Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

On Why We Withdrew

Recently, we in Students for Justice in Palestine withdrew our organization’s support from an event jointly sponsored by J Street U Georgetown and the Georgetown Israel Alliance. The co-sponsorship was originally designed to improve the dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on college campuses and beyond. We would like to take this opportunity to explain our decision to withdraw.

Students for Justice in Palestine supports dialogue. But we believe that for dialogue about this issue to take place, it must take into account the striking power imbalance between Palestinians and Israelis. Thus, dialogue should only take place between parties that agree on two basic principles: first, that Israel should end all forms of discrimination against Palestinians and privileging of Jewish citizens; and second, that Israelis and Palestinians are not equally powerful parties. Any other kind of “dialogue” would suggest that the daily forms of violence experienced by Palestinians today are caused by religious, cultural or historical misunderstandings rather than by a military occupation. Israel, since its founding, has expropriated land, installed settlers and expelled the people who were there before; Israel is an occupying power, and Palestinians are the occupied people. This legal reality must be recognized if dialogue is to have any real meaning. Otherwise, we risk normalizing the occupation by insinuating that the oppressed can work with the oppressor on equal footing, giving credence to Israel’s position that this is a conflict between two equal parties.

In 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes by Zionist groups in a process Israeli historian Ilan Pappe refers to as the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” Palestinians fled and formed refugee camps near the eastern and western borders of Palestine, territories known today as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. More than 65 years later, Palestinians remain the largest and longest-standing population of displaced persons in the world, with 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons, according to BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.

The continued occupation of Palestine is atrocious by any standard. In the Gaza Strip, nearly 2 million people, the vast majority being refugees, are completely enclosed in a 360 square-km area (about double the size of Washington, D.C.) Walls tower over the southern, eastern and northern borders, Israeli Navy ships sit off shore and drones often hover above, literally imprisoning the residents of Gaza. With highly restricted mobility and limited work opportunities, the majority of Gazans live off aid. In the West Bank, the Israelis continue to appropriate Palestinian land — on which Palestinian livelihood depends — via illegal settlements, a wall that seizes more territory for the Israelis and occupier-only roads that snake through Palestine, dividing village from village and farmers from their farmland, and separating families.

Israelis and Palestinians are not simply entangled in a long-running, inevitable enmity that has always existed between Arabs and Jews. A glaring power imbalance exists in which the situation of the Palestinians cannot possibly be compared to that of the Israelis, whose GDP per capita is 10 times higher than that of the Palestinians and who control, militarily, economically and politically, all aspects of Palestinian life. Israel is a state founded for Jews, institutionally structured to ensure a Jewish majority on as much of the land of historic Palestine as possible. As such, Palestinians face systematic discrimination simply because they are not Jewish. In Area C of the West Bank, for example, under exclusive Israeli civil and military control and covering 60 percent of the West Bank, Palestinians are deprived of electricity, water, schools and access to roads — in striking contrast to Jewish Israeli citizens’ vast privileges in adjacent settlements.

We refuse to take part in whitewashing Israel’s public image and therefore reject any Israeli-Palestinian collaboration that does not recognize Palestinians’ inalienable rights and explicitly aim to resist Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Through our efforts, SJP seeks to underscore the systematic ethnic discrimination and land-grab perpetrated by Israeli governmental, legal, economic and military mechanisms and supported by international governments and corporations that lie at the core of the problem.

As Georgetown students committed to Jesuit values of justice and equality, we are determined to educate our community in meaningful ways about the reality of life under occupation. We invite you to join our group and attend our future events in order to engage in discussions, teachings, and organization for the attainment of true justice and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Albert Doumar is a junior in the School of Foreign Service, Kristen Schwabe-Fry is a senior in the College and Erica Lin is a senior in the College. They are president, senior advisor and treasurer of Students for Justice in Palestine, respectively.

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