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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dissenting is the best way to honor Israel

    Many of us have no doubt heard of the current annual “”Israel Week”” on campus which, in the words of the organizers, is “”our week-long celebration of Israel”” wherein the entire Tucson community “”is welcome here to learn more about the country we call our own.””

    Curiously, however, when one reviews the sizable stack of literature outlining all the various events, one finds not a single word about the other half of the ten million people who reside within and without Israel’s yet undeclared international borders, i.e., Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. It’s literally as if they don’t exist.

    It follows, then, that either the organizers of “”Israelpalooza”” and other events of the week utterly do not care or simply have nothing to say about the roughly five million Palestinian and Arab people who in many irrevocable ways are intimately intertwined in the same culture, society and geographic area as the more favored ones recognized and celebrated this week for the country they call their own. Fortunately, in keeping with human virtues of honesty and conscience, many Israelis do care and have quite a lot to say about Palestinians and other human undesirables who go unmentioned during so-called “”Israel Week.””

    Take, for example, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the state’s oldest and largest human rights organization, whose “”mandate is to ensure Israel’s accountability and respect for human rights by addressing violations committed by the Israeli authorities in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or elsewhere.”” ACRI reminds us that the Israeli “”occupation permeates every aspect of Palestinians’ daily lives, with violations of the right to life and bodily integrity, freedom of movement, employment, family life, housing, health, education, and human dignity forming an inescapable part of their reality.””

    Still other obscured aspects of Israeli society reveal more Israelis going much further than groups like ACRI. Consider the actions of over 100 brave young Shministim (Hebrew for “”twelfth graders””) who were jailed this past December alone for refusing their country’s decree of universal military service in order to protest the wretched brutality of the occupation. As reported by the American activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, a 19-year-old Shministi, Tamar Katz, stated: “”I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military on conscientious grounds. I am not willing to become part of an occupying army that has been an invader of foreign lands for decades, which perpetuates a racist regime of robbery in these lands, tyrannizes civilians and makes life difficult for millions under a false pretext of security.””

    Numerous other groups including Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Rabbis for Human Rights, Bat Shalom, B’Tselem, Anarchists Against the Wall, Active Stills, Public Committee Against Torture and others – have their work cut out for them in a state which, like ours, does not like to hear nor heed the bitter outspokenness of those who fight against the routine denial of justice, truth, and human rights.

    Israeli anthropologist, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and Nobel peace prize nominee Jeff Halper, in a 2006 article, asserts that “”the problem in the Middle East is not the Palestinian people, not Hamas, not the Arabs, not Hezbollah or the Iranians or the entire Muslim world. It’s us, the Israelis.”” He continues in a 2008 interview: “”We as Israelis have to start taking responsibilities for what we are doing … we are the oppressors; the Palestinians aren’t occupying Tel Aviv. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to end the occupation and to bring an end to the conflict.”” Finally, offering this sound advice, Halper suggests: if you want to “”end the siege, end the occupation, end sanctions, the people have to do it, because the governments will not do it and the UN won’t do it because it is controlled by governments.””

    Jeff Halper is joined by the massive and numerous organic movements of Israelis who dare to question their societal status quo, and who actively resist their government’s repressive policies.

    By their own word and deed, these many courageous Israelis won’t allow their country to remain unchecked or directly unchallenged on its current course of racism and discrimination. Rather, they honorably fight for a new system of coexistence on the basis of equality.

    It is this rich and honorable history of dissent within Israel which should be celebrated, reinforced and supported. It is a dignifying history of peace and justice, of recognition and resistance, and of reconciliation and redemption of a nation’s unspeakable past and ongoing crimes. As Halper reminds us, the most crucial tools for making a difference in society and politics are cross-cultural education, dialogue and resistance. This week, let us engage in these things for a change.

    -ÿGabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature, and media studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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