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September 03, 2002 - Image 27

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-03

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The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - 3B

a

VIEWPOINT

,

Israel:-Democracy's last stand in the Middle East

BY YULIA DERNOVSKY

Fall 2002, the first day of another
school year at the University of
Michigan, I fear that once again I
enter the battleground of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, location Ann
Arbor, Michigan. Having witnessed
numerous clashes between the two
sides in past years, I notice that
sadly most, though not all, of the
participants in this campus war are
Jews with the pro-Israel views and
Arabs fighting for the pro-Palestine
side. The rest of the University stu-
dent body is either apathetic about
the issue or is irritated at the contin-
uing propaganda war on the Middle
East.
Most troubling are the attempts
by pro-Palestinian advocates to mis-
lead students who are uneducated
and disinterested in the conflict with.
their fallacious and demagogic argu-
ments. They hope that the liberal-
m i n d e d
always-ready-to-right-a-wrong col-
lege student will give in to the pleas
to support the "poor Palestinians
suffering under brutal occupation"
and will reprimand Israel for abus-
ing its power.
All those little, unimportant facts
such as suicide bombers, terrorist
organizations and the threat of
destruction that Israel faces on a
daily basis are conveniently left out
of the pro-Palestine discourse in an
effort to mislead students. Similarly
left unmentioned are human rights
abuses of the Palestinian Authority
under the corrupt and dictatorial
leadership of Yassir Arafat.
I believe it is time that college
students realize why Israel needs and
deserves their support, regardless of
how tear-drawing the demagogic
speeches of the pro-Palestinian
activists are. It is time that students
take a stand for the values in which
this liberal campus takes so much
pride: The values of liberty, equality
and social justice. It is time to. see
that Israel is the only hope for the
survival of those values in the Mid-
dle East.
Israel is not perfect, like any
other country in the world it has
flaws and problems dealing with
complex issues like gender, poverty
and race. At the same time the one

undeniable truth in this conflict is
that Israel is the only true democra-
cy in the Middle East. Next to the
despotism of the Middle East dicta-
torships, Israel guarantees that its
government will be "based on free-
dom, justice, peace ... it will ensure
complete equality of social and
political rights to all its inhabitants
irrespective of religion, race or sex;
it will guarantee freedom of religion,
conscience, language, education and
culture." Israel doesn't always
accomplish these goals - but at
least it tries. No other country in the
Middle East comes even close to
promising their people these free-
doms. On the contrary, their propa-
ganda focuses on bashing the
Western democratic ideals and
repressing their citizens.
Furthermore, as a loyal ally,
Israel fights our enemies in our
"War Against Terrorism." Israel
shared the pain of our losses from
terrorism, the pain it suffers on
almost a daily basis at the hands of
those same innocent and helpless
Palestinians portrayed in the anti-
Israel rhetoric. Israelis condemn and
fight against terrorism at the same
time as Palestinians riot because one
of the leaders of Hamas or Hizbullah
(two terrorist organizations) was put
under temporary house arrest. As
Israeli civilians are dying in clubs,
restaurants, hotels and buses,
Hizbullah recruits are working with
al Qaeda to destroy Israel and Amer-
ica (see Washington Post 06/30/02).
And Arafat's corrupt regime is doing
zilch to stop them. How can we sup-
port the regime whose actions con-
tradict every moral value on which
America is based?
These are the questions that as
students we must address. How
much do we value democracy and
what are we willing to do to preserve
it? 1 he current focus of the campus
battle is the infamous divestment
petition that the pro-Palestinian
leaders are incessantly advocating.
The petition would call on the Uni-
versity to end all of "the University's
financial investments in the Israeli
market and in corporations with sig-
nificant financial connections with
Israel."
The divestment petition disre-
gards any possibilities of negotia-

