(Never published in the Sun, of course) - In Response to: http://cornellsun.com/blog/2014/09/02/cornell-students-for-justice-in-palestine%E2%80%88protests-israeli-actions-in-gaza/

To the people protesting Israeli actions in Gaza, we see you. We hear you.

We know that a war is occurring in the Middle East – several, actually. People are dying in Gaza, Israel, Syria, and Iraq. But let’s just focus on Gaza, because that’s what the protesters do.

Injustice is everywhere, and as someone who cares about social justice, I think it’s important to pressure the leaders of countries around the world – in Israel, the US, Canada, everywhere – to strive for a more just and equitable society. But when you cry, “No justice, no peace,” do you really mean it? Do you actually believe that living in peace should wait until everything is right and just? There used to be a time during which nearly half of Gaza’s labor force commuted to Israel for work. No, things weren’t perfect, and their society wasn’t flawlessly just or equitable (what society is?), but they were able to live peacefully and make a better living. The Hamas Covenant, the Intifada, and Israel’s increased emphasis on security changed all of that. But don’t you think that’s what the average Gazan wishes were true now over the current state of warfare? Aiming for a society in which people can live and work in peace sounds like social justice to me – not supporting leaders who call for destruction in its policies, aim for destruction in its actions, and perpetuate destruction and death in its insistence on war.

I’m not writing here to defend all of the Israeli government’s actions. I can’t say that I agree with each and every one of them. I don’t think you could find an Israeli or a Jew who could (as the old saying goes, “two Jews, three opinions”). And I don’t think you could find an organization in the world that perfectly represents the exact views of each of its members on this extremely complicated issue. Even our Hillel, with over a dozen political, cultural, religious, special interest, and social justice groups, could not possibly perfectly represent the political views of each of the estimated 3,500 Jewish students on this campus. Does that make the organization “hypocritical”? No, it makes it a large organization that aims to be a resource to Jewish students, as diverse as that group may be.

There are far too many people who we might have known for years, during which religion never made any identifiable impact on them, who pull the “Jew card” out of their back pockets when they see that it might strengthen their argument against Israel (and even Hillel, apparently). When you say that Hillel ignores “issues like this,” did you know that Hillel umbrella organizations hold discussions on the issue frequently? When you say that Israel doesn’t stand for you, have you ever been in a situation in which you were unsafe in a country just because you were Jewish? You might not stand for Israel, but Israel would stand for you. I implore you, before you declare your seemingly newfound Judaism along with BDS as your prescription to this problem in the Middle East, study it a bit more, talk to a rabbi, check out High Holiday services, go to the region and see it for yourself, and heck, even come to a Hillel event or two. You might find that the conflict is a little more complicated than you think, the situation is not in fact equivalent to apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany, and social justice is actually a core tenet in Judaism.

After all, the two ideas – Zionism and social justice – aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s entirely possible to say that you’re a damn proud member of the Left Wing with a love of social justice while also saying that you’re a damn proud member of the Jewish People — whose homeland will forever be the State of Israel. That’s what I do.

Nakba Demonstration on Campus Today

Israel is by no means perfect (no nation is), but the fact that:

1) Israeli authorities allowed a large demonstration commemorating the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) of the creation of the state of Israel and its impact to take place on campus today AND

2) Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian Arab who was advisor to the PLO’s Yasser Arafat, serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) 

…reveal some terrific democratic values. 

Read more about Nakba Day demonstration today

STOP ISRAEL FROM CUTTING OFF POWER TO COMMUNITIES IN THE WEST BANK!

!!!!!SIGN THE PETITION & REBLOG!!!!!!!

The Israeli government is threatening to demolish solar and wind panels in area C of the West Bank, leaving as many as 500 people in the dark. These solar and wind panels, funded mainly by the German government, were installed illegally yet are the only source of power for several rural communities under Israeli jurisdiction. 

According to law professor Adrian Bradbrook:
"The conclusion that access to energy services is integral to overcoming poverty is nowadays widely accepted in the international community. However, to date this recognition has not assumed a legal dimension at the international level." 
Even if the act of demolishing the solar and wind panels isn’t in itself illegal, denying power to groups of civilians helps maintain poverty and is collective punishment in breach of international humanitarian law. Please sign this petition to let the Israeli government know that this isn’t right. 
For more information: 
 For more things you can do: 

My Thoughts on Obama in Regard to Israel

I recently watched a YouTube video created by the Committee for Israel, aiming to portray President Obama as an anti-Israel president. It’s basically a 30-minute tirade criticizing Obama’s actions (and sometimes, lack of actions) in regards to Israel and involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wbH5KVPrPo&feature=share

The video starts by criticizing Obama for visiting various countries in the Middle East yet skipping over Israel during the honeymoon part of his presidency. Was this intentional? Maybe. Does it mean that Obama is inherently anti-Israel? No. The video utilizes clips of Obama bowing his head to the Saudi King, delivering speeches to Muslim audiences, and other examples of his “campaign of outreach to Muslims.” This seems to imply that the creators of this video assume that their pro-Israel target audience would be Islamophobic and use these examples as reasons to be dubious of Obama’s support of Israel. This is wrong, “Committee for Israel”: just because Obama wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Muslim countries such as Egypt and Turkey does NOT mean that he is inherently anti-Israel.

