The Palestinian rap group DAM has a song called “Who is a Terrorist” (Meen Erhabe). Arguably its most poignant and topical line says, “I’m not against peace/peace is against me.” These few words perfectly encapsulate the current situation in Palestine.
The mainstream Zionist movement has once again deployed its consummate propaganda skills to mask basic realities about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people with talk of “peace” and “painful concessions.” While Israel continues to terrorize the Palestinians, while it expropriates more of their land and continues to outdo apartheid-era South Africa in the extent of its institutionalized racism, the international community once again falls prey to the illusion of a “peace process” that may end the relentless abuse of the Palestinians.
Fearing the rise of a global grassroots movement to pressure Israel into obeying the law of nations through boycott and divestiture, the pro-Israel camp’s constant refrain in recent times has been “why divest now when there is a peace process?” The implication is that divestment is driven by something other than a concern for the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and the hope that both peoples may one day live at peace in their shared homeland. “Anti-Semitism” is an oft-cited motive, while UW’s own Regent President Toby Marcovich prefers the disingenuous “we don’t divest on a political basis” or we only divest “if there are true human-rights violations.”
All this begs the obvious question: if “peace” is just around the corner, then what could possibly be prompting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the National Lawyers Guild, Pax Christi (N.Z.) and most recently the World Council of Churches to pursue divestment other than the reasons cited by Marcovich and the pro-Israel propaganda apparatus. The reality behind the current façade of “peace” may illustrate why divestment is being pursued by these groups and by the University of Wisconsin campaign to divest from Israel.
Since Nov. 1, 2004, Israeli forces, using weaponry supplied by companies in which this University is invested, killed 170 innocent Palestinian men, women and children and injured or maimed 379 before a suicide bomber “shattered a months-long period of relative calm” according to the Los Angeles Times Twenty-five of these deaths occurred after Israel agreed to the recent cease-fire with the Palestinians at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh (Karma Nabulsi in The Guardian 3/1/05) In one day, Israeli forces murdered a 15-year-old boy and seriously wounded his friend in the Ramallah area and then extra-judicially assassinated two men in Nablus.
Would Regent Marcovich claim that these and thousands of other independently documented murders of innocent Palestinians are not “true human-rights violations?” Perhaps Regent Marcovich can explain this point further. Is there a moral distinction between the murder of a Palestinian and that of an Israeli? Or can we only have a true human-rights violation when the rights of a human are violated rather than a Palestinian untermensch? Or perhaps the deaths of over 4000 innocent Palestinians since the start of the current uprising were foreseen but not intended, so Marcovich can go about his day with a clear conscience. No doubt, attempting to draw the Regent’s attention to these violations smacks of “political motivations.”
The killings are the mere tip of the iceberg. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, quoting the Israel lands authority, reports there are plans to build 6000 new homes in existing West Bank apartheid colonies, in part to accommodate colonists forced to leave Gaza, an area where the presence of too many non-Jews makes Israel’s project of racially exclusive settlement non-viable. In the Jerusalem region, the Israeli government recently attempted to resurrect the notorious absentee property law to give a legal face to the forced expropriation of Palestinian lands detached from their owners by the segregation wall that was recently ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. In 1948, after Israeli forces ruthlessly uprooted 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and sent them into exile, the absentee property law was invoked to “legitimize” the theft of their lands, all of which were subsequently allotted for the exclusive use of the Jewish people.
Perhaps Marcovich and his supporters could explain in what sense all these examples fail to qualify as “true human-rights violations?” Even if the Palestinians are “filthy animals” as Don Imus recently opined on MSNBC, this would not justify abusing, torturing, and killing them with impunity.
Mohammed Abed is a Palestinian Graduate Student in the Department of Philosophy at UW-Madison. He is also an organizer with the Wisconsin Divest from Israel Campaign.