As I write this, news emerges that Hana Shalabi has ended her 44-day hunger strike, only to be deported to Gaza. Hana is one of hundreds of Palestinians who were kidnapped and placed in Israeli prison with no charge and no trial.
Nelson Mandela’s famous saying is fitting: “Only free people can negotiate.”
J Street’s official vision of an ethnocratic Israel and demilitarized Palestinian Bantustans can only be accomplished by upholding the status quo of legally implemented racial discrimination and further ethnic cleansing. J Street’s approach is akin to the “white moderate” that MLK refers to in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail.
A just solution to any conflict is not in the “middle-ground” when the situation involves such drastic inequalities in power and privilege. In Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), we are pro-justice before anything else, and justice by nature includes all people.
The crime of apartheid: “inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
Racial discrimination: “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
That said, apartheid is a reality both inside and outside the Green Line. Israel has over 30 laws that discriminate against its Palestinian Arab citizens. I refer you to Sefer Ha-Chukkim or a convenient list of apartheid laws at IsraeliCivilRights.org.
As for Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories, we must ask: What kind of democracy controls the water, land, ports, borders, electricity, airspace, building permits/rights, movement, airwaves, zoning laws, tenant laws, agriculture laws and economic imports/exports of millions of people who don’t have the right to vote in it?
Like South African anti-apartheid activists, Palestinian civil society has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions complicit with Israel’s unjust policies, until Israel complies with three basic demands: equal rights for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, support for the right of return for refugees and an end to the Occupation. These are all basic human rights, and none of these goals contradict the human rights of Israelis.
It comes as no surprise that many South African anti-apartheid activists are now leading in the new struggle against Israeli apartheid, as seen in their IAW and their landmark successes in supporting the Palestinians’ call to BDS. At a recent BDS conference, we were excited to watch a video greeting by Desmond Tutu in which he reiterated his support for BDS and his opposition to apartheid.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to single out Israel as the only foreign state to receive virtually unconditional support, and hundreds of Palestinians remain in Israeli prisons without charge or trial.
While J Street and others may have the privilege to sit and “dialogue” about solutions, it’s not a game of Diplomacy or another classroom exercise for Hana or for the millions of Palestinian Arabs who aren’t allowed back home solely because they weren’t born into the right ethnicity according to Israel. Such Palestinians and their narrative are left out of the conversation and cannot be expected to sit around and wait for us privileged Americans to finish our own dialogues first.
The facts are all there, and now is the time for action through such nonviolent tactics as BDS. We invite the many well-intentioned members of J Street (and anyone else interested) to join us in advocating for equal rights and justice for all.
AU SJP’s Research Director
Class of 2013, CAS