By Omar Zahzah and Dana Saifan
On May 26th, the Daily Bruin ran an opinion piece co-authored by Inbar Goren and Tali Moore entitled “Jews not to blame for Palestinian displacement.” The article was a response to a submission several of us Palestinian members of SJP had written explaining what Nakba Day means to us, and how we will continue to share our families’ stories of forced exile and advocate for Palestinian rights in the face of Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing and displacement of our people.
Unbeknownst to us, an outcry followed the publication of our piece: an article by Shani Shahmoon claims that “As a result, 15 members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community wrote an email to the Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, and The Bruin’s outgoing editorial board, insisting that publishing such language was ‘offensive’ and a form of bullying that can ‘marginalize’ members of their community.” Shahmoon describes this letter as an “attempt against limiting opinion.”
Unfortunately, the Daily Bruin seems to have caved in to this attempt--Goren and Moore’s piece appears to be an edited version of this letter turned into op-ed form, as it contains all of the hallmarks of the email, accusing us Palestinian UCLA students of introducing “divisiveness, ignorance and hate” to the UCLA campus due to our use of the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The Daily Bruin subsequently refused to run a rebuttal piece by an SJP member explaining why the term “ethnic cleansing” was in fact an accurate description of Israel’s practices. Indeed, no matter how uncomfortable it may make some individuals, use of the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel’s actions is not unheard of even for Israeli sources--for instance, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé wrote a book entitled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. The outcry over our article seems even more strange when we consider that this was not even the first time that SJP members had used the term in reference to Zionist policies (which were also compared to Manifest Destiny).
So, why the backlash all of a sudden?
Simply put, our piece represented Palestinians taking full agency over our narratives and refusing to be cowed into silence, or to accept propagandistic rewritings of historical injustices. It is not hard to understand why those invested in maintaining an oppressive status quo would find such agency intimidating, but to call it bullying is nothing short of laughable. Our family members were displaced and continue to face the repercussions of their traumatic expulsions. Having our family histories denied, and further having our narratives turned against us in accusations that we are victimizing others by telling our families’ stories, is inexcusable.
It is unfortunate that the Daily Bruin, an official publication with all of the support and backing of the institution, seems to have been intimidated into practicing censorship by limiting our ability to respond to these accusations. As individual students, we cannot expect nearly the same protection, but we will nevertheless not give in to these attacks on our character or our narratives, no matter how formidable the opposition may be or how willing our institution may be to block pro-Palestinian views out of fear of reprisal.
Furthermore, while we revealed our SJP membership for the sake of transparency, we find it disturbing that neither co-author Tali Moore nor the Daily Bruin saw fit even to mention that as of October 2015, Tali Moore was a campus fellow for the Zionist Organization of America, a formidable lobbying organization that regularly tries to curb pro-Palestine activism on university campuses and falsely describes Students for Justice in Palestine as a group promoting “hatred and intolerance,” even going so far as to equate SJP with the Klu Klux Klan. Moore’s position requires students to engage in various forms of pro-Israel advocacy on campuses in exchange for a $1,000 stipend and a trip to Israel. The distinction is crucial, as SJP members engage in grassroots advocacy and activism for nothing except dedication to the cause of a free Palestine, only to come up time and time again against powerful lobbying groups that disguise their efforts to shut down all debate around Palestine/Israel through the appropriated rhetoric of powerlessness and victimization (something that Oren and Moore’s piece also tried to do while calling for the Daily Bruin to stifle the perspectives of pro-Palestine and Palestinian students in the future). Whatever one’s stance on Palestine/Israel, it is at least important to acknowledge this stark imbalance of power and resources. Unlike what Moore and Oren claimed for our co-written piece, we are not saying that the Daily Bruin never should have run this submission. We are simply saying that not revealing this affiliation gives the reader an impression of authorial objectivity that is decidedly false, especially given the material incentives the Zionist Organization of America fellowships offer their fellows for regular pro-Israel advocacy.
We may have been displaced, but we will not be silenced, and we will never stop sharing our families’ stories until Palestine is finally free.
By Kaleb Herman Adney
It was my understanding upon entry into the University of California, Los Angeles that Bruins upheld the “highest standards of excellence and integrity” while making “ethical choices” that “respect the dignity of others” as asserted by Gene D. Block, the UCLA chancellor. These values are hypothetical and they ignore the reality at our university: our integrity is conditional and the dignity of others is subjective.
The University of California is not upholding any standard of integrity in its blatant disregard for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians. Our university invests in companies that contribute to systemic discrimination and violence against Palestinians. These companies include Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), Cemex, General Electric, and Hewlett-Packard. UCLA has not made a stance against the dehumanizing behavior of these companies and has, therefore, become implicit in their actions.
Caterpillar, for one, has ignored reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International about its violation of Palestinian dignity in providing the equipment, including heavy-duty tractors and bulldozers, used to demolish homes, water storage units, agricultural lands, and refugee camps in the West Bank and in Gaza. Destroying homes and residential property, as well as upholding segregation, are commonplace activities for Caterpillar.