tions for peace, calling on Israel to
give up all its rights to safe and
secure borders. They talk of the
"illegal" occupation, forgetting that
the reason Israel is in control of the
disputed territories is because it
defeated the aggressor states when it
was attacked by them in 1967. They
talk of the UN resolutions which
direct Israel to give up the territo-
ries, conveniently leaving out the
parts of the resolutions that demand
the recognition of Israel's right to
safe and secure borders. They talk of
Israel's imperial claims, avoiding the
reality that there is a widespread
desire among Israelis for a long term
and peaceful solution, while the
majority of Palestinians refuse to
recognize the right of Israel to exist.
They neglect to mention that in
Israel 70 percent support territorial
compromise and peace, while in the
Palestinian territories 68 percent
support suicide bombings.
Not only would it be morally
hypocritical for the University to
divest from Israel in favor of the
undemocratic regime of the Palestin-
ian Authority, it would also be eco-
nomically unreasonable. The state of
Michigan, including the University
and various businesses are heavily
involved in economic relations with
Israel. Not only do numerous busi-
nesses benefit from the international
trade, Israel is also a tremendous
source of technological and scientif-
ic innovations as well as proposing
social programs that helped improve
the lives of all citizens of Michigan.
Israel, for instance, introduced an
education program called Home
Instruction Program for Preschool
Youngsters, which was praised by
former President Clinton as "the
best preschool program on earth,"
and has since been implemented
throughout the country.
The University itself has a close
relationship with Israel in its
research projects. The University of
Michigan and Michigan State Uni-
versity are among the Michigan
institutions that have shared with
counterparts in Israel more than $1.7
million in grants awarded by the
Binational Science Foundation
(BSF) since 1987. As of 2000, BSF
documented at least 75 discoveries
that resulted from the cooperation

between United States and Israel and
which have contributed to the world
wide academic acclaim enjoyed by
our University.
Any which way you look, there is
no moral or practical justification
for divesting from Israel, unless of
course, one wants to distorts the
truth. Fact is, Israel is a democracy;
Palestinian Authority is not. Israel
promotes rule of law, the Palestinian
Authority promotes terrorism.
The students of this University
want social justice and moral satis-
faction. It is impossible to support
these ideals while supporting a
morally and politically corrupt
Palestinian regime. If students at this
University want to promote demo-
cratic values, they should support
the only lasting democracy in the
Middle East - Israel.
Remember, if all that the Pales-
tinians wanted was a state - they
could have had it as recently as two
years ago. Truth is Israel is fighting
to live; Palestinians are fighting to
destroy. This generation will be deci-
sive in the outcome of the Middle
East crisis, and it's time for us to
decide whether we support democra-
cy or dictatorships, human rights or
terrorism. If we support democracy
and human rights then it is time to
help Israel survive.
For those of you who support the
values of democracy, freedom and
human rights in the Middle East, I
urge you to join other students on
this campus in promoting these val-
ues.
If you want to participate in this
cause come join the various Israel
groups on campus, such as the
American Movement for Israel,
Israel Michigan Political Action
Committee or the Zionist Organiza-
tion of Michigan. Members of these
groups differ in their outlook on the
conflict, their opinions range from
those who are willing to give up just
about anything for peace to those
who will agree to nothing but non-
negotiable peace. The one thing that
we agree on is the need to promote
democracy and human rights in the
Middle East. If these values appeal
to you - then work with us.
Dernovskv is the co-chair American
Movementfor Israel.

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I don't care if God
tells you it's wrong
M'ANISH RAIJI NOTHING CATCHY

Activist Manifesto: Divest from Israeli Apartheid

he biblical-
ly-inspired
Spanish
u>~> Inquisition ought to
have convinced the
::- ' ' , world that justify-
{r ing one's actions
through religious
, -channels is
unsound. Since the
horrors of the Inquisition failed, per-
haps the political and philosophical
thought of the Enlightenment and post-
Enlightenment ought to have convinced
the world that justifying one's actions
through religious channels is unsound.
Since political and philosophical
thought has failed, perhaps the presence
of religious theocracies in the Arab
world that breed terrorists ought to have
shown the world that justifying one's
actions through religious channels is
unsound.
Perhaps the next round of political
and philosophical thought will convince
the world that justifying one's actions
through religious channels is unsound.
Pardon me for not holding my breath.
If there's one salient lesson to be
learned from human history - from
Greek child sacrifice to Hindu widow
burning to Islamic veils - it is this:
Whatever good has come from actions
motivated by religion pales in compari-
son to the' egregious offenses afflicted
upon humanity by religion. The bad
outweighs the good - by an incredibly
large margin.
One can argue about the boldness of
that statement, but take the following
example: The American Life League
has recently decided that The Washing-
ton Times caters to "a group of liberal
anti-Catholic bigots," according to
ALL's illustriously uninformed presi-
dent, Judie Brown. The hilarity of this.
statement, as anyone who has read The
Washington Times knows, is that the
newspaper is anything but liberal.
So the question is this: What has
Brown's chastity belt in a tangle?
ALL funded a libelous advertise-
ment in the Times (which can be viewed
at http://www.all.org/news/cffcad.pdf)
which attacked Frances Kissling of
Catholics For a Free Choice. CFFC has
committed the cardinal sin of (brace
yourself) suggesting that there ought to
be condoms in Africa. Condoms and
Catholicism don't mix very well, since
the "go forth and procreate" tenet con-
flicts pretty soundly with the "safe sex
can stop the spread of AIDS" tenet.
Essentially, CFFC is suggesting that
Catholic beliefs are in conflict with
African realities - and therefore, ought
to be scrapped. My religion shouldn't
make you die.
The "sins" of CFFC don't stop
there. They support abortion (on non-
religious grounds), they support stem-
cell research (on non-religious grounds)
- they essentially wave the banner of
Catholics who realize that religious
dogma and political primacy are like
beer before liquor: A really bad idea.
ALL's response has been to martyr
itself on every possible level. Political
martyrdom is nothing new; Cornel West

