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September 02, 2003 - Image 31

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2003 - 9B

'U' should divest from Israeli apartheid

Idea of 'Iraeli Apartheid' a reduction

magine that in 2002, a small
group of Muslims decides for
one reason or another that they
want to take back southern Spain, the
lands which were once conquered by
the Islamic Empire some 1250 years
ago and establish a Muslim-only
state. The groups believes that they
are the rightful owners of tha.
since at one point in history Mus.
had established a flourishing empire
in that area. And so, this group, with
the support of a superpower, say, the
United States, violently takes back
Andalusia, killing thousandrf
Spaniards and making refugees.;ut
of millions.
But this group is not content.
They want more. Against the will of
the world, with the exception of the
US, its main backer, these Muslims
continue their push through the rest
of Spain, through Madrid, all the way
up to the French border, eventually
taking over the entire nation. All
native Spaniards are either expelled
or become subjects of this new Mus-
lim state, where they are forced to
live in sub-human conditions, in
refugee camps or in isolated and
impoverished towns once of beauty
and splendor, but since suffocated by
the Muslim rule. Of course, the
Spaniards fight back - and who

wouldn't, but the Muslims call this
fighting back terrorism, justifiably so
if one neglects the context, and retali-
ate by demolishing entire blocks in
Spanish towns, striking civilian areas
with the latest war machines, arrest-
ing thousands, and barring all the
original Spanish inhabitants the right
to travel from town to town, and even
imposing 24-hour curfews which last
weeks on end.

the United States' misplaced support.
Had the analogy described above
occurred in reality, the international
community would be up in arms, and
rightfully so, against those hypotheti-
cal Muslim invaders.
Unfortunately the reality which is
before us is that Israel is still guaran-
teed a green light to continue its bru-
tal policies against the Palestinian
people. What can be done then? A
message must be sent to the Israeli
government, as well as our govern-
ment, that all countries must be held
equally accountable for their actions.
Because of its blatant disregard for
human rights and international law,
and the ineffectiveness of the United
Nations, Israel's brutal policies
against the Palestinians must be com-
bated at the grass-roots level, via such
actions as divestment.
By withdrawing all monetary sup-
port from Israeli investments, this
University can send this message. This
community has proven in the past its
dedication to the upholding of basic
human rights, as demonstrated by the
divestment movement against South
African apartheid in the 1980s. It is
time once again for the community to
take a stance Against the apartheid-like
practices of the Israeli government
against the Palestinian people.
Husseini is the vice president of theArab-
American Anti-Discrimination Committee

It is difficult to know where to
begin refuting the insidious, not-ter-
ribly-well-conceived parallels
invoked by Salah Husseini's editorial
piece from September 16. To anyone
familiar with the history and content
of the Apartheid regime in South
Africa, a direct comparison between
it and Israeli occupation of the W t
Bank immediately sticks out ainane
and inapposite. Unfortunately, in a
world of catch phrases and over sim-
plification, it seems that the talis-
manic repetition of such a
provocative word, even when com-
pletely divorced from its meaning
and context carries with it a great.
deal of power. Many proin ent
members of the University cNmwu'
nity have made the irresponsible and
selfish decision to choose incitement
over oration, propaganda over infor-
mation and unproductive, factually
inaccurate renditions of history over
thoughtful, level dialogue. This
thinking and these postures keep
pushing progress and peace to the
edges of our collective imagination.
I need look no further for evidence
of this depressing trend than to Hus-
seini's piece. Husseini asks us to com-
pare the Jews in the State of Israel to a
hypothetical raiding party, leaving
some (pray tell, where?) homeland

with the purpose of overruning a
native population (viz., the Palestini-
ans). While this hypothetical invasion
bears striking resemblance to the his-
torical injustices perpetrated by Euro-
pean imperialists upon native
populations the world round, it has no
bearing on Israel unless you believe
that Jews have neither a historical nor
legal right to existence within any bor-

Palestinian populace. No one should
have to suffer as the Palestinians have.
The settlement policy, especially since
the early '80s and especially in Gaza
and Hebron is, in my opinion foolish
and wrong. These feelings do not,
however, beg Husseini's conclusion
that Israel's existence is an affront to
the order of things, nor does it change
the fact that the vast majority of
aelis would, if given the chance,
brace a peaceful Palestinian State
t door (I say that with full under-
st~nding of what current Israeli opin-
ion polls say ... these are the products
of a country at war. I also don't really
believe the Palestinian polls at the
moment reflect the genuine opinion of
that population. Take a look at domes-
polls right now and you could
1sely conclude that Americans don't
care for their own civil liberties).
I am greatly saddened by the at
best obtuse and at worst hateful rami-
fications of cheap and easy political
reductions of a situation that is both
unique in history and profoundly
morally gray. I sincerely hope, mem-
bers of the University community, that
you are not won over by invective
from either side and that you take a
hard look at the last 54 years before
you decide where you stand. Let's
foster a little bit of understanding.
Dobbs is a Law student.

