The Dream of Peace vs. The Nightmare of Divestment

By Ben Limonchik

I was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. When I was 10 years old, the Second Intifada began and weekly Palestinian terrorist attacks in my hometown became a routine. One of my classmates died in one of those attacks when the bus she took to school exploded and burned. She was only 10 years old. A few weeks later, a friend of mine lost her hearing in a similar bus attack. In the chaos of the Intifada, on our way to school, my little brother turned to me and asked, “Ben, am I going to die?” Over the following three years, more than a thousand Israeli civilians lost their lives in bus and restaurant bombings, kidnappings and shootings.

Despite the war, my friends and I never gave up the dream of peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Rather than leading to hatred, my experiences have led my friends and me to meet and collaborate with Palestinians towards mutual understanding. We dream of the day Israel and Palestine co-exist as neighbors.

In a recent op-ed, Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine stole my country’s narrative. Their proposal is regressive. It eschews dialogue. It is one-sided, omits crucial facts and hides the true goals of the divestment movement. As a strong supporter of peace, I believe that divestment is not only morally wrong, but will also be very harmful to the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Divestment is a tool designed to win a propaganda war, not to realize the ultimate goal of peace. Divesting from Israeli businesses prevents a dialogue and blocks the establishment of trust. Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine is connected to Students for Justice in Palestine, the national organization of which has adopted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s principles. This movement frequently calls to boycott Israeli universities. Harming Israel’s education will not help the Palestinian struggle for independence. Even the Palestinian leadership understands that the BDS movement will harm future peace negotiations.

Omar Barghoutti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Israel’s right to exist. The Hamas leadership that previously governed the Gaza strip openly calls for the destruction of Israel promotes anti-Semitism andeducates children to kill Jews. The others’ right to exist is the most basic contingency for coexistence.

Divestment imposes the entire blame for the continuing Israeli occupation and settlement policy on the Israelis. It refuses to acknowledge the historical reality that on at least three occasions, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept Israel’s offers to end the occupation and that in 2005, in a gesture for peace, Israel removed its entire population from the Gaza strip.

The article suggested that the situation in the Middle East presents a “similar dynamic” to what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police responded with “unwarranted violence.” This is an effort to garner sympathy by drawing oversimplified and fallacious parallels between unrelated situations under the generalized pretense of oppression. They go as far as accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. On the contrary, the facts prove that Israel is not an apartheid state by any means. There are three Arab political parties in Israel’s current parliament. Arabs serve in Israel’s Supreme Court. In a recent surveythe majority of Arabs in East Jerusalem said that in case of Palestinian independence they would prefer to stay in democratic Israel. The Palestinian population in Israel boasts among the highest college graduation rates and the lowest infant mortality rates in the Arab world. The insinuation of apartheid flies in the face of this reality.

When I was 15, I helped one of the Israeli families move out of their home in Gaza. I assured them that this good gesture would bring us closer to peace. But, instead, what followed since then were thousands of rockets being fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip. I realize I was wrong. Shouting for unilateral actions without striving towards dialogue will not lead to a peaceful coexistence. I wish that the Palestinian people will gain independence soon, but to achieve this goal we should put our efforts into promoting a dialogue, not divestment.

Ben Limonchik ’17

Ben Limonchik is a sophomore majoring in computer science, originally from Jerusalem, Israel. He can be contacted at benlimon ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Individual co-signatories: Adam Schorin ’17, Alex Lubkin ’17, Alon Devorah ’14, Amanda Smith ’14, Ariella Axler ’15, Asher Kaye ’15, Coraal Cohen ’17, Daniel Maroko ‘16, David Wintermeyer ’17, Doniel Kaye ’15, Gideon Weiler ’14, Gil Shotan ’12, Guy Amdur ’17, Jenna Shapiro ’17, Jennifer Rosenfeld ’09, Jordan Shapiro ’14, Josh Grinberg ’15, Julia Turan ’14, Liana Kadisha ’15, Matthew Lebovitz ’15, Max Weiss ’17, Miriam Pollock ’16, Molly Horowitz ’16, Nico Perdomo ’14, Noa Glaser ’18, Roy Lederman ’17, Sarah Kahn ’17, Sawer Altman ’17, Steven Greitzer ’14, Tamara Mekler ’17, Tatiana Grossman ’17, Victoria Anikst ’13, Yale Goldberg ’17, Yisroel Quint ’17.

