After the resolution on divestment from Israel failed in the ASSU Senate last week following a heated debate, I wrote to The Stanford Daily with criticism of the resolution and the polarization it caused. I asked the senators to replace this inflammatory approach with a broad and reasoned dialogue. This week, with little public notice or debate, the Senate voted again, passing the resolution when no one was looking. They rejected dialogue.
Granted, this version had two amendments. The first declared the Stanford action independent of the globally coordinated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement spearheaded by Omar Barghouti. That disclaimer will hardly be noted by the media or by the BDS movement, which will thank Stanford students for joining. The second acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, a claim that is contradicted by the delegitimization inherent in the resolution. And no country’s existence should depend on the good graces of the ASSU Senate.
No amendment addressed the fundamental fault of the resolution: Although it claims to focus neutrally on human rights, it repeatedly criminalizes Israeli actions by stretching, fabricating and stripping them of context; on the other hand, Palestinian violations, no matter how blatant, are ignored.
The references to last summer’s Gaza war provide a clear example of this blindness. Hamas rockets started the war; by its end, they’d fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and towns. They launched these rockets from residential areas and schoolyards, stored them in mosques and schools and ran the operation from headquarters in the basement of Gaza’s largest hospital.
The resolution’s proponents acknowledged that Israel, like other countries, has a right to self-defense. But they insisted that Gaza’s casualties were proof of war crimes. Really? My father navigated bombers from England to targets in Nazi Germany. No one from the base in England telephoned Berlin beforehand to warn residents to take shelter. His plane did not drop warning leaflets on Dresden in the massive raid 70 years ago this week, nor did it drop a small bomb on a roof in Hamburg to give a minute’s warning before the larger one. Last summer, Israel’s air force warned Gaza’s civilians in all these ways, the only air force ever to do so. Combined with precision guidance, the result was that over half the dead were Hamas fighters — also a first for any urban bombing campaign. British Colonel Richard Kemp reports on this with a trained military eye. It is tragic that many civilians died, and certainly targeting mistakes were made in the fog of war, but Hamas started this war, and war has consequences.
If the resolution’s advocates find bombing unacceptable for self-defense, what about ground forces? Hamas used vast amounts of concrete and forced labor to build a labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza to transport and protect rockets. Other tunnels went under the border, exiting next to farms and kindergartens so that civilians could be killed and kidnapped. To destroy the tunnels, Israeli soldiers searched house to house under dense urban areas to find the entrances, while dealing with snipers and booby traps. This crossfire was more dangerous for civilians than the bombing.
So if defense by air and by land is ruled out, and if naval bombardment is even less precise than from the air, what’s left? Perhaps missile defense? But Raytheon, which partnered with Israel’s Rafael in building the Iron Dome rocket interceptors, is on the divestment crew’s list of evil firms. Don’t even think about it.
It appears that the only Israeli defense the resolution’s proponents might accept is hiding in shelters. At least Israel has a network of sirens and shelters, giving residents near Gaza 15 seconds to run for cover, dozens of times a day. Israel’s building code requires a rocket-proof room in every new house or apartment. Think about that. Our building code specifies the strength of walls and roofs and proper plumbing and wiring. So does Israel’s. But it also insists on a room built to withstand attacks by bombs, rockets and gas warfare. That’s not because the neighbors are nice. Hamas built no shelters in Gaza, only tunnels to protect its fighters and rockets. Civilians are left exposed to return fire after rocket launches.
The ASSU Senate represents you, the students who are reading this article. With this one-sided condemnation, the Senate has legitimized Hamas and its attacks on civilians while cynically rejecting any real self-defense by Israel, all in your name. I’m no student — I’ve been carefully monitoring events in this region for some 40 years longer than any of the senators — but you are, and you have a voice and a vote. The ASSU election is coming. If some of these senators don’t represent you, vote for a better slate.
Dr. Alan S. Fisher, Accelerator Physics and Engineering, SLAC, Stanford University
Contact Alan Fisher at afisher ‘at’ slac.stanford.edu.