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viewpoint

Don’t stand with the oppressor

| Friday, April 15, 2016

On April 8, Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR) hosted George Deek, a representative of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Deek’s narrative denied Israel’s relentless attempts to rebut the rights of the Palestinians, and it discredited the Palestinian struggle for justice and equality. During his talk, he presented Israel as a bastion of diversity in the Middle East and the world. The idyllic picture Deek painted ignores the systematic discrimination and oppression both inside Israel (which is 20 percent Palestinian) and under Israel’s Occupation of the Palestinian Territories (of approximately 3.5 million Palestinians).

While Deek’s picture is, at best, whitewashing human rights abuses and, at worst, justifying them, the University is a place of divergent views and dialogue, and may invite a variety of voices. However, we are very concerned that the event was co-sponsored by the CCHR, which claims in its mission statement that “in all of its efforts, the Center stands in solidarity with the oppressed, the afflicted, and the vulnerable and seeks to secure their human rights and the conditions for their flourishing.”

On Friday, the CCHR did not stand in solidarity with the oppressed, the afflicted and the vulnerable. It did not stand with the Bedouins of the Negev, Israeli citizens whose own government forcefully evicted them from their lands; or with the Palestinian families living in east Jerusalem, whose homes the Israeli government demolished; or with the farmers in the Cremisan valley, whose 2,000 year old olive groves Israel tore up and replaced with a ‘security barrier.’ It did not stand with the Palestinian children who are tortured in Israeli military detention. In short, the CCHR failed to fulfill its mission.

George Deek exploits his minority “Arab-Israeli” identity and claims the way forward is for Arabs to be both grateful for their Israeli identity and proud of their Arab heritage. He blames Palestinians for not assimilating, while denying Israel’s methodical suppression of Palestinian Arab identity — making them second-class citizens. During the 1948 War, Israel censored Palestinian narratives by confiscating approximately 60,000 Palestinian books, and, between 1967 and 1993, it was illegal to fly the Palestinian flag. The term Arab-Israeli, which Deek uses, is yet another construct of Israel to further erase Palestinian identity.

In his presentation, Deek did not represent the Palestinian people; he represented the State of Israel, justifying its apartheid-style policies against Palestinians. Deek promotes a discourse of political propaganda that denies Israel’s involvement in violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been exposed by several United Nations inquiry missions and by the International Court of Justice.

Over the past few weeks, a group of over 50 Notre Dame activists hailing from CCHR’s program in International Human Rights Law, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Law School, faculty and various PhD, master’s and undergraduate students have unified around their shared investment in human rights. This Pro-Justice ND group wrote a letter to the acting director of the CCHR and held a meeting with her and her colleague raising their concerns — which were dismissed. On April 8, the group stood in the freezing rain to hand out flyers, meet student passersby with factual information and display a wooden replica of the Separation Wall on which they painted smaller versions of real graffiti art from Palestine.

The CCHR has failed in its mandate to “equip human rights lawyers and other students to become champions of human rights.” By sponsoring an Israeli diplomat who completely ignores Israel’s illegal occupation and its devastating effects on Palestinians, the CCHR failed to educate the campus community, and instead served as a propaganda tool to further Israel’s political agenda. This talk gave volume to only one side of an already asymmetrical conflict and silenced the voices of the oppressed, afflicted and vulnerable. We worry this sets a dangerous precedent for future events.

For more information on Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people, check out IfAmericansKnew.org and JewishVoiceForPeace.org. If you would like to get involved to ensure Notre Dame upholds its mission statement to cultivate “a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many … to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice,” please email humanrights.peace.nd@gmail.com

In the words of Paulo Freire (which were displayed on the Pro-Justice ND separation wall),If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral.”

 

Kelsey Jones 

senior

 

Marie Klassen 

junior

 

Jonathan Brenneman 

senior

April 12

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

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  • Brendan

    These writers and the protestors outside can barely conceal that their ultimate goal is not a just peace between Israel and Palestine, but the eradication of Israel. Their maps of the Jewish presence in Israel predate the restoration of the Jewish State and identify it as European Imperialism. Their criticism of the term “Arab-Israeli” is simply a dog whistle that criticizes all those who collaborate with the Jewish people instead of launching missiles from the Gaza Strip, stabbing soldiers and citizens in Jerusalem, and contributing to the families of suicide bombers. I have nothing to say to them.

    If any supporters of this movement sincerely seek peace without support for antisemitism and terrorism, I would advise them to embrace the two-state solution, encourage talks between Israel and Palestine, and read about the security threats and antisemitism that frequently prevent these talks from going forward. Abbas must come to the table to negotiate for an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, without any role for the terrorist group, Hamas, or demands for a “right of return” that will eliminate Israel as a Jewish State. If we all desire an independent and peaceful Palestine and peace in the Middle East, let us work towards these common goals. Don’t be a tool of the bigots or merely criticize without offering solutions. Push for honest negotiations and a two state solution.

    • João Pedro Santos

      Strawman much?

