specifically noted how excited she was to “see the cause of justice for Palestine taken up” on college campuses in the US through the expansion of the BDS movement throughout the country.
Our campus has no discussion surrounding this self declared human rights movement, so it is important for the student body at large to understand what exactly BDS stands for. They desire the boycott of, divestment from, and sanction against Israeli companies, academic institutions, and associated entities. Their purported goal is to put pressure on Israel via non-violent action to force the Israeli government to give human rights to the Palestinian people. They do not touch on Jordan or Egypt, both of whom have equal interaction and responsibility towards Palestinian citizens every day. The BDS movement has the singular target of Israel and the Israeli (read: Jewish) people. Last year, almost 600 Palestinians lost their jobs at a SodaStream Factory as a result of BDS efforts, which the BDS Movement considered a “win”, despite wreaking economic havoc on all those Palestinian families as a result. Ms. Davis proudly throws her support behind the BDS Movement. Their supporters bellow chants advocating for the destruction of Israel and spew antiSemitic rhetoric reminiscent of 1930s Germany. This is categorically not something one should hear from such a respected and distinguished activist and academic.
Ms. Davis also spoke of the Israeli “apartheid wall.” She was referring to the security fence erected in the early 2000s to deter Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists from entering Israel in order to kill civilians. Her use of the word “apartheid” is simply incorrect, as numerous South Africans who lived under actual apartheid have come forward saying that a comparison of Israeli society to apartheid is ludicrous and offensive. In reality, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where Arabs, meaning Christians, Muslims, Jews, and otherwise, can live with the rights and privileges afforded to citizens of a truly democratic country. Arab Muslims serve in the Israeli parliament, and an Arab Muslim was just appointed the head of Police for the entire country.
Ms. Davis’ claims of Israeli apartheid and the Israeli occupation of Palestine echo larger, yet equally ignorant, views of hatemongers posing as liberators. Although Israeli leadership has a critical role to play in supporting the Palestinian people, Ms. Davis’ rhetoric and activist zeal would be better directed against Palestinian leaders who incite violence against Israelis and the genocide of Jews. They have consistently sabotaged peace talks and rejected three peace agreements that would have established an independent Palestinian state where there currently sits a non-state entity. Palestinian leadership relies on the subjugation of its own people in order to retain power, as exemplified by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, currently entering year eleven of his four-year term in office.
I write to the Denison student body: it is necessary and just to advocate for the human rights of Palestinians. They must be liberated from their own corrupt leaders in order to attain the basic human rights they deserve. By using the Israelis as yet another Jewish scapegoat, Ms. Davis, you only serve to prolong Palestinian suffering.
The article originally appeared in The Denison Bull Sheet.