April 14, 2014

GUEST ROOM: Debunking the Case Against Resolution 72

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Resolution 72 was tabled at the Student Assembly on Thursday — yet another example of the ongoing marginalization of Palestinian voices and of any opposition to Israeli policies on Cornell’s campus. By tabling the resolution without giving students the opportunity to present and defend it, the S.A. made it clear that there is no democratic outlet for students to express their opposition to Cornell’s policy of supporting the Israeli occupation. As one of R. 72’s community sponsors, I will address some of the fear-mongering and incendiary claims being leveled against it.

One accusation was that of William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog suggesting that SJP strategically planned the resolution to coincide with Passover as a personal attack against Jewish students. He ignores the reality that Jewish Americans and Israelis were among the writers of the resolution and its advocates at the S.A. on Thursday. The most ironic part of his accusation, however, is that it posits that the Jewish people are a monolithic entity who share just one opinion on the Israeli occupation, which is certainly not the case on Cornell’s campus, in Israel, or anywhere else. The Jewish people are not necessarily responsible for the policies of the state of Israel nor are most Israeli citizens. However, organizations like CIPAC and Hillel shamelessly perpetuate and defend those policies, while also rejecting the voices of Jews who are against the Occupation.

Opponents of the resolution emphasize its ties to the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. They claim that BDS is racist, inflammatory and divisive — that it will alienate Israelis and drive them further from peace. They fail to consider how inflammatory and divisive 47 years of occupation, land grabs and settlement expansion have been for Palestinians living under these conditions. By continuing to expand settlements and dispossess Palestinians, Israel demonstrates that it has no intention of ending the occupation or reaching an agreement that recognizes the humanity of Palestinians and their right to live in peace and security within their own country — a right which they share with their Israeli counterparts, but which is being denied to both parties (to unequal degrees) by the policies of the Israeli state.

As American citizens, many of us lack awareness of what it means to live under a racialized military occupation. Palestinians have restricted freedom of movement as a result of the checkpoint and road system which maintains the contiguity of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank with Israel proper. Palestinians are prevented from building infrastructure and expanding their own communities, and are routinely subjected to home demolitions, the uprooting of olive trees, the confiscation of land by armed and militant Israeli settlers, in addition to humiliation and brutalization by 18-year-old Israeli soldiers who think they’re defending their country.

The idea that the occupation enhances Israeli security is a baseless one.  Increasing evidence that Israel has no intention of changing course is what has historically pushed some bereft and desperate Palestinians to take up armed resistance. Increasingly, however, BDS is presenting itself as an alternative means for Palestinians and their supporters around the world to nonviolently encourage Israel to abide by international law. A similar divestment movement played a crucial role in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa when the government of that country refused to listen to the rest of the world. This is exactly why we should respond to the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS which explicitly asks the international community to boycott, divest and sanction institutions of the Israeli state until it 1) ends the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, 2) grants the refugees’ right of return as stipulated in UN Resolution 194, and 3) recognizes the fundamental right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.

Another charge is that the resolution is not relevant to the S.A. because it asks Cornell to take a political stance on a divisive issue. The truth is that Cornell has already been taking a political stance for the last 47 years by investing in corporations that are perpetuating the occupation. Ingersoll-Rand, for example, “creates and produces the technology used at Israeli checkpoints across the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” as stated in Resolution 72. As students at Cornell, we are complicit in our university’s investment in the Israeli occupation. The resolution simply asks Cornell to end that complicity by divesting from these companies.

Some opponents of Resolution 72 have also argued that we should encourage investment in Palestinian companies instead of divestment from companies that profit from Israeli occupation. While I certainly appreciate the good intentions behind these suggestions, the problem is that 47 years of destructive military occupation fraught with land confiscations, home demolitions, the burning of farms, the destruction of roads, and the exploitation of natural resources have ensured that there is no viable economic infrastructure in Palestine to invest in.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the points I’ve made here, students have the right to raise these concerns before their Student Assembly. By denying us the right to challenge the university’s already political stance on the occupation, the S.A. has delegitimized itself as a representative body of students at Cornell. I am not demanding that the S.A. vote yes on the resolution; I am demanding that it give us an opportunity to discuss it openly and freely in a democratic setting.

Abu Yusif Habib is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.  He can be reached at c[email protected]. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.