Taking Action for Palestine

By Jonathan Katz

Two weeks into his term, Barack Obama clinched his “peace” prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” notably, the Muslim world. What were Obama’s overtures? Many cite his “Cairo speech” in which he called for a freeze in Israeli settlement building. I feel, however, that Obama’s words don’t amount to much and it seems neither does the Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak, who recently approved the construction of 455 new settlement houses. This week in Palestine, we saw the regular laundry list of gross violations of law, justice and humanity. The 420th Palestinian home was bulldozed because of “proper permit” problems. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, released a report on the military detention of 355 civilians, but don’t worry, the IDF assures us that “the vast majority of cases, the individual is held in administrative detention for no longer than two years”-that is, two years of not knowing what the evidence is against them (in “administrative detention” cases, evidence is not shown to the accused to protect “military secrets”. how odd). Several Olive Grove owners arrived on their farms in the morning only to learn that, due to shifting security barriers, they no longer had the proper permits to access their land.

What is the likelihood any of these events being denounced by the new prizewinner? None. If the ongoing repression, economic and physical isolation, and slow-motion destruction of Palestinian people are not troubling to our president, it certainly should be troubling to us.

Macalester has long touted its purpose to be a community that values “the diverse cultures of our world” and purports that its students should “be prepared to take responsibility for their personal, social and intellectual choices.” I ask, then, why is our college so willing to remain silent at the continued violence against Palestinians?

If the mantra of political movements of our generation is “think global, act local,” then what can Macalester do to “take responsibility” for protecting the “diverse cultures” it announces its appreciation for? What investments, financial, political and otherwise, does Macalester have in the Israeli State? This is not a conflict perpetuated by the violence of two equal sides; this is the step-by-step disintegration of Palestinian people, economy and territory. Our silence can be tolerated no longer.

Jonathan Katz ’10 can be reached at [email protected]