Defending Israeli Apartheid Week: A voice for justice

By Kellie Crescenti, Sarah Berman & Hanah Evans

A few weeks ago in March, MacSUPER (Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights) set up a tarp under the Link in order to observe Israeli Apartheid Week. The wall was decorated with facts, quotes and artwork and was set up in a conspicuous place in order to force Macalester students to alter their route to classes, a mere taste of the daily difficulties Palestinians face every day. SUPER would like to address some misunderstandings about the week that we feel have lingered and need to be clarified. An opinion piece in the March 9 issue of The Mac Weekly articulated disappointment in SUPER’s methods and message. It expressed a love for Israel and urged readers to sympathize with that love. In SUPER we feel that love and criticism are not mutually exclusive. We represent a diverse set of views; there are people in SUPER who care deeply for Israel and Israelis. We should not paint criticism as somehow dangerous, wrong or biased. It is a grievous mistake to forget this and grant validity to one voice over another. Any healthy conversation, especially about Israel-Palestine, can’t survive on open-mindedness alone. The article critiquing Israeli Apartheid Week claimed that it was a “confrontational presentation of the issue without any context or nuance” and that it stifled dialogue by isolation. We in turn want to stress that this international form of nonviolent resistance is a very important voice that adds a nuanced voice to the conflict. Thus, trivializing Israeli Apartheid Week as “without context” is disrespecting and delegitimizing a very prominent voice in Israeli-Palestinian discourse. The Palestinian community has a long tradition of nonviolent resistance that is often deemed less newsworthy than violent resistance by the American media. This includes Palestinians rebuilding their homes after they have been demolished and moving unnecessary Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank. An imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians results in systematic oppression inflicted on all Palestinians regardless of their participation in violent acts. Nonviolent Palestinian resistors recognize that the use of violence will only legitimize “retaliation” from the Israeli government in the eyes of the international community. A good example is the Second Intifada, which resulted in mass suffering for both Israeli and Palestinian families. To paraphrase Mustafa Barghouti, who spoke at the recent J Street conference, the goal of this nonviolent resistance is to draw attention to and eventually upset this imbalance of power. Israeli Apartheid Week is one of the many international initiatives founded by this nonviolent movement. These initiatives are necessary, because without an upset to the imbalance of power no bilateral negotiations can take place. Any dialogue would be fruitless between two unequal parties—for example, the continued expansion of settlements after the 1993 Oslo Accords and subsequent negotiations. There are a number of organizations and individuals that are working to shed light on the current apartheid-like policies inflicted on the Palestinian people. We drew our facts from these organizations for the Apartheid Wall, and we would be happy to direct you to them if you have further questions. SUPER is not alone in pointing out the Israeli government’s current apartheid policies. SUPER members were saddened and frustrated to read that the op-ed writers felt we were acting from a “place of hate.” Instead, we are working to bring justice to the Palestinian people who feel that they are living under an oppressive regime at the hands of the Israeli government. We want to stress: by observing Israeli Apartheid Week we are in no way delegitimizing the right for Jewish-Israelis to exist – in fact, live and prosper – in that region. We are advocating for Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as well. Unfortunately, the current situation does not reflect this vision of equality. The Israeli government does not have the right to destroy Palestinian homes, deny Palestinians freedom of movement and expression, arrest Palestinians into indefinite detention without reason or use violent tactics to suppress the voices of the Palestinian people. Describing our voice as hateful is unproductive, hurtful and inaccurate. refresh –>