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Friday, March 24, 2017

Why is Israel scared of accusations of apartheid?

Why is Israel scared of accusations of apartheid?
By: Nathan Feldman
              Recently, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) released a human rights report on Israeli practices that concluded, from Reuters, that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. This report, published by Richard Falk, is the first of its kind originating from the UN. Soon after, the Israeli government, the Trump administration, and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pressured Rima Khalaf, the head of ESCWA, to rescind the report. She refused and instead resigned in protest through a series of actions thoroughly outlined by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept (article linked at bottom).

              Now, my personal view is that this report is both accurate and long overdue, and it was a pleasant surprise that a UN agency was finally recognizing the harsh reality of apartheid Palestinians face every day. While ideologues from all sides could debate this fact indefinitely, many legitimate responses were available to Israel and the Trump administration that were not used. The Trump administration could have merely issued a statement in line with its own ideological beliefs slamming the report as “offensive”, the Israeli government could have merely likened the report to “Nazi propaganda”, and allowed discussion to continue. The Secretary General of the UN could have, for his part, distanced himself from the report without taking further action. But these parties did not stop there.

              Instead, Antonio Guterres, in acquiescence to the Israeli and US governments, decided to pressure ESCWA to rescind its report from the Internet entirely, which it eventually did.  This was a blatant act of censorship against 18 Arab and Muslim majority nations, an act sure to inflame governments and individuals across the Middle East and North Africa. Blatantly censoring a human rights report for taking a particular ideological stance on a topic brings us just another step closer to authoritarianism both at home and abroad.  The ease with which President Trump was able to censor this report should especially concern other groups which he and his administration have targeted for their stance on Israel across the political spectrum from J Street to pro-BDS organizations. If the UN is not a valid stage for these groups to voice their concerns, where should they seek to address Israel’s ongoing apartheid and occupation?
               Ironically, this act of censorship only serves to confirm the beliefs of those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and rightly so. Moving forward, we at UMD SJP intend to hold Israel and other institutions complicit in the occupation accountable through our campus boycott effort and through open forums in which we discuss the conditions Palestinians must deal with every day of their lives. We will not succumb to bullying campaigns from outside groups wishing to silence our message.

The original UN report can be found here:
Referenced Links:
Sign out BDS petition here:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Should Hold Israel Accountable for its Human Rights Violations

By William Matchin

Two weeks ago, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, gave a lecture at the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at this university. His fundamental point was that we shouldn’t hold Israel to normal standards of international law because Israel has unique security concerns. The take-home message was that when Israel kills Palestinians and maintains an illegal occupation, we shouldn’t complain too much.

Dermer pointed to Israel’s small size as evidence of this position. “Tactical threats” become “strategic threats,” because Israel’s small size means that military operations and rocket fire threaten its existence. Because of this, Israel is justified in bombing Gaza, which included the killing of 500 innocent children, because it “can’t afford to make any mistakes.” Likewise, Israel is justified in maintaining the brutal occupation of the West Bank and its illegal settlements.

One wonders whether Israel’s actions are truly motivated by security concerns. However, it is clear that the policy Israel has pursued, with U.S. complicity, has less to do with security and more to do with the expansion of Israel and the acquisition of resources because this policy exacerbates legitimate Israeli security problems at the expense of its people.

Let’s apply Dermer’s logic to the Palestinian perspective. The Palestinian territories are smaller than Israel. Because Israel has repeatedly terrorized Palestinians, wouldn’t Palestinians be concerned? Would Palestinians feel safe surrounded by those who repeatedly have bulldozed their homes? With this logic, the Palestinians should be asking for an expansion of a Palestinian state into Israeli territory, walls that break up the Israeli population and a military presence inside Israel.

However, Palestinians are not asking for more rights than they are entitled to. The current president
of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is pursuing a two-state settlement in response to the overwhelming international consensus, declared, “The government would be under my command and my policy. … I recognize Israel, and it would recognize Israel. I reject violence and terrorism.”
The ambassador stated that even if Palestinian leaders were to accept a two-state settlement, the Israeli government couldn’t trust this to percolate to the Palestinians. In other words, Israel will never accept an agreement because you can’t trust the terrorist snakes; you just have to occupy their land

 Israel is asking for lowered standards, but the world is not asking for much. All the world asks is for Israel to obey the law. The occupation is illegal — international law dictates “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The separation wall of the West Bank is illegal — the International Court of Justice ruled that “the construction of the wall, and its associated rĂ©gime, are contrary to international law,” and the international community has repeatedly condemned the illegal settlements.

Moreover, U.S. aid to Israel is illegal under U.S. law. The “Leahy Law” prohibits the funding by the U.S. government to foreign entities that are consistent human rights violators, including Israel, as documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It is deeply hypocritical for us as U.S. citizens to condemn human rights violations elsewhere and to continue to support them in the Palestinian-occupied territories.

