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Op-Ed: Israel is not South Africa

California campuses have again become battlefields in efforts to delegitimize Israel under the guise of human rights. Divestment, which has nothing to do with student government, is simply a wedge to force this agenda into the campus dialog. Its proponents foist all blame for the conflict on one side, using accusations spiced by distortions and historical lapses.

In particular, by lumping Israel together with South Africa and Darfur, the May 7 op-ed by Linda Hess stepped way over the rhetorical line. She wrote about teaching Gandhi’s legacy at a Stanford overseas program in India. But the Palestinian movement she supports seems far Gandhian.

Palestinian mujahedin murdered Israeli Olympic athletes. They have hijacked airplanes, an Israeli school bus, and a cruise ship (throwing wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard). Suicide bombers have blown up an Israeli pizzeria, a disco, a university cafeteria, and a hotel dining room during a Passover dinner. Then the perpetrators are called shahids (martyrs), and have soccer tournaments, schools and squares named in their honor. Students at the West Bank’s An-Najah University even recreated the destroyed pizzeria, complete with fake blood and bodies, as an “art project.”

Fatah, the “moderate” party ruling the West Bank, says in English that it wants peace between two states. But in Arabic its charter still states: “Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.” This is not what Gandhi would have said.

Hamas, ruling Gaza since a coup in which Fatah fighters were thrown from rooftops, has a charter blaming Jews for starting both World Wars. Moreover, “renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion.” No two-state solution here. “Peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement…There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” Their long-term plan cites a Hadith (a saying of Muhammad): “The time [of Resurrection] will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!” This is not “I have a dream.”

Compare either charter with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, on May 14, 1948. Israel promised to “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; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions…We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness.” Five Arab armies invaded the next day.

No country fully lives up to its ideals; Israel, like America, is a work in progress. As a small democracy beset from day one by neighbors calling for its destruction, Israel has always had to put an emphasis on security. But as soon as the leader of one of those neighbors, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, offered peace in 1977, he got the Sinai, something he failed to achieve with his war in 1973. If the Palestinians had a Gandhi instead of an Arafat, they would have had their state years ago.

Alan Fisher
Physicist, SLAC

Barbara Sommer
Associate Professor, Psychiatry

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