Cement Roadstone Holdings and Cemex have both contributed to the construction of the separation barrier, a wall that reaches twenty-five feet high in some places. CRH and Cemex provide concrete and aggregate materials that the Israeli government has used in its construction of this wall, which separates family members from one another, farmers from their land, and children from their schools. These two companies have also upheld the construction of illegal settlements and military checkpoints dividing residential areas.
Hewlett-Packard has been an integral part of the checkpoint system in the West Bank. HP provides the technology for the Basel System, a complex network used in checkpoints, 85% of which are in the Palestinian West Bank not on the Israeli border, to collect and store information about Palestinians. This system prevents people from moving freely between their places of work, schools, orchards, and homes. One of my acquaintances in Ramallah, for example, is separated from his family in Jerusalem by these checkpoints and is unable to legally spend evenings with his wife and children.
General Electric is a company that provides parts for A64 Apache helicopters, which the Israeli Defense Forces have used to indiscriminately attack citizens in Gaza. The United Methodist Church, along with human rights groups such as Amnesty International, have condemned GE for its contribution to violence in the Occupied Territories.
Each of these companies contributes directly to violations of Palestinian rights and benefits economically from violence against Palestinians. These companies are not neutral; they are invested in the oppression of people. To be clear, they make money off of this situation. When we students allow the university to invest in companies that behave this way we allow laissez faire economics to subjugate our ethical will.
Divestment is not a term for any student on campus to fear. It is a tactic by which we reclaim our political agency, as shown most recently by the “Resolution to Divest Undergraduate Students Association Council and UC Los Angeles Finances from Corporations Profiting from the Prison Industrial Complex”, which passed unanimously on February 4. It is us as students taking responsibility for what we are invested in and benefit from. It is us saying that these companies don’t live up to our standards as a university, and should not be in our endowment and retirement funds until they do live up to those standards.
Right now, UCLA is invested in these companies and thereby we are taking a stance against Palestinians’ freedom to move and live safely. The ethical choice that would respect the dignity of others is to not invest in these companies. To stand on the right side of history we should condemn the oppression of Palestinians. We need to divest.
By Lila Suboh and Dana Saifan
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community,” stated Newt Gingrich, a U.S. Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
That’s right, Palestinians are “invented” people. The 4.3 million people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 5 million Palestinian refugees are “invented” people.
Maybe it is because Palestinians are “invented” that they don’t deserve basic human rights, such as access to water, roads, electricity, food and medical supplies? Or maybe they don’t deserve a homeland of their own because they are “invented” people? Or maybe, just maybe, it is because Palestinians are “invented” that they are subjugated to live under Israel’s occupation, which has been deemed illegal under international law?
The truth is, we are all “invented” people, living in “invented” nations that were birthed at the expense of indigenous peoples, disregarding those human beings’ real identities, histories and experiences prior to the invention of nations.
Despite the superficial invention of labels for strips of land spread across vast oceans, the people on these lands are very real. UCLA students and Los Angeles residents are very real. The Palestinian people are very real.
Likewise, the struggles of students on campus and Palestinians are real and concern us all. Last week, UCLA students rallied against a proposed 20 percent hike to University of California Student Health Insurance Plan fees and caps on student benefits.
In a more severe struggle for access to health care, the Palestinian people face worsening health conditions as the Israeli military’s checkpoints impede pregnant women, the sick, and the elderly from reaching hospitals in the West Bank.
The Israeli blockade prohibits vital medical supplies, such as needles and medicine, from reaching Palestinians in Gaza whose lives depend on them.
While the Palestinian struggle for basic health needs, as a matter of life or death, is more critical and overt than UC struggles to maintain health care, the understanding of access to health care as a basic human right is universal.
As UCLA students, we face budget cuts and fight for access to higher education. Palestinian students persist through roadblocks (both physical and financial) each day to attain their education, despite the chilling reality that only $192 is spent on each non-Jewish Palestinian child per year by the Israeli government, compared to $1,100 on each Jewish Israeli child, according to the Washington Report.
And just as our minority communities around Los Angeles are racially targeted and incarcerated, Palestinians are deemed “security threats” because of their race.
According to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 are prosecuted each year through Israeli military courts and more than 4,700 Palestinians are in prison as of Jan. 1, 2013.
We are all “uninvented” human beings that are equally deserving of our human rights, from UCLA students to Palestinians.
This week, Students for Justice in Palestine is hosting its annual Palestine Awareness Week, a program dedicated to educating the UCLA community about Palestine and its people who resist Israel’s oppression within the Palestinian territories, within Israel and around the world. This is an opportunity for UCLA students and faculty to learn why this conflict is not as complicated and controversial as many have portrayed it to be.
As human beings, Palestinians deserve equal rights – it’s as simple as that. With the solidarity of UCLA students and faculty, these rights are possible to attain, just as it was possible for students and faculty to help deconstruct South African apartheid in the 1980s.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu emphasized, by standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, “You are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.”
Click here to read this in the Daily Bruin