I can’t be too frustrated with Dermer over these issues because his job is to sell his country’s interests to the U.S. population. I can be appalled at us. We listen to Dermer and our own politicians’ morally degenerate arguments, funding Israel’s defiance of international law. Let’s hold Israel and ourselves to the same standards to which we hold other countries and enforce the law to let the Israeli and Palestinian people live in peace.

(also published in the Diamondback on Tuesday, November 18th)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Walking Out on Apartheid

Last week, dozens of students and community members walked out of a lecture by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Stories Beneath the Shell reporter Sierra Kelley-Chung reports on the action.

"A lecture by Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer sparked opposition among students, who walked out and held signs in protest last night at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

Dermer gave a lecture about the Israel-U.S. relationship and the role of Israel in the Middle East. The event was held at Gildenhorn Recital Hall in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, broadcasted live on UMTV and open to students and public.

During his lecture Dermer began to speak about the Israel Palestine conflict, stating that there was rocket fire in Israel, and one third of Israel was in bomb shelters for the first 50 days. A Palestinian student present at the lecture stood up and left, and a group of organized student protesters followed suit. They left the lecture quietly and held protesting signs that read, “end the illegal settlements,” “free Palestine,” and “apartheid not welcomed at UMD."

Read more here!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

End Hate Speech in the Diamondback!

Sign the petition here

*Updated 1/29/15*

Racism has been allowed to cozy up to our student paper. The Diamondback has published a series of advertisements paid for by a far-right think tank called FLAME (“Facts and Logic About the Middle East”) that whitewashes the documented human rights violations of Israel.

These ads are anti-Arab, Islamophobic propaganda. One ad, published in the September 30th, 2013 edition of the paper, begins by denying the existence of the Palestinian people—it characterizes all Arabs as a monolithic group of people with no cultural, historical, or linguistic distinctions. So, it follows, the Palestinian people don’t exist —therefore Israel really is a land without a people for a people without land. Except that, inconveniently for the FLAME’s narrative, Palestinians have lived on that land for centuries, and are in fact a distinct people with a rich culture.

 The ads continue by denying that the West Bank or the Gaza Strip have ever been occupied territories—ignoring that the United Nations, Amnesty International, and virtually the entire international community consider the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem to be territories militarily occupied by Israel in violation of international law. Amongst other things, these ads allege that while Israel has always vouched for peace, their efforts have been thwarted by “the Arabs,” who just refuse to sit down and negotiate, when in fact for more than 63 years Israel has been disposing Palestinians, expelling them from their land and homes, creating one of the largest and longest standing populations of displaced persons in the world with 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons. Israel, as an occupying power, has an obligation to obey international law -- including withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories and respecting the human rights of refugees.

            It’s troubling that the Diamondback published these advertisements for several reasons. First, they alienate many students on campus—for example, those who would take offense to using phrases such as “Arab aggression” or “Muslim terror” or “the unrelenting hatred of the Arabs against the Jews” to generalize the beliefs of all Arabs and Muslims. Secondly, our student paper should never condone hate speech, racism, Islamophobia, or imperialism. Yet by agreeing to publish ads that support all of these things in return for money, it’s done just that. That is unethical.

This is not the first time that students have had an issue with the Diamondback publishing FLAME ads. In 2011, students formed the “End Hate Speech at UMD” coalition in response to the ads, pressing the Diamondback for an apology. The Student Government Association also passed a unanimous resolution condemning the ads as hate speech and calling for the Diamondback’s advertising department to refrain from publishing any more ads by FLAME.

At the time, the Diamondback argued that “…We believe it is FLAME’s right to publicize its subjective opinion, just as it would be a pro-Muslim organization’s right to publicize an alternative viewpoint.”

We hope that the current editorial board can understand that this is about the ethics of running a paper, and ensuring that the experiences of an oppressed people are not marginalized by racist propaganda. Hate speech is not a respectable “subjective opinion”, and the Diamondback has no obligation to publish a paid advertisement advocating racist views. We would deplore any group’s decision to publish racist ads, including a “pro-Muslim organization.”

We therefore call on the Diamondback to discontinue the publication of these advertisements, and to stand with the student body and 2011 SGA resolution in opposing hate speech.


Students for Justice in Palestine at UMD
Organization of Arab Students, University of Maryland Chapter
Black Male Initiative at UMD

Political Latinos United for Movement and Action in Society
Gamma Phi Sigma "Hermanos Unidos" Fraternity Inc.
Coalition of Latino Student Organizations
Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Incorporada
Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc.
Pride Alliance
UMD Socialists
Student Labor Action Project at UMD
Legitimizing and Unifying a Network of Undocumented Americans
El Sol
Community Roots
Muslim Student Association

Society for Hispanic Engineers 
J-Street at UMD
Iranian Students Foundation
Pakistani Student Association
Asian American Student Union
D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) Coalition of Students for Justice in Palestine and Students Against Israeli Apartheid
Bengali Student Association
Ethiopian Student Association
UMD Social Justice Coalition

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Harvest of Empire" Screening

Screening of "Harvest of Empire", a documentary film about US imperialism and Latino immigration
Co-sponsored with El Sol, PLUMAS, and Community Roots!