The Ferguson Action movement has flourished as a refreshing example of how our generation can successfully organize itself and make its opposition to injustices heard – something that Divestment organizers clearly hope to emulate in surely the best of intentions. But the Ferguson-Palestine narrative is a dangerous line to walk, and Divestment organizers risk not only alienating members of the coalition they have worked so hard to build, but, more importantly, perpetuating an anti-Semitic fiction that affects us all.
ecurity figures prominently in the arguments of those who support maintaining Stanford’s investments in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Two op-eds in the Stanford Daily last quarter, as well as a recent letter to the editor, invoked “thousands of rockets” and even the well-worn “terror tunnels” to justify Israel’s killing of over 2,100 Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge. Security is the rebuttal to efforts to hold Israel accountable for atrocities and violations of international law, like the collective punishment of Gazans or the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank.
How can I, an Israeli whose soul is deeply rooted in Israel, support an act that may lead to harm for myself and my own people? As an Israeli scientist, I may find myself in the obscure situation in which my own funding will be cut off, I will not be able to present at conferences, my parents and friends may greatly suffer from the situation. Supporting the BDS movement should therefore be pursued only with the assumption that this is a necessary stage in ending the destructive situation in Israel.
Activists are right to point out problems with the occupation, but failing to discuss the origin of these issues and trying to act as if this conflict is black and white is a disservice to intelligent Stanford students who are trying to understand this very complex conflict.
Divestment weakens the multinational corporations which provide the infrastructure for and profit off of this occupation, making a genuine peace – a just peace – more possible. Make no mistake: as was the case in South Africa, history is marching forward. Now is the time to decide whether or not this institution will be on its right side.
We are concerned, however, that the conversation erased moderate voices that acknowledge both Israeli and Palestinian histories and rights to self-determination, and did an intellectual disservice to those in the audience by framing a multifaceted issue as a binary of right and wrong. The debate failed to meet the standard of critical dialogue and meaningful education befitting an institution like Stanford.
No amount of dialogue and dreaming is going to influence well entrenched systems of oppression thousands of miles away. And therein lies the reason why Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine is a force for good on campus. They’ll actually do something about the occupation and illegal settlement expansions by getting students and faculty to actively organize, by getting this enormous machine we call Stanford up and operating such that really positive, world-level change may some day soon be possible and may even occur.
When I was 15, I helped one of the Israeli families move out of their home in Gaza. I assured them that this good gesture would bring us closer to peace. But, instead, what followed since then were thousands of rockets being fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip. I realize I was wrong. Shouting for unilateral actions without striving towards dialogue will not lead to a peaceful coexistence. I wish that the Palestinian people will gain independence soon, but to achieve this goal we should put our efforts into promoting a dialogue, not divestment.