Every May, the Muslim Student Union (MSU), with the support of many progressive and diverse student organizations, presents a week-long series of events dedicated to sharing the story of a people subjected to 62 years of statelessness and oppression. Because the mainstream media rarely portrays the plight of the average Palestinian living under occupation and the violence of the occupying state of Israel, bringing awareness to the conflict is achieved through extensive activism for all those denied their human rights. Yet every May, support of the Palestinians has drawn criticism, ranging from mild reprimands to baseless accusations, which deem the week “highly controversial.”
However, it seems that the only reason it is “controversial” is because it criticizes Israel. This week has been called everything from “Hate Week” to Anti-Semitic, and the conflict has been portrayed as an argument between two sides, which are equal in nature; that is not the case.
This week’s events, entitled, “Israeli Apartheid Week: A Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction,” call attention to the inhumane and illegal occupation by Israel and emphasize that it should be internationally resisted with the same strategies that helped end the apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid is the denial of legal rights to one group of people, usually indigenous, for the purpose of ensuring the dominance of another group. South African apartheid was defeated by the efforts of people of conscience through boycott, divestment from and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state. Similarly, the grass roots BDS movement today can pressure Israel to end its apartheid policies.
Israel has violated more than 101 UN Resolutions since its inception on May 14, 1948. It has been condemned by, and refuses to comply with, the UN Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during its recent siege on Gaza, which left 1400 people dead, most of whom were women and children. Israel implements its apartheid with the continuous establishment of Jewish-only settlements in occupied territories, a move criticized by President Obama, and with the construction of a wall that cuts through the West Bank, dividing the area in a manner similar to the Bantustans of South Africa. Furthermore, Israel has placed the Gaza Strip under a continuous land, air, and sea blockade, hindering the passage of food, medical aid and other basic necessities of life. It is clear that Israel aims to separate and isolate the Palestinians from each other and the rest of humanity.
But you do not have to take my word for it, and in fact you probably should not. That is why you should expose yourself to the perspective on the issue that is rarely publicized. Speakers this week include Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor and peace activist; Dr. Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer from UC Berkeley; Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of two Holocaust survivors and renowned scholar who was denied tenure because of his criticisms of Israel; Allison Weir, an activist and the founder of IfAmericansKnew.org; Dr. William Robinson, a professor of Sociology at UC Santa Barbara who was almost denied tenure after comparing photos of the Gaza massacre with the Holocaust; Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a community activist based out of Oakland; and Omar Shakir, a BDS activist.
Come with an open mind, do your own research and, more importantly, resolve to take action to help end this humanitarian crisis. To enclose the issue into political rhetoric and campus politics undermines the tragedies that the Palestinians endure. There are hundreds of people who are suffering and dying, and getting lost in the politics will not help them achieve the peace and justice that they, and every human being, deserve. Come learn for yourself, and then you can be the judge of whether or not this issue is as controversial as some would like us to believe.
Aminah Galal is fourth-year history major and a member of the Muslim Student Union. She can be reached at agalal[at]uci.edu.