Two weeks ago, the article ‘Blame the Jews’ written by the self-proclaimed ‘Hawk of Liberty’ ruined my Tuesday.
Were Students for Palestine being simultaneously derided as self-righteous-social-justice-pricks and Hamas-terrorist-sympathisers? Yes, and in the kind of paradoxical label combination that would have the likes of Glenn Beck and his ilk frothing in neo-con[sensus].
Ultimately, the most troubling aspect was that the article’s substance itself articulated little about the dangers of racial stereotyping. In fact, it undermined its own basic premise about the rise of anti-Semitism due to the overwhelming presence of an Anti-Arab/ Islamophobic discourse, which is equally as vile as anti-Semitism. They both dehumanise and justify annihilation. I’m specifically referring to the underlying implicit suggestions that the majority Palestinians are ubiquitous terrorists and are racially predisposed to corruption. How can we honestly take a condemnation of racism as sincere if it is propped up with a barrage of racist notions?
Acclaimed Jewish and Israeli scholars/ writers such as Norman Finkelstein, Avi Shlaim and Antony Loewenstein (who SFP hosted at a speaker event in 2010) have argued that increasingly, the term anti-Semitism is sometimes being misappropriated to silence criticism of Israeli policy and its treatment of Palestinians. Although Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, it is by no means a reflection of a monolithic Jewish people globally all in agreement about its policies and conduct, and it should not claim to be so. People who wish to criticise Israel on the basis of its brutal treatment of Palestinians should be free to do just that.
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In reality, it is evident sometimes that deep-seated anti-Semitism and Islamophobia masquerade as ‘political’ opinion in relation to Israel-Palestine, when in effect, they are nothing more than bigotry. I have seen examples of both of these on campus. Anti-Semitic scribbling in sharpie over the top of anonymously posted Islamophobic posters is symptomatic of this. It was probably the work of one or two independent individuals, but about as helpful for each respective cause as smashing oneself in the face with a brick.
Now then round up, 2011 has been a busy year, especially as we held a solidarity fortnight in August which kicked off with an extremely successful SRC where around 100 students filled a room and passed a motion to affiliate Vic with ‘The Right to Education’ Campaign at BirZeit University in the West Bank, stressing that education is a universal right. We also hosted Dr Nigel Parsons, lecturer of Middle East Politics at Massey University, who presented his own fascinating research on the current situation in the region. We then co-hosted the UNRECOGNISED art exhibition with the creative Concerned Citizens collective to raise awareness of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN.
I’m unashamedly Palestinian, and for me this action is about wanting my cousins to have the kind of futures where siege and occupation do not define their existences. However, other members of SFP are not Palestinians: they are simply people who see it as a worthwhile human cause regardless of their religious or racial proximity. Herein lies the reason why all over the world there are thousands of parallel university groups just like ours working to change the terms of the debate regarding Israel-Palestine. We maintain that there is only one line of division on this subject, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not a line of division between Muslims and Jews. Nor is it a line of division between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a line of division between those who stand for the equality of all, and those who stand for the supremacy of some.
No, the people of Palestine certainly don’t deserve basic rights and freedoms any more than any other group, but they certainly don’t deserve them any less either.