the fact that this analogy is quite clear
as to whom it refers to, it sounds
impossible if one keeps the names in
place as they are above.
But unfortunately, this has been the
reality in the Middle East. Because of
its blind support by our government,
Israel has been able to get away with
great injustices for the last 54 years.
While we dub Iraq's refusal of United
Nations inspectors into that country
an action worthy of war, we fail to dis-
cuss the fact that Israel is currently in
violation of more than 70 United
Nations resolutions. And it has been
able to get away with this because of

ence to its actual meaning) to damn
Israel but seems to take no stock in the
fact that Israel was created by a clear,
unequivocal act of international law
that was not respected by its neigh-
bors. In violation of international law,
those neighbors perpetrated four wars
of aggression against the new nation.
Now, I am, as far as Israeli politics
are concerned, to the left of center. I
do believe that a great number of
Israeli policies are ill-conceived and
along with hostile neighbors and inept
Palestinian leadership have resulted in
intolerably bad conditions for the

Divestment conference not
about divestment
f you haven't heard about it, you haven't been paying attention,
and believe me, I am truly jealous of you.
But if you do know about it, you know it's controversial. The
Second National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity
Movement came to the University from Oct. 12-14 - happily over
fall break. From here on out I'll call it by what it is (the long and
sloppy official name is just for show anyway), the Divestment Con-
ference. If you disagree with my inference, tell the organizers -
you can find their contact info at wwwdivestmentconference.com.
What you can't find in the mission statement at divestmentconference.com, howev-
er, is a single mention of the word "peace."
This conference has already received a slight nod from the national media; it
was mentioned in, among other outlets, last week's issue of Time. When it hap-
pens, people will pay attention.
Argument about whether a conference like this should be allowed to take place at this
University is silly and irrelevant; it's going to happen. It should. We should be happy to
have it here; we should be especially happy to have a thriving Hillel and a vibrant Jewish
community that can organize a wonderful and intellectual schedule of events in reaction to
it. If there's going to be dialogue, let it happen at Michigan. Let it happen at a school
where everyone has an opinion and there is a means to express it.
The concept of divestment itself is not inherently anti-Semitic (we all know that
anti-Semitic means anti-Jewish, so let's not start any useless semantic debate). We
divested from South Africa, yes, and the idea of divesting from Israel is on the table so,
again, yes - let's talk about it. The problem with divestment is when the concept ceases
to exist individually. Divestment is a means of economic pressure - in South Africa,
economic pressure was a tool for political change. When it comes to Israel, however,
divestment advocates' motives become suspicious when they don't see divestment as
being about economics, but instead about the permanent destruction and vilification of
a country. Their motives become suspicious when not one speaker at a conference about
divestment is addressing economics.
The framework of this conference comes with exactly the kind of nasty baggage that
people (take Larry Summers, the president of Harvard or the Anti-Defamation League,
for example) have been worried about.
Some of those who are organizing the conference are truly engaging, intellectual
and compassionate activists. However, whether these people are aware of it, there is lan-
guage in the conference's mission statement that is ugly and wrong. The conference
"condemns the racism and discrimination inherent in Zionism." Herein lays the prob-
lem. If racism and discrimination are inherent in - inextricable from - Zionism, an
elementary transitive approach could reconfigure this statement to say that the confer-
ence condemns Zionism. Merriam Webster defines Zionism as "An international move-
ment originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in
Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel." Condemnation of Zionism is gen-
eral condemnation of the State of Israel. And once again, whether the organizers know
it, the connection here to anti-Semitism is not so abstract, not so far-fetched.
If this conference is about anti-Zionism, then, it's also not about ending the occupa-
tion. The occupation should end. A lot of Israelis, a lot of Jews (the two groups are not
the same) agree. If this conference is about anti-Zionism, it's about reversing the
"Naqba' it's about not wanting there to be a State of Israel at all. To some, then, of the
organizers, - I assure you not all - this conference is not even about divestment. They
know that the University is not going to divest.
The conference is, instead, intended to shift the set of assumptions that the common
person not so up on the politics of the Middle East has. When someone presents me
with the statement "Israel is apartheid; we should divest," it's easy for me to miss that
there are two components of this statement that I need to challenge. I'll consider
whether we should divest, but now I'll simply assume that the situation in Israel is com-
parable to apartheid. My internal suppositions will have therefore adjusted through text-
book rhetorical strategy. You have to hand it to these people; it's a pretty smart strategy.
"Divestment may be only a fall fad on college campuses, but it's political nitroglyc-
erin," wrote John Alter in his Oct. 7 Newsweek column. He believes that it undermines
work toward a two-state solution. I agree with him. Maybe I'll be less cynical when I
see a divestment conference talking about - just to stay in the neighborhood - the
Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Or maybe I'll be less cynical when the word "peace"
finally appears on that website.
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