martyred himself to the white upper
class when Harvard President Lawrence
Summers had the audacity to suggest
that he live up to academic standards,
former President Bill Clinton martyred
himself to the "vast right-wing conspir-
acy" when his blowjobs became a polit-
ical issue and Mumia Abu Jamal
martyred (and continues to martyr)
himself to racism when he killed a
police officer.
But political martyrdom is particu-
larly funny when a conservative majori-
ty, (religious white people) martyr
themselves to "liberal bias" - especial-
ly when the liberal bias comes in the
form of The Washington Times. The
Washington Times!
I ought not even write this column
because of the ridiculousness of these
claims. The Washington Times is rough-
ly as "liberally biased" as Dick "the
heart attack" Cheney. So why does
Judie Brown get so worked up about the
elimination of an uncreative advertise-
ment that calls Frances Kissling "Con-
Dumber." (Get it? Condom ...
Con-dumber ... it's funny!)
The problem is that the abortion
debate (and the larger reproductive free-
doms debate) is being railroaded by
religious dogma. Here's the facts: You
can be opposed to abortion on secular
grounds and (here's the kicker) you can
make a better point if you do so. I, a
non-Christian, don't particularly care if
Jesus thinks abortion is wrong. I, an
American, do care if abortion violates
Constitutional precepts of human rights.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Being religious is a personal thing;
if you want to guide your life by the
words of a carpenter's son turned
prophet or a camel herder turned war-
rior, that's fine. But at least understand
one thing: Just as my religion means
shit to you, your religion means shit to
me. So let's not try to guide our mutual
society by religious precepts that don't
mean anything to everyone.
I'm not being anti-religious per se. I
understand the role of religion in giving
people a philosophical grounding for
their lives. Religious (and atheistic)
beliefs might not stand up to every line
of logical attack, but they are nonethe-
less important in giving people a philo-
sophical basis for their lives.
The key is individualism. If God
tells you that sex before marriage is a
sin, don't have sex before marriage. If
God tells you not to have an abortion,
don't have an abortion. If God tells you
to shave your head and tattoo "The
Ozzman Cometh" on your scalp, shave
your head and tattoo "The Ozzman
Cometh" on your scalp.
, But if you want to convince me,
along with the rest of the world, that
what your God tells you to do is right,
you'll have to convince me, along with
the rest of the world, using secular
means.
Because your God means shit to me,
and my God means shit to you.

