Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Seeking common ground through on-campus dialogue

As two of the Israel advocacy groups on campus, we agree with
Alexandra Gekas and Mohammed Abed that the
advertisements recently published in the Badger Herald are
inflammatory and wrong. We strongly repudiate this advertising
campaign, which unjustifiably characterizes all Palestinians as
terrorists. We think that such ads are biased and one-sided.

We sincerely believe that most Palestinians and Israelis
desperately want peace. Since the outbreak of the second Intifada
and Israel’s military response to the uprising, Palestinians and
Israelis have had their lives shattered and in many cases
destroyed. Everyone wants to return to the normalcy of going to
school, starting businesses, enjoying public life and planning for
a future free from violence.

In our quest to find common ground on this elusive goal, we wish
to address several erroneous and misleading claims made by Ms.
Gekas and Mr. Abed.


In her column from last week (Feb. 26), Ms. Gekas asserts that
every death in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the
responsibility of the Israeli government. Such an accusation stands
in stark contrast to the fact that Palestinian terrorist
organizations, which openly celebrate and sanctify suicide-bombers,
proudly take full responsibility for the murder of Israeli

Although the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza is controversial, Ms. Gekas’ argument that occupation
alone is “responsible” for the violence is factually incorrect.
Fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Hizbollah do not simply call
for an end to occupation but publicly incite their members to
destroy the state of Israel.

By removing all responsibility from these terrorist groups, Ms.
Gekas unintentionally legitimizes their horrible actions. To place
blame only on the Israeli government is to deny political reality
and to move further away from a final peace settlement.

Ms. Gekas also implies that the state of Israel is involved in
genocide. She claims that Israel is committed to “the systematic
destruction and exile of the Palestinian people” and that the
Israeli government demeans Palestinian Arabs in order to “destroy
them.” Such statements are slanderous and unfounded.

Every Israeli government since the establishment of the Oslo
Accords in 1993 has publicly announced its commitment to peace in
the Middle East. Although some political leaders have offered
greater concessions than others, each successive Israeli Prime
Minister has recognized the need for a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Israel does not intentionally murder Palestinian
civilians, nor does the Israeli army seek to “destroy them.”
Although civilian casualties are a terrible consequence of any
military action, it is crucial to recognize that the targeted
killing of civilians is not the policy of the Israel Defense Force

Israel’s use of military force in the West Bank and Gaza has
nothing whatsoever to do with ethnic cleansing. By suggesting
otherwise, Ms. Gekas trivializes real cases of genocide and avoids
the crucial issues of war and peace.

Mohammed Abed’s opinion piece in Monday’s Badger Herald (March
3) uses selective evidence to construct a one-sided account of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He provocatively uses racial language
to further this agenda and creates an unsophisticated storyline
about innocent victims and vicious aggressors.

Instead of aspiring to historical objectivity, Mr. Abed tailors
his evidence to meet his foregone conclusion that the state of
Israel is illegitimate and therefore should be dismantled. He
ignores a significant body of historical literature and journalism
that directly challenges his tendentious argument.

Mr. Abed’s goal, like that of and Ms. Gekas, is
to create a simplistic narrative in which blameless victims are
repeatedly set upon by brutal terrorists. This artificial
dichotomy, regardless of who uses it, distorts reality and pushes
on-campus dialogue about peace in the Middle East to the political

For example, Mr. Abed likens Israel to apartheid-era South
Africa and insists that Zionism is committed “to a racist
exclusivist ethno-nationalism” that seeks “the establishment of a
pure Jewish state.” Such language and comparisons are not intended
to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor do they
contribute to an accurate understanding of Israel’s past and
present. Abed’s primary intent is to elicit an uncritical and
emotional response from his readers, a response not based on
thoughtfulness and veracity but on a crude analogy and inflammatory

Ms. Gekas and Mr. Abed’s assertion that Israel practices racial
politics and “seeks an ethnically pure state” is offensive and
narrow-minded. Over one million Arabs are citizens of the State of
Israel. Despite the difficulties of being a minority in the Jewish
State, Israeli Arabs are able to pursue their own economic
interests and exercise cultural independence within Israel’s
internationally recognized borders.

Just as importantly, they have the guaranteed rights of
religious freedom, free speech and political representation. These
freedoms, possessed by very few in the Middle East, allow Israeli
Arabs to address their political grievances and personal concerns
within the framework of Israel’s democratic system of

Even more despicably, Ms. Gekas and Mr. Abed imply that Jews are
a homogenous race bent on ethnic purity. Judaism does not have a
skin color. It does not have a single language, nor does it have a
single cultural tradition. Jews who live in the state of Israel
have linguistic and cultural roots from around the globe, making
Israel one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world.

No Israeli government has ever sought to create a racially
homogeneous population of one people. There is no such thing as
pure ethnicity in Israel, nor is there a “pure Jewish state” in

As the leading Israel advocacy groups in Madison, we seek common
ground with other student organizations that are committed to peace
in the Middle East. To further this goal, we denounce the tactics
of, Alexandra Gekas and Mohammed Abed, tactics that
are polarizing, misleading and designed to elicit angry

In writing this guest column, we hope to initiate an on-campus
dialogue that fosters a deeper understanding among students about
the complex issues and perspectives surrounding the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The most important issue in this
whole debate is peace in the Middle East. At the University of
Wisconsin, we should concentrate on an honest and thoughtful
discussion of ways to achieve it. Rick Woolman is a UW senior
and president of MadPAC. Michal Ziv-El is co-chair of

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