A Response To “Stanford Must Divest From The Occupation of Palestine”

By Miriam Pollock

Student group Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine (SOOP) disguised a smear campaign as genuine concern for human rights in its October 26 op-ed entitled “Stanford must divest from the occupation of Palestine”. SOOP deliberately misrepresented disputed and even false information as fact. This is a malicious anti-intellectual tactic not befitting a Stanford University student group.

SOOP contends that 70% of Palestinians killed during this summer’s Operation Protective Edge were civilians. However, that number includes Palestinians killed by Hamas rockets. 20% of the rockets Hamas fired at Israel this summer landed in Gaza. On just one day Hamas rockets killed over a dozen Palestinian civilians. Hamas also kills Palestinians suspected of collaborating with IsraelAccording to human rights groups, Palestinians killed by Hamas – as well as Palestinians who died naturally or even due to domestic violence — are likely included in the death toll.

Furthermore, the 70% figure was reported by the Gaza Health Ministry, a Hamas organization. The US has designated Hamas, the elected government in Gaza, a terrorist organizationHamas lies. During the last major Hamas-Israel conflict, Hamas claimed only 50 of its members had been killed. Two years later, Hamas revised that number upward to 600-700, which constituted half of the Palestinian deaths in the war. Hamas instructs pro-Palestinian activists to refer to “anyone killed or martyred… [as] a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank.” It claims that all its operatives are civilians.

The demographics of those killed indicates that men of fighting age were killed in disproportionate numbers. This suggests that Israel explicitly targeted terrorist combatants and avoided civilian casualties as much as possible. Israel estimates that50% of Palestinians killed over the course of Operation Protective Edge were civilians. That ratio is typical of wars throughout history, and much better than the civilian casualty rate in other wars against terrorist groups. During the Iraq War, for instance, the United States had a 1:4 militant to civilian death rate. SOOP fails to provide such important context. They distort facts. What else are they obscuring from the student population in order to discredit the Jewish state?

SOOP urges Stanford to divest from Israeli companies it claims are immoral. Unfortunately, the group attacks Israel as a whole rather than individual companies, as in this op-ed. Its target is not specific companies but the 8000-square-mile Jewish state. Divestment is one-sided, divisive, and a hindrance to peace. Divestment places blames only on Israel, failing to condemn Hamas for its reprehensible actions. Hamas uses its own people as human shields. This summer, it broke numerous humanitarian ceasefires (Israel kept them) and launched 4500 rockets at Israeli civilians, each one of which the Palestinian envoy to the UN Human Rights Council admitted was a “crime against humanity.” I hope that when the ASSU considers SOOP’s divestment resolution it will remember that SOOP engages in underhanded tactics in order to discredit Israel, while failing to acknowledge Hamas’ human rights violations.

Radical to Constructive: A Vision for Pro-Palestinian Advocacy Reform

By Ariella Axler

The notion that Palestine and Israel are mutually exclusive has become the norm in the political spheres of many college campuses. Once again, this past weekend’s National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) conference, hosted on the Stanford campus, exhibited the hardline nature of such groups.

The closed conference, with only three sessions open to the public, is in and of itself a sign of the movement’s aversion to dialogue. I am an avid supporter of Israel who enthusiastically endorses the official establishment and strengthening of a Palestinian state.

It is disappointing that the advocacy messages of the National SJP conference preach the opposite of respect and tolerance by focusing on blaming and delegitimizing Israel and the nation’s support from America, its strongest ally.

It is unfortunate how the conference and the key messages of “pro-Palestinian” campus groups, rather than emphasizing topics of Palestinian state-building, position themselves as hateful, anti-Israel cadres.

The theme of the National SJP conference, from “Margin to Center,” will have no concrete implications without a systemic change of pro-Palestinian advocacy. The Palestinian issue has been marginalized on this campus, and on campuses nationally, because the groups position themselves as extremist, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist haters.

And, despite the Jewish members of SJP who hold themselves as testimony that the movement is not against Judaism, anti-Zionism is a contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism.

The radical nature of the National SJP conference is shaped by the historical affiliations and actions of the organization. Last year, the Electronic Intifada endorsed the National SJP conference on its site, and the group has previously placed eviction notices on the doors of Jewish students.

Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER) is not an official chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, but by sponsoring this conference, SPER dug themselves into a deeper hole of extremism.

The concentration of the National SJP conference on Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) goals epitomizes the hostile nature of the Palestinian student groups on college campuses. Masking itself as a form of “non-violent” protest, the fundamental idea of BDS that supporting one’s community means subverting another’s is the opposite of peaceful, conciliatory action.