      • Brendan

        In what way? If you are not an antisemitic activist, an apologist for terrorism, or a denier of Israel’s right to exist, than only my second paragraph applies to you. Do you support a two-state solution for Palestine (Gaza Strip + West Bank) and the Jewish State of Israel? Do you acknowledge that the crimes of the Macedonians, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, French, and British against the Jewish people and the occupation of Israel’s land by these empires over the centuries does not sever the link between the land and the Jewish people?

        I could ask you to recognize that missiles launched from Gaza at population centers in Israel require a military response to neutralize the launchers. I could ask you to condemn Hamas for launching these missiles from private homes, schools, and hospitals, including U.N. hospitals (not only because they hope to use the inhabitants/locations as human shields, but because they hope that Israel will give them another source of propaganda). I could ask you to account for the popularity of antisemitism and denials of Israel’s existence among anti-Israel activists (“From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free”). I could call you to recognize the continued Palestinian rejections of Israeli peace proposals (some of which even offered East Jerusalem). I could remind you that the hate that is promoted by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority causes Israelis to live in fear and enact harsh laws to protect themselves from being stabbed, shot, or blown up. Instead, I just want an honest pursuit of a peaceful two-state solution. Let’s find what we have in common and isolate the neo-NAZI’s.

        • João Pedro Santos

          “antisemitic activist”
          An activist is someone fighting for social justice. An anti-semite clearly doesn’t do that. So you just wrote an oxymoron. Moreover, you insist on recurring to strawman by accusing activists who support the right of Palestine to self-determination of being anti-semitic (and even neo-nazi, even though neo-nazis hate both Jewish and Arab people). And in case you don’t know, criticizing governments is not the same thing as attacking the people living under that government. Or is criticizing the US government “un-American”?
          And comparing Israeli war crimes with the reaction of Palestinians to those war crimes is a false symmetry since Palestine’s military power is nothing in comparison to Israeli’s military power.
          By last, using the fact that throughout history Jewish people were and are victims of oppression is in no way an excuse to justify atrocities against other people. The same way it would be totally unjustified if African governments decided to kill white people because of colonialism.

          • Brendan

            Brown Shirts (Both the supporters of Mussolini and the thugs that preceded Hitler’s S.S.), supporters of Hamas, active members of neo-Nazi parties, AB Shock collars, BDS, SJP, the KKK: There are plenty of antisemitic activists today and in the past. Most activists think they are right and pursue their conception of justice.

            Don’t skirt the question though. I consider your complaints to be wrong, exaggerated, or reflective of an unwillingness to examine the Israeli side of the situation. I don’t plan on bringing you to my point of view on these points, but that is not the point.

            I am asking you whether you support the two state solution for Palestine and the Jewish State of Israel. I am asking you whether you acknowledge Israel’s history from before the Romans, slaughter and diaspora, and restoration in 1947.

            If you do, than you are actually just criticizing the government. I mostly disagree, but I would acknowledge than you are pursuing the same goals as I am, peace in both nations. I assume that we both want an end to and an evacuation of all settlements in the West Bank. I assume that we both want an end to stabbings and explosions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I assume that we both want Hamas to fall and Israel to raise the blockade of Gaza and allow much more traffic between the West Bank and Gaza. I assume we both want independence for the Palestinian State. I am not sure if I can assume that we both want the Jewish State of Israel to survive this conflict. I’m asking you again. Do you recognize the Jewish State of Israel and acknowledge its ancient roots?

  • garyfouse

    If Americans Knew? If the writers of this piece knew the links between IAK’s Alison Weir and racist radio host Clay Douglas and a former official of her organization, imprisoned terrorist, Abdurahman Alamoudi, they might think twice before recommending her as a source.

    http://garyfouse.blogspot.com/2011/05/day-two-at-uc-irvine-anti-israel-week.html

    As for JVP, they are an anarchistic bunch of misfits who want to help destroy Israel, and who don’t think the other (pro-Israel) side should even be heard on campus.

    As for Paolo Freire, I suggest trying to get through his signature book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It is unreadable.

  • Beer Baron

    The myth of Arab Muslim victimhood is cheap propaganda stemming from the failed Arab attempts to destroy Israel, and drive its Jewish population “into the sea.”

    The anti-Israel left continues to pander to the irrational, bigoted demands of the Middle East’s Arab Muslim majority to suppress the region’s only non-Muslim state, in favor of yet another Arab Muslim country. That blatant disregard for the rights of anyone who is not an Arab Muslim is precisely the reason why the Jews of Israel had to fight for national independence.

    The mere existence of Israel proclaims the national rights of the Jewish INDIGENOUS population of Israel; a country and a people that predate Arab colonialism, and will outlive it as well.

  • Beer Baron

    The myth of Arab Muslim victimhood is cheap propaganda stemming from the failed Arab attempts to destroy Israel, and drive its Jewish population “into the sea.”

    The anti-Israel left continues to pander to the irrational, bigoted demands of the Middle East’s Arab Muslim majority to suppress the region’s only non-Muslim state, in favor of yet another Arab Muslim country. That blatant disregard for the rights of anyone who is not an Arab Muslim is precisely the reason why the Jews of Israel had to fight for national independence.

    The mere existence of Israel proclaims the national rights of the Jewish INDIGENOUS population of Israel; a country and a people that predate Arab colonialism, and will outlive it as well.