The second major criticism in this video sort of twists Obama’s words. In an unspecified speech, Obama states that ”the aspiration of a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied… On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslim and Christian, has suffered.” The critics in the video claim that Obama is equating the Jews’ suffering in the Holocaust with the Israeli-induced Palestinian condition. This is NOT what Obama said; he simply stated that both the Jews and the Palestinians have dealt with undeniably difficult plights and are alike in their struggle for statehood.

The criticisms throughout the remainder of the video are more legitimate, although I do disagree with many of them. 

The video criticizes Obama for urging Israel to freeze settlement building in the West Bank and for claiming that building in Ramat Shlomo was an insult to the United States. First of all, I think that there is nothing wrong with Obama and Hillary Clinton urging Israel to freeze settlement building in the West Bank. Freezing settlement building would be a peaceful act of negotiation and recognition of the legitimacy of a future Palestinian state. However, I think that these critics are right in saying that Obama could have told the Palestinian Authority to also take a step towards peace, by amending its education system, for example. In the issue of Ramat Shlomo: well, yes, this area is not technically in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, but it is still over the 1967 armistice line, so it was an iffy call by Israel to approve of its being built. I wouldn’t call it an assault or insult to the US, though, but I think it wasn’t a good idea at all. Making peace is like walking on eggshells: you have to be very careful and delicate, and if your moves are too risky, one of the eggs might just crack. Permitting developments in Ramat Shlomo was an unnecessary risk, potentially hindering the peace process.

Critics of Obama have repeatedly said that “this is not how you treat an ally” and that his disapproval of some of Israel’s actions is dangerous for the state of Israel. Yes, the US is Israel’s strongest ally, but does that mean that the Obama administration must blindly approve of each and every one of the Knesset’s actions? I don’t think so. It is fully possible for the US to be a valiant ally of Israel while still upholding the American values of liberty and free speech. When something is unjust, it is in the American spirit to speak out, and let’s be honest here: not all of Israel’s actions are perfectly right and just. That being said, I think that Israel’s actions are considerably more just than those of the Palestinians’, but no nation is perfect, and Obama should feel free to criticize the injustices of governments anywhere in the world, even in our beloved Israel, without being labeled as an anti-Israel president.

I agree with the video that Obama seems to be much more vocal in criticizing the Israeli government than in criticizing the Palestinian Authority and that he seems to be applying much more pressure to the Israeli side. However, just because he advocates for a two-state solution and, thus, Palestinian statehood does not mean that he is anti-Israel. It means that he is pro-Israel AND pro-Palestine, and ultimately, pro-peace.

a thought on the two-state solution

Too many people make the classic, naive assumption: just give the Palestinians some land and autonomy, and there will be peace!

…No. In reality, this would create an even stronger Iranian puppet to do whatever Ahmadinejad pleases in the region with little to no regulation by the Israeli government. Iran already funds most of Hamas’ violent struggle, provides the terrorist organization with weapons, and trains Palestinian militants (1). If Israel is unable to regulate the territories’ borders and prevent Iran’s support for Hamas, it would result in a huge security issue for Israel and even more warfare. Iran and other Middle Eastern allies would more easily be able to support them and they would undoubtedly become the puppet to anti-Zionist foreign policy. And to be honest, do we really need another Islamic fundamentalist country that uses terrorist tactics and is overrun by poverty in the world?

Do the Palestinians really need their own country because of their claim that they have been living there for centuries and that they are their own ethnic group? 

Even PLO leaders and King Hussein of Jordan have admitted that Jordan is Palestine; Palestine is Jordan. Over 70% of the 2.8 million population of the kingdom are Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs of Jordan are exactly the same people as the Arabs living in the “West Bank” — as alike as Americans from Iowa and from Wisconsin. There is no difference between them in language, ethnicity, or social customs. Before the Six Day war, the concept of a second Palestinian state located in the West Bank had never occurred to anybody. Over 2 million Palestinians live in Jordan, and only 800,000 in the occupied territories (2). Do they need another country? Wouldn’t allowing another Palestinian state to exist inside of Israel be redundant and suicidal? The Hungarians living in Romania don’t have another country; neither do the Turks living in Bulgaria, nor do the Swedes living in Finland. Then why should the Jordanians/Palestinians living in the occupied territories have another country, since they have a country of their own right next door? 

According to Arab-American columnist Joseph Farah, 

"Palestine has never existed - before or since - as an autonomous entity. It was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire, and briefly by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their homeland. There was no language known as Palestinian. There was no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a Palestine governed by the Palestinians. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc."

Click here to find out what some Palestinian leaders themselves have to say about the existence of the Palestinian people! (3)

Imagine if Israel actually conceded and Palestine were to become a country. You think that would be the answer to the conflict? No. You’ve still got a terrorist organization now running a COUNTRY rather than a territory with a lot more autonomy and less regulation. They would take advantage of that, and you’d have to be extremely naive to believe that they would stop terrorizing Israel. They would still want to wipe Israel off the map, but having their own country, they’d be stronger.

