To the Editor:
According to Students for Justice in Palestine President Leila Shebaro (SFS ’15), “a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian question “is not generally accepted by members of the SJP” [The Hoya, “Israeli Apartheid: More Than a Metaphor,” A3, Feb. 25, 2014]. This statement exemplifies the problem with SJP’s campaign to depict the situation in Israel as apartheid.
Nelson Mandela often gets credit for the downfall of apartheid after years of unrest and turmoil in South Africa. Riots, bombings and brutal martial law were the order of the day; any semblance of racial harmony must have seemed impossibly remote. Today, South Africa is not without racial tensions, but violence is no longer a normal vehicle of politics.
How was Mandela able to end apartheid amid chaos? According to F. W. de Klerk, Mandela “lived reconciliation” and was “a great unifier.” Mandela treated whites not as perpetrators of apartheid, but as partners for achieving justice. He respected their concerns and did not threaten their livelihoods. He reached out with an open hand, not an angry fist.
SJP accuses Israel of “apartheid” and practices “anti-normalization,” rejecting dialogue without rhetorical preconditions. Earlier this year, the SJP withdrew from an event it was to co-host with pro-peace Israel advocacy groups. That some members refuse to accept the existence of a Jewish state is even worse. SJP’s approach reflects an utter disregard for Israeli society and Jewish communities. It deliberately refuses to consider the interests, concerns or livelihoods of Israelis.
Mandela knew he would never end apartheid and racial strife if he demonized whites and demanded indemnity from them. SJP should likewise recognize that its approach, if continued, will turn Israelis and Jews against negotiation and will only prolong Palestinian suffering. Israel and its supporters also have some rethinking to do: The government must begin to treat Palestinian civilians with dignity. Nevertheless, SJP should work for progress via dialogue, not vindictive ostracism.