Unfortunately, the feel of worldwide oppression is often very present. A Wednesday night event held in the Boston University Law Auditorium, titled “Imprisonment of a People: From the U.S. to Palestine,” hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine and UMOJA: BU’s Black Student Union, addressed this very fact. The audience heard from a panel of speakers, which included Shaun King, Oren Nimni, Carl Williams and Yamila Hussein. The auditorium was packed to maximum capacity, and people spilled out into the next room. The feeling of deep unity, however, turned to targeting the Jewish minority in the Middle East by the end of the evening.
Shaun King addressed how these issues are very complicated and challenging to address. While I completely understand the focus of the event on the oppression of these two groups, I think the way the context was presented did not achieve a sufficient or appropriate degree of accuracy.
These conversations are highly complex. The “gray area” is vast, and one must be cautious when blurring crossing an invisible line of sensitivity. The conversation took a turn a little too deep into one viewpoint, with the repeated tone that Israel is the oppressor and root of Palestinian suffering, and I would argue that this is not the case.
This event did not hold the Palestinian leadership responsible at all and placed all blame on Israel. Palestinian leaders treat their own people terribly. Under Palestinian Authority, selling land to Israelis is a punishable offense and in Gaza, Hamas routinely steals building infrastructure provided to the people to build homes to use to build a system of underground tunnels to carry out terrorism in Israel. I think the Palestinian self-determination needs to be more pro-active to make change for the better within the culture, instead of blaming Israel for all their suffering.
While this event portrayed Israel in an oppressive light, there is another side. When I think of Israel, I actually think of the very same liberating values that were noted at the event as the goals of the two groups. I think of the diversity of the population and especially of the many minorities in the country, and the parts they play in the democracy. I think of the black and Israeli-Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament. I think of the coexistence that people want. Most people would prefer living in peace to an atmosphere of tension and even war.
On Wednesday night, Shaun King noted that it should never become politically incorrect to care about a certain issue or cause, and I couldn’t agree more. There shouldn’t be a double standard for support for Israel. There are multiple sides to every story and I acknowledge the right to just talk about one side of it. But it’s such a shame to find differences and strife when the groups have so many shared values in reality. Our enemies are common, we have the same problems with media control and bias, we are passionate about justice. Israel is a minority in the Middle East and it seems hypocritical of minority groups fighting for freedom to target another minority group that desires freedom.
It was great to hear Yamila Hussein say, “I do not trust a pro-Palestinian that hates Jews.” I just wonder why no one spoke up and acknowledged and supported the right of a Jewish national homeland for the Jewish people. It wasn’t said at the event on Wednesday night, but I’ll say it now. Being Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian do not contradict one another. This very important distinction was missed at the event.
The concept of nonviolent protest in the form of economic boycott was weaved into the evening’s conversation until it culminated, towards the end, into blatant support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. This is really problematic. The underlying goal of the BDS movement is to isolate and immobilize Israel economically. This delegitimization of Israel is appalling, especially by a group of people so passionately dedicated to self-determination. The Pro-Israel community feels that same drive for self-determination, especially finding themselves in the middle of the tough region of the Middle East. Oren Nimni actually addressed this particular issue, saying that one thing that unites the Black Lives Matter and Students for Justice in Palestine movements is being told they don’t belong. The surrounding countries do not hide their desire for the complete and utter destruction of Israel. Israel wants justice too.
This article was originally published on The Daily Free Press.