February 9, 2014

LETTER: In opposition to the boycott

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To the Editor:

Re: “A Call to Boycott,” Opinion, Feb. 6

It’s an unfortunate phenomenon that a growing number of those who support Palestinian independence are currently leading a hateful anti-Israel boycott, which only makes independence and peace harder to achieve. The boycott also violates basic rights of academic freedom, as President Skorton has repeatedly stated. Emad Masroor offered a defense of this movement in his column last week, portraying it as a correct and effective form of gaining Palestinian rights. In fact, the movement is based on false characterizations of Israel’s history and current policies, and these attacks encourage hate at the expense of peace and independence.

For example, Masroor claims that Israel was, “founded on the ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion of its indigenous people.” In fact, Israel was founded following the General Assembly’s adoption of UN Resolution 181(II), which called for partitioning the land into a Jewish and Palestinian state. Jewish leaders accepted the resolution, while the Palestinian leaders rejected it. Instead, they, and neighboring Arab states attacked Israel, hoping to destroy the Jewish state. Many Palestinians chose to leave and avoid the conflict, and others were forced to leave by Arab armies. Many simply remained in their homes; those individuals and their offspring now make up Israel’s population of two million Palestinian Israelis, who are full citizens of Israel with equal access to all rights including service in the Israel Defense Forces. There were isolated cases in which Jewish forces coerced Palestinians to flee, but there was no mass expulsion.

Masroor characterizes the current situation as apartheid, which is defined as a policy of systemic racial discrimination and denial of rights. In fact, Palestinian humanitarian rights are guaranteed through combined efforts of Israel and the Palestinian authority. Israel reduced the number of West Bank checkpoints from 40 to 13 between 2008 and 2013, such that Palestinians now move with greater ease to anywhere in the West Bank. The separation barrier was unfortunately necessary to stop the onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombings of the second intifada, but it doesn’t restrict normal movement. If Palestinians wish to travel into Israel, they can easily apply for a permit, and the vast majority are quickly approved. This system now allows 83,000 Palestinians to hold regular jobs in Israel proper, and another 20,000 work in settlements. Palestinians receive medical care in their cities, and if this is inadequate, they are transferred into Israel for further care. All Palestinians are entitled to a lawyer and free trial in IDF courts. The IDF allows all regular commodities and goods to be transferred into Gaza. Lastly, the Palestinian Authority denies Palestinians the right to vote for their own leaders, (Abbas is four years past his elected term), not Israel. In short, while the Palestinians certainly deserve full sovereignty and political independence, their current situation is far from being an “open air prison” or apartheid.

There is currently an ongoing peace-process with the goal of reaching a two-state solution. Masroor claims that Israel sabotages this solution, when in fact it has made multiple concrete proposals for the creation of a Palestinian state. On the other hand, when the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and unabashedly encourages a campaign of anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian schools and society, it’s difficult for Israel to envision future Palestine as being anything but a new platform for attacking Israel.

Boycotting Israel is wrong, and only deepens this mistrust. President Abbas himself has spoken out against BDS because he knows that it won’t bring rights or statehood.  Mutual recognition, educating toward peace and making courageous compromises will.

Claire Blumenthal ’14

Ben Horowitz ’14

Rachel Medin ’14