This piece was contributed by Elliott Hamilton, a Liaison for our CCAP group Claremont Students for Israel. It was originally published on April 11th in The Student Life.
Last semester, following the publication of my Nov. 15, 2013 article, “We Must Take Ownership of Our Own Humanity,” addressing dialogue on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I waited patiently for someone to approach me to discuss the complexities of the conflict in a respectful setting. Five months later, no one from the other side of the aisle has approached me directly, but I have seen an influx of articles about the conflict in campus publications. To my surprise, and great satisfaction, it has resulted in the start of a dialogue between individuals who write from both sides of the issue.
In its first issue of this semester, TSL published two articles focusing on the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of Israel and the reasons Pomona College and the rest of the Claremont consortium should embrace the boycott’s rationale. A month later, the Claremont Independent released a critique of a column written by Matt Dahl PO ’17 in support of the boycott. The critique pointed out the double standard therein: The boycott criticizes Israel, but fails to mention atrocious violations of human rights by other states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria.
Most recently, the April 4 issue of TSL included a response to the Independent’s article written by a columnist from my hometown. What is rather ironic about this coincidence is that our hometown of Newton, Mass., was recently in the news because of allegations that public school teachers had purposefully omitted key aspects of the Hamas charter that highlighted its intent to destroy the Jewish state. This was a move that raised eyebrows in a predominantly Jewish city outside of Boston.
In a similar way, this columnist had also omitted some key variables in his defense of the ASA boycott, ones that I believe should be mentioned. Having been to Israel and the West Bank, I can make a solid case for why it is problematic to delegitimize Israel while refusing to acknowledge the Palestinian Authority’s laundry list of problems.
First and foremost, Israel is not perfect. No country has a blank track record when it comes to social problems and international conflicts. The Israeli-Arab conflict is more than 60 years old, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on since 1964, and each side has been guilty of crimes against the other.
That being said, it is rather unfortunate that nobody in the consortium likes to talk about the crimes committed against Israelis by the Palestinians. For example, nobody likes to talk about the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s numerous hijackings of planes carrying Israeli citizens, which led to the Entebbe raid that killed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s older brother in 1976.
In addition, the consortium does not discuss the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip following Israel’s disengagement from the region in 2005, and how Israeli kindergartners are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate of almost 74 percent as a result.
And on top of that, nobody likes to mention the fact that key figures in the Palestinian solidarity movement and the Palestinian faction governments do not wish to have peace with the Jewish state.
Let’s start with Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which the ASA boycott is a part. In an interview with the Electronic Intifada, he was quoted saying, “I am completely and categorically against bi-nationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land and therefore, we have to accommodate both national rights.”
This is not a man with peaceful ambitions to create two states for two peoples; this is a man who would rather eliminate the Israeli narrative entirely. It is illogical to claim that supporting BDS is essential for protecting free speech when its outspoken leader does not support the right for the Israeli narrative to exist. Considering that we once had prominent Israelis like Shimon Peres, Yitzchak Rabin, and Netanyahu who accepted the Palestinian narrative as legitimate, we must ask the question: Which party is more willing to coexist in the region?
Finally, I wish to address the statements of Abbas Zaki, a senior official in Fatah and close friend of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. A month ago, following Netanyahu’s address regarding the Iranian weapons shipment that the Israeli Defense Forces thwarted, Zaki discussed the situation on the PA’s national television. At one point during the broadcast, Zaki stated, “I believe that Allah will gather them so we can kill them.”
While it seems that the media and many politicians place blame on Israel for the fading peace talks, very few noticeable figures have called out Zaki for this disturbing statement about killing Israelis. I am not saying that individual Israelis have not made similar remarks about the Palestinians, but rather that it is worrying that a prominent Palestinian politician can go on record with this kind of commentary and have no one hold him responsible. I have to wonder how committed the Palestinian governments are to the idea of establishing a true, lasting peace with Israel. If conspicuous figures such as Barghouti and Zaki cannot be held responsible for their war cries, then the existence of an anti-Israel double standard cannot be ignored.
Therefore, I encourage members of the Claremont consortium to really consider what we’re putting in jeopardy when we consider policies like the ASA boycott. What are the true intentions of such movements? Are there other nations that are undergoing similar scrutiny? Are such movements beneficial to the goals we seek to accomplish?
In my opinion, the BDS movement, including the ASA boycott, is a bastardization of the concept of social justice. Unlike my fellow Newton native, I firmly believe that both Israelis and Palestinians should be held to the same standard. We cannot have a fair peace without treating both sides equally.
Elliott Hamilton PZ ’15 is majoring in economics. He is an executive board member of Claremont Students for Israel, and is the campus activist project liaison for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.