The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Debate on UT's Campus over Israeli Apartheid Week

Last semester the University of Toledo Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held the first ever Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) on UT's campus. It was a huge success, bringing together a wide array of diverse student activists and organizations. For the first time in many, many years Palestine was at the forefront of the political struggle at UT. Almost immediately, SJP was condemned for organizing the IAW event by Zionist organizations and leaders on campus. Below is the debate held in the pages of the Independent Collegian, the most widely circulated media outlet on UT's campus. The first article is the "Cheap" political attack on SJP and the use of the word apartheid, the second is our rebuttal:

Letter to the Editor
Israel Apartheid Week
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Next week the University of Toledo and campuses nationwide will take part in the nationally recognized "Israel Apartheid Week," sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Using the very term "apartheid" by SJP in its characterization of Israel is patently false and deeply offensive to all who feel a connection to the state of Israel. This spreading of misinformation by SJP chapters both locally and nationally is creating a bias against Israel in the media and jeopardizing a timely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Using the term "apartheid" is a very deliberate attempt to associate the current Israeli Government with the racist South African regime of the 20th century. This offensive claim is highly objectionable to anyone who knows the truth about Israel's record on human rights, and is a stark contrast to that of South Africa.

Under apartheid, Black South Africans could not vote and had no rights in a country in which they were the overwhelming majority of the population.

This analogy is not credible, as SJP chapters have chosen to manipulate rather than inform on this issue. Therefore, we request that SJP immediately stop referring to Israel as an apartheid society, and acknowledges that the Arab minority in Israel enjoys full citizenship with voting rights and even representation in the government. SJP should acknowledge that there are 14 Arab members in the Israeli Knesset, an Arab member of the Israeli governing Cabinet, an Arab member of the Israeli Supreme Court, and Israeli Arabs involved in Israeli businesses, universities and the cultural life of Israel.

A true hope for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East compel us to demand an immediate cessation to the deliberate mischaracterizations of Israel. SJP's compliance with this request will be viewed as a responsible and appropriate first step toward raising the level of discourse.

— Casey Cheap
Christians United for Israel (CUFI-Toledo)

— Matt Rubin
UT Student Government
— Patrick Richardson
UT College Republicans
— Brent Teal
UT College Democrats
— Maxwell Gold
Former UT Hillel President

Our response:
Letter to the Editor
In response to "Israel Apartheid Week"
Sunday, February 26, 2012  

Last week five UT students condemned in the pages of the IC the group UT Students for Justice in Palestine over its application of the term apartheid to Israel. The United Nations defines the crime of apartheid as "inhuman 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."

In 2010 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, historically a valiant fighter against apartheid in South Africa, proclaimed in a Huffington Post article that with "great joy" he embraced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel because the system of apartheid there was so reminiscent to that of South Africa. His words are far more percussive than our own:

"I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government."

In the same year, a group of over sixty church leaders and theologians from South Africa released a statement condemning Israeli apartheid:

"From our own experience of apartheid, we can clearly and without equivocation say that your situation is in essence the same as apartheid and in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid."

One year prior to that, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa published an extensive report which concluded that "Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], in violation of a peremptory norm of international law." Likewise, South African dockworkers took up the cause of anti-apartheid struggle by refusing to unload ships carrying Israeli cargo in response to Israel's three-week assault on Gaza, a massacre which stole the lives of 1,300 Palestinians, a third of which were children, and injured 5,300 more.

In 2011, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel published a report documenting that "more than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel" and "Inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel span all fields of public life and have persisted over time."

Thus, it is with feigned ignorance that UTSJP be condemned for employing the term apartheid despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to the existence of an apartheid system in Israel. Such condemnation attempts to mask reality with tactless glittering generalities and is representative of an agenda that has nothing to do with civil discourse or peace. The peace so often spoken of in "higher levels of discourse" is one without justice, the peace of the oppressor, and it should be challenged by not only all UT students but all people who identify with the pursuit of social justice. We do not reject dialogue, but our dialogue must revolve around how best to end apartheid, not how to give it a human face, and certainly not to avoid the paradigmatic unease some words may illicit in the defenders of a position, which proven with the evidence above, is antithetical to not only human rights but to peace and justice as well. We can safely assume that the various South Africans quoted above know far better what constitutes apartheid than those who deny its existence, and nothing is more offensive then the attempt to disguise the current system of apartheid in Israel.

The undersigned,

UT Students for Justice in Palestine

(Disclaimer: The views of these student leaders are their own and may or may not reflect the views of their respective student organizations collectively.)

 Demetrios Kasamias
President, Orthodox Christian Fellowship

Kenneth Sharp
President, Libertarian Party of UT

 Victoria Delly
President, Black Student Union

 Christopher Scott
President, Student African American Brotherhood

 Ghassan Chokr
President, Arab Student Union

 Omar Subei
President, Muslim Students Association

 Jihad Dakkak
President, Middle Eastern Law Students Association

 Ali ElMokdad
President, Lourdes Arab American Student Association

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Derek Ide 2011


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