It is important to highlight the positive, constructive aspects of the National SJP conference, such as the cultural and educational activities during the weekend. For example, “Raise the Keffiyeh: Celebrating a Night of Palestinian Culture,” was an arts event open to the public.

Promoting positive messages about Palestinian culture motivates more involvement in learning about the vibrancy of the nation. As well, an internal conference session conducted about combating Islamophobia has relevant applications to exposing distorted rhetoric in the national security sphere. Identifying specific aspects for political reform is much more effective than the generalized campaign of SJP that inevitably makes tangible accomplishment more difficult.

In seeking to bridge together the struggles of many communities, SJP generates a polarized, victim-aggressor dialogue — a strategy that counter-productively dismisses the accountability of a “victim.”

Firstly, the horrifyingly erroneousness parallels SJP draws between the conditions in Palestine, Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the United States disregard the complexity of these tragedies.

Yet, even for those who see utility in bridging the struggles of the underdog, the “f-k The Man” approach is not effective for promoting progress in Palestine. Israel ending the condemned “occupation” will not solve the problem of intense rift in the Palestinian government between Hamas and the PA, dysfunction of leadership due to years of intense corruption under Arafat, and the dire impoverishment of the Palestinian people who have had no capable authority to develop the economy or build societal infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the past leaders of the Palestinian nation, like the SJP movement, have spent too much of their energy finger-pointing at Israel rather than focusing on creating their own prosperity.

The way in which the strengthening of Palestine on college campuses hinges on the weakening of Israel reflects a distorted message about the reality of peace creation between Israel and Palestine.

Development of a strong, flourishing Palestinian state, accepting of and in peace with Israel, is one of the greatest hopes of many contemporary Israelis.

A pro-Palestinian movement that redirects its efforts from fighting against Israel to focusing on Palestinian leadership reform and economic development would not just move from the margins to the center, but would actually have a tangible impact.

Contact Ariella Axler at aaxler ‘at’ stanford.edu

Searching For A Partner For Peace On Campus

By Yisroel Quint

Often when students follow the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, they feel frustration, anger, and indignation. Students wonder why the two sides can’t sit down and work through their problems to build a mutually beneficial peace. They wonder why radicals on either side are unwilling to recognize the other side’s legitimate narrative. They wonder why radicals need their side to have a monopoly on pain, suffering and struggle. They wonder why there can’t be a productive dialogue.

Sadly, the problem is not limited to the politicians and radicals in the Middle East. On campus, students feel that the conversation is dangerous and inflammatory. Often they feel that they must take sides.

When I read the op-ed by Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine in The Stanford Daily’s Monday edition, I cringed. Again, the conversation is moving away from dialogue and mutual struggle and moving towards finger pointing and delegitimization and demonization. The op-ed rejected the Israeli viewpoint on the summer by taking statistics and events out of context. It begin by making an illogical argument that Israel could not be acting in self-defense this summer because there were fewer Israeli casualties than Palestinian casualties. The op-ed ignored the kidnapping of three Israeli teens by Hamas that started the conflict. It ignored the terror tunnels through which armed guerrillas infiltrated Israel with the goal of killing and kidnapping innocent Israeli civilians. It ignored the thousands of rockets fired at Israel, targeting civilian locations. The op-ed refused to recognize any suffering on Israel’s side.

Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine moves directly to joining with the divestment movement; a movement that ignores the Israeli narrative, a movement whose co-founder Omar Barghouti rejects Israel’s right to exist, a movement that ignores the 3,000-year history of the Jews in Israel, calling them colonizers and referring only to the Palestinians as indigenous.

Most importantly, divestment is a movement that wants to destroy dialogue. It wants to group all people who are pro-Israel as pro-settlement policy, anti-peace and anti-Palestinian. Divestment rejects having a spectrum of views on this issue by demonizing any support for Israel as support for a country that has ethnically cleansed and colonized the land.

By advocating for divestment, Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine is simply projecting the one-sidedness of the BDS movement on everyone else. The Palestinian-led BDS is mirrored by Students for Justice in Palestine in the United States.

There are many students on campus who would proudly stand up and voice that they are pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, against racism in Israeli and Palestinian societies, against the delegitimization of either narrative, against those who reject both peoples’ claims to the land and against those who reject either side’s right to pray at their holiest sites.

These are the voices we need on campus. These are the voices that need to be heard. Only then will we have a productive and healthy dialogue that truly represents the hopes, aspirations and struggles of the two equally legitimate narratives.

Yisroel Quint is the Vice President of the Stanford Israel Association. These opinions are Yisroel’s own. He can be contacted at yquint ‘at’ stanford.edu.