Posted by: University of Mississippi | April 13, 2009

DM Column Published Today

This column was published in the DM today:

Guidance on Israel and Palestine


The Israeli Arms Divestment campaign has brought a new source of controversy to the Ole Miss campus, finding many students unprepared.

In the shouting match over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it can be difficult to figure out whose arguments are more credible than others. Even tenured university professors have been known to quarrel vigorously when debating this issue.

So who are we to hold opinions of our own? After all, very few of us have been to Israel, Gaza or the West Bank, and most of us are far from Middle East experts. However, it should not be considered unreasonable to make an opinion on the basis of credible evidence and the counsel of experts.

So where do we turn for guidance? I suggest we look to the most informed individuals who are relatively unaffected by the conflict itself. Of course, their claims should be verified with reliable statistics and reasoned logic.

A good place to start is the United Nations. The UN General Assembly contains all 192 member countries of the UN. Regarding the controversial “Separation Wall” under construction in Occupied Palestine, the GA has passed three principal resolutions.

The first resolution passed with a vote of 144-4, the second, 90-8, and the third, 150-6. Each resolution calls for Israel to cease construction of the wall, under the premise that the wall is a tactic of illegal annexation of Palestinian land.

Each resolution emphasizes the afflictions that the wall imposes upon the Palestinian people. The international consensus is that the wall impedes the efforts toward a peaceful solution to the conflict.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice pronounced the wall illegal and demanded the Israeli government dismantle it.

The 14-1 decision declared the wall to be a method of “de facto annexation,” illegal under international law. Yet, the Israeli government continues to construct the Separation Wall in occupied Palestinian territory.

Credible evidence concerning human rights violations can be found in the thorough reports from international human rights organizations.

Two of the largest and most respected human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have found Israel’s occupation of the West Bank to be in consistent violation of human rights laws.

Amnesty International released a 2007 statement on the occupation, finding that, “[the Separation Wall] is causing massive long-term damage to Palestinian life and is undermining the ability of those living in dozens of villages and communities to realize a wide range of their human rights.”

The report urges the Israeli government to cease construction of the wall and, “stop immediately the destruction of houses, land and other properties without absolute military necessity as prescribed by international humanitarian law.”

If peace in the Middle East is our ultimate goal, another constructive source of evidence is the position of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

Some of the most well-known individuals in this exclusive group— including Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mariad Maguire and Jimmy Carter — have all spoken out against the occupation of the West Bank, and commonly refer to the region as an “apartheid” society.

In 2001, Nelson Mandela declared: “Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”

Reliable statistics should also be taken into account. Since the “Six Day War” of 1967, 18,147 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israelis; 0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians.

Since the “Second Intifada” began in September of 2000, six times more Palestinian civilians, and twelve times more children, have been killed than their Israeli counterparts.

Maps of Palestinian and Israeli territory since 1949 reveal the continual annexation of Palestinian land by the Israeli government. These appropriations are considered illegal by nearly every country in the world, as expressed more than 100 times by the UN General Assembly.

Israel, one of the thirty wealthiest nations in the world, receives more foreign aid from the U.S. than any other country in the world.

President Obama is expected to uphold the commitment of $30 billion in foreign aid to Israel over the next few years, despite the global recession crippling the U.S. economy. Why? Mainly, the “Israel Lobby” is the strongest foreign lobby in D.C.

I encourage you to learn more about this conflict from the most credible sources you can find. Instead of stubbornly defending the status quo or the judgments of your peers, address the issue with sincere intentions and an open mind.

Also, remember that this is not a fight against any group of people, this is a fight against government instituted discrimination and oppression.

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