BY FADI KIBLAWI
Back in 1983, the Board of Regents at the University of Michigan voted
to divest the University's financial interests in "the system of Apartheid and
the oppressive practices of" South Africa. In being one of the first institu-
tion5s to end its financial connections to South Africa and companies doing
business with it, Michigan pioneered the anti-Apartheid divestment move-
ment that swept the nation. In the years following, over 100 Universities
followed suit, eventually resulting in Congress, which had for the past 40
years legitimized the apartheid government, finally passing an anti-
Apartheid bill in 1986, severing their ties.
Cradled with numerous student organizations and leaders, Ann Arbor
continues to offer incoming students a unique progressive platform geared
towards social change. From anti-sweatshop labor to civil rights, move-
ments on this campus continue to inspire critical engagement of a troubling
status quo, while delivering hundreds of well-rounded graduates into the
real world.
With the abundance of student organizations on this campus, you, as
incoming freshman, have great prospects afforded to you. In 1979, an
incoming class, just like yours, was given these same opportunities and they
took advantage of them. They turned a castle in the sky, the seemingly
impossible task of ending decades of Congressional and complacent public
support of South Africa's Apartheid regime, into a reality. In the last month
of their graduating year, their regents, with a 6-2 vote, divested from South
Africa.
Today, an almost identical movement is being shaped at the University
of Michigan. A growing number of conscientious students are demanding
that the University divest their financial interests from Israel. This move-
ment has turned many heads recently, with public support from anti-
Apartheid activist and South African Jewish leader Ronnie Kasrils, as well
as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In an article published in July, Tutu pro-
claimed, "If Apartheid ended, so can the [Israeli] occupation, but the moral
force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The cur-
rent divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary
move in that direction."
Kasrils and Tutu, as well as Nelson Mandela and countless other South
Africans, have all noted the uncanny resemblance of Israel's occupation of
Palestine to South Africa's Apartheid. The system of de facto and de jure
racial segregation that officially shaped South Africa's political and social
structure throughout most of the 20th century was defined by the delin-
eation of one race from another in the domestic policies of the state. Blacks
were refused the right to vote, prohibited from most public political, eco-
nomic and social sectors and subjugated to a barrage of stringent laws and
regulations; all with the intent of maintaining white domination while
extending racial separation.
While there are numerous distinctions between the South African
Apartheid and Israel's, the defining characteristics are prevalent in both. It
should be noted here that Apartheid is not the only reason the University
should divest from Israel (surely we cannot ignore the defiance of interna-
tional law and human rights, making Israel the most frequent violator of
UN resolutions).
This movement is confronted by a wave of skepticism, mostly from
American Jewish organizations, denying the comparison. However, these
cries lack factual basis, avoid addressing the defining characteristics of
Israeli Apartheid, or imply racial inferiority in their vilification of the
Palestinian people.
The most common argument that attempts to differentiate between
Israeli policies and those of the South African Apartheid government is that
the former is a democracy whereas the latter denied blacks the right to vote.
This argument holds no weight, as while it is true that Israel's Arab citizens
do have the right to vote, 3.6 million Palestinians in the occupied West
Bank and Gaza live under Israeli jurisdiction, yet are denied this right, in
what is effectively "taxation without representation."
The nrevinu argnment is one of many that attempt to sunort Israel's

expropriation of land, house demolitions and construction of Jewish-only
settlements and roads, the Palestinian population has been isolated into lit-
tle cantons, identical to the Bantustans of Apartheid South Africa in
attempts to strip them of their political identity. Just as the 10 "homelands"
of South Africa were given nominal self-determination, so too were the
Palestinians within their Bantustans.
From an Israeli perspective, official governmental maps delineate the
borders of the state as including the occupied territories of the West Bank,
Gaza and the Golan Heights, which the international community rejects.
'This signifies an Israeli recognition of the fact that they are controlling the
land and the 4.6 million Palestinians within their borders, denying more
than 80 percent of them the right to vote and freedom to move. Somehow
we are expected to ignore these facts with unqualified assertions of Israeli
democracy, which is often used to justify Israeli actions no matter how
egregious.
On top of this, Israeli claims that they are fighting a war on terrorism or
ensuring their national security detract attention from the real problem,
being the domination of one group (the Jews) over another (the Palestini-
ans). These assertions show an uncanny resemblance to the same rhetoric
that was used by the white, racist Apartheid government of South Africa in
their attempts to maintain power. In both cases, the arguments attempt to
demonize an entire native population by using guilt by association. They
make generalizations about a whole group based on the actions of minority
extremist. As the South African example has taught us, nothing can justify
Apartheid or excuse inequality along ethno-religious lines for the sake of
religious or racial ultra-nationalism of one sector of the population.
The facts show clearly and undeniably that Israel's political dynamics
have resulted-in a segregation and separation of ethnic and religious classes,
and a subjugation of non-Jews to both an internal and settler colonization.
Until we tackle this problem, the Palestinian people, who have proven over
the past 54 years to be resilient in the face of oppression and injustice, will
continue their struggle, and violence will continue to drain the region.
The question that faced the class of 1983, and remains for you is
whether or not you, as students, would like to help change the world. In
1979, this was no question for the incoming class, as their resounding con-
viction upended the South African apartheid regime. It is up to you to con-
tinue the U's traditions through enforcing our fundamental values of
freedom and equality in our financial portfolio, and urging our regents to
divest from Israeli apartheid.
Kiblawi is President ofArab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Co-
Chair of the Minority Affairs Commission and Co-Founder of Students Allied for
Freedom and Equality

Manish Rayi can be reached via
e-mail at mrayi@umich.edu.

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