April 7, 2019

GUEST ROOM | A Rocket Hit My House. Now BDS Wants Me Out.

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In January 2009, a long-range missile from Gaza was fired into Israel. This has been a common occurrence ever since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. As a child, I was taught at school to immediately run to a bomb shelter if sirens go off, so I did that.

I was home alone in my room and quickly ran to the shelter we had in our house. It was 9:30 a.m. Normally, I would stay in the shelter and wait for the sirens to stop, as rockets rarely reached my town of Gedera. Unfortunately, this day was different. A mere two seconds after I entered the shelter, I heard a loud boom, and felt my home collapse. After leaving the shelter, I saw the rocket had hit my bedroom and killed my dog Rosie. I was only 12 years old.

The story of my home in Gedera is not unique. It resonates with tens of thousands of Israelis who have been under a constant threat of rockets from Gaza over the past 18 years. According to the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, 40 percent of the children in the Israeli border town of Sderot suffer from PTSD. This is what happens when, at any moment, you could be given only 15 seconds to run for shelter. The rockets often come unprovoked, as we witnessed as recently as two weeks ago: A long-range missile was launched from Gaza and flew over Tel Aviv, hitting the community of Mishmeret and wounding seven Israeli civilians.

But rockets are not the only threat from Gaza. In 2018, hundreds of hectares of Israeli fields were burned in the area surrounding Gaza because of burning kites and explosive balloons released from Gaza. In the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip, where 1.8 million Palestinians are crammed into 140 square miles and unemployment is over 50 percent, Hamas brags about having a tunnel system twice as large as the Viet Cong. Hamas is said to have spent between $30 million and $90 million and used 600,000 tons of concrete to build these tunnels. In 2006, Hamas used the tunnels to kidnap the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In July 2014, Hamas militants used a tunnel to prepare an ambush in the fields of Kibbutz Nir-Am, but the Israel Defense Forces stopped them.

These examples are not meant to compare suffering with suffering, or military might with military might — a framing the BDS movement relentlessly tries to push. The people of Palestine are suffering, and deserve a chance at a peaceful life with dignity. They need a country, but it doesn’t have to replace our own.

In fact, both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have consistently embraced a two-state solution, with supporters ranging from Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to many of Israel’s prime ministers including Rabin, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu. In 2008, an agreement seemed closer than ever when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Chairman Abbas a deal in which a Palestinian state would be built on 93.7 percent of Israeli territories, with an extra 5.8 percent based on land swaps. According to this deal, the holy places would have been under international control. Abbas admits to have rejected the deal.

The reality is not easy for both sides. On the Israeli side, we live in fear of rocket attacks, suicide bombers and stabbing attacks. On the Palestinian side, the civilians are living under Hamas rule dealing with poverty and population density while the Palestinians in the West Bank are living with the presence of the Israel Defense Forces. Their society is plagued by a corrupt Palestinian government and relentless terrorist groups. This is not the life either side should be living, and will not be if a two-state solution is achieved. This has led to some parts of the radical left to embrace the BDS effort, an effort to delegitimize and strong-arm Israel into losing its identity as a Jewish state.

Here at Cornell, the voices supporting BDS are getting more extreme. A letter full of inflammatory rhetoric was sent to President Pollack, while an aggressive campaign launched to pass a divestment resolution in the Student Assembly. This campaign is making Jewish students here on campus feel unsafe and unwelcome. It also contained crucial historical inaccuracies, like the statement in SJP’s teach-in that the Arabs accepted the 1947 UN partition plan supporting two states.

As an Israeli citizen who has paid the price of violence, and as a Cornell student cognizant of the civil and human rights of the Palestinians, I plead you: Stop this extreme, one-sided and violent attempt at delegitimizing me and my country. Promote genuine dialogue that will lead to a real improvement in the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t fall for the shallow rhetoric of the BDS movement, which takes one of the most complex geopolitical mazes in history and forces it into the unfitting settler-colonial narrative. Because down the line, this effort will only serve to demonize, harass and bully my friends and me. It will not get the Palestinians an inch closer to a life with dignity, simply because it does not support the one crucial ingredient in any future solution: dialogue.

Shir Kidron is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Guest Room runs periodically this semester. Comments may be sent to [email protected]