Put yourself in the place of an elderly Palestinian farmer, who just had his house bulldozed, his livestock confiscated and his land stolen. Put yourself in the place of a Palestinian mother who has just been informed her 6-year-old son was blown to bits by an Israeli missile while playing outside. Put yourself in the place of a Palestinian man who just lost his job and ability to feed his family because numerous Israeli checkpoints caused him to be late for the third time this week.
Now go back to being a Georgetown student. Knowing the very real issue of Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians, it is time to take action. You may think that the problem is too distant and complex to have a voice, but that is not true.
A growing movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is spreading across college campuses around the world, aimed at placing international pressure on Israel for its consistent human rights violations: a growing occupation of Palestinian land within the West Bank, the use of excessive military force against civilians in Gaza, the detention of political prisoners with no evidence of illegal activities, the establishment of an apartheid system that legalizes discrimination against Palestinian Arabs and many more.
For a university that prides itself on the implementation of Jesuit values — such as cura personalis and being women and men for others — Georgetown has much to do to demonstrate its dedication to these values in the face of the oppression happening within Palestine.
Our student body, along with the entire U.S. political sphere, seems to have turned a blind eye to the very real issue regarding human rights violations within Palestine. Why must we wait for another deadly Israeli bombing campaign over Gaza to express support for the Palestinians? There is no better platform than the BDS movement for students to become proactive in expressing anger with the Israeli apartheid system and the United States’ continued support of these policies.
There is a false notion that one must be somehow tied to the conflict, whether it be through Arab and Israeli ancestry or religious connections, to have any reason to get involved. This mentality is dangerously apathetic and a huge reason why Israel is able to get away with so many human rights violations against the Palestinians.
Another common falsehood emphasized by pro-Israel groups is that BDS uses anti-Semitism to delegitimize the right of Jewish people to live in peace. This claim is not just intellectually inconsistent, but also morally demeaning.
Firstly, there is not a single mention of the word “Jew” or any mention of religion from any official BDS sources. The focus of this movement is purely political and in no way spreads anti-Jewish rhetoric. Criticism of Israel can be attributed to anti-Zionism, an ideology rooted in hate through the displacement of a native people, which in no way correlates to criticism of the beautiful religion of Judaism.
It is important to remember that, as is the case with all influential political movements, BDS will undoubtedly appeal to individuals who hold extremist views. There will always be truly anti-Semitic individuals who misunderstand the real goals of the movement and use it as an excuse to spread hateful rhetoric. However, it is intellectually dishonest to take the actions of few extremists and use them to reflect an entire movement.
The BDS movement seeks equality, justice and an end to systematic oppression. In no way do these goals encroach on the respect and rights of Israeli citizens; rather, they simply call for the recognition of Palestinians as equals. It is not only blatantly incorrect to label BDS as anti-Semitic, but also disrespectful to those suffering from the persistent issue of actual anti-Semitism.
There are multiple ways to support BDS here on campus. First, our Students for Justice in Palestine chapter organizes several events each semester to promote equality for Palestinians and peacefully protest Israel’s apartheid policies. There is a disappointingly low turnout at many of these events, which are often a great opportunity for neutral students to simply gain insight into the Palestinian perspective.
At the same time, Georgetown Forming a Radically Ethical Endowment calls for greater transparency of Georgetown’s investment portfolio and divestment from companies that support Israel’s ongoing human rights violations. This new endeavor has the admirable goal of making clear the importance of equality for all human life and can surely use assistance from any students trying to become more involved.
It is time for us students to rally together and pressure Israel to abandon its divisive policies and allow Palestinians their basic human liberties. BDS is an effective platform to respectfully express disgust at inhumane Israeli policies and the United States’ negligence to act accordingly. As Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, a staunch supporter of BDS and human rights in Palestine, once said, “By remaining neutral in the face of oppression, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
AHMAD AL-HUSSEINI is a freshman in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.