That being said, I think that if Palestine has to become a country, then it should only achieve its independence once both sides recognize each other’s right to exist and once constant attacks aren’t the Palestinian governing authorities’ major strategy. Only when these qualifications are met, and when Hamas is no longer in power, Palestine can become its own country. But for Israel to concede and allow Palestine to exist under current circumstances would be practically suicidal.

(1) http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/iran-and-palestinians

(2) http://www.factsandlogic.org/ad_18.html

(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8fttHDj-y4&feature=watch_response

a thought about the israeli-palestinian conflict

I am a Zionist American Jew who will live in Israel for half a year come January. That being said, I’ve been an especially avid reader of the news lately because of the recent spotlight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Abbas’ current efforts at the UN. Unless you live under a rock, you probably know about what’s going on (but if you don’t, you could easily look it up. Maybe if I had more Tumblr followers, I’d take the time to summarize it, lol). 

I whole-heartedly support Israel, but I also think that the Palestinians should have a right to their own country. This two-state solution is almost unanimous throughout the world, as having the two nations living side by side seems to be a peaceful negotiation (albeit there would undoubtedly be extremists on both sides who won’t rest until ALL of the land is under their respective people’s control). 

But the real questions remain: Are the Palestinians ready to be completely autonomous and have their own nation? And is an unilateral declaration of independence via the United Nations the best way to achieve that?

I’m not so sure.

According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, about 30% of the Palestinian territories’ GDP comes from foreign aid, and according to the Washington Post, the US is only second to the EU in contributions. If Palestine were to become a country, Congress would most likely freeze those funds and pressure other countries to do so as well, and the already extremely poor Palestinian territories would be hit hard in an already tough time in the world economy. When a less extreme case of this happened in 2006, the number of Palestinians living in poverty nearly doubled. Over half of Palestinians live in poverty, and they can’t afford to lose the foreign aid that they depend on. (1) 

Here in the US, we think it’s great that so many countries in the Middle East have experienced revolutions to overturn dictators and attempt to establish democracies. We recognize the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate Palestinian governing institution, but we should also remember that Hamas, which the US, EU, Canada, etc. classify as a terrorist organization, was legitimately elected to govern the Gaza Strip. Remember when we celebrated Egypt’s regime change and desire to start anew and democratically elect a new government? But then we were a bit apprehensive about the uncertainty it caused - what if a terrorist or anti-US party were instated? Likewise, a dramatic change in the Palestinian government could result in similar uncertainty, and in the worst case scenario, to a more powerful Hamas. A more powerful Hamas would ensure an even stronger alliance with Iran. And a stronger alliance with Iran would surely mean more weapons and terrorism. This could be a far-fetched hypothetical or it could be detrimental to Israel and the US; either way, it’s risky. (2)

When the economic and Hamas issues are under control, maybe then the Palestinians would be ready for their own country - but a unilateral declaration of independence via the United Nations Security Council is certainly not the way to achieve that. A huge unilateral step such as UN recognition would probably only lead to tension, as it doesn’t guarantee Israel’s recognition of Palestine’s right to exist. Israel has attempted unilateral steps in the past, such as withdrawing from Southern Lebanon and disengaging from Gaza, and what were the disastrous results? Hezbollah and Hamas gained influence/took control in their respective regions. Negotiations and direct talks are the ways to achieve a lasting resolution to the conflict. (3) 

So those are my sentiments about the potential establishment of Palestine. But let me take a minute to criticize Obama (who I normally applaud):

About year ago, President Obama chided Israel for continuing settlement in the West Bank, as it is against international law and seen as a major roadblock in the path for peace. He also promoted the emergence of a Palestinian state in the near future. He then met much criticism from many Zionists and was accused of being anti-Israel. Fast-forward to now: it’s campaign season, and what does he do? He aligns himself with Israel as much as he can, hoping to appear as pro-Israel as he can to win back AIPAC; countless influential Jews so important in the media that present him to the world and the businesses that fund his campaign; anti-Muslim Americans who emphasize the president’s middle name and don’t want to see another Arab country on the planet arise; and anyone else he possibly can. To me, it’s not whether he believes that Palestine should be established now, later, or never that’s the issue; the issue to me is that he undermines his previous stances for the sake of politics. And as a pro-Obama Democratic pro-Israel Zionist American Jew, even I think it’s a shame.

Read more about:
(1) The Palestinian economy: 
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article13
(2)  The Hamas-Iran relationship:
http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/perspectives28.pdf 
(3) Why a Unilateral Declaration of Independence is bad (an awesome Cornell article):
http://cornelldailysun.com/section/opinion/content/2011/09/23/veering-path-peace 
(4) Obama criticism*:
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/201192216365733499.html

*This is the most legitimate article I’ve ever read about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an Arab news source. The only huge mistake the article makes is that it claims that the only war against Israel launched by Arabs was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when there were actually others (including the 1948 War for Independence).