Palestine Awareness at UCLA

May 28, 2009 by  


By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The month of May is a time when people who value fairness and who share humanitarian ideals observe the anniversary of the Nakba. The Nakba is the catastrophe that was inflicted upon the Palestinian people by the Israelis in 1948, an event which has yet to be squarely faced by most of the Western world, particularly the United States. It is a situation which cries out for justice and finds none.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA this past week presented a panel discussion titled: “Why Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions?” The event was part of Palestine Awareness Week, a collaborative effort held for the purpose of educating the larger UCLA community about the situation in Palestine. The true conditions of the Palestinian people are only rarely, if ever, presented by the main stream media.

The panel members were Reem Salahi and Professor Mohammed Abed. Ms Salahi is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and recently visited Gaza on a fact finding tour sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). She was a Fulbright Fellow in Amman, Jordan from 2004 through 2005.

Professor Abed is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at California State University in Los Angeles. He is currently focused on ethical issues raised by political violence, particularly in the Middle East and most specifically on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Ms Salahi told her audience that the Palestinian people want a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) program against Israel. Palestinian civil society has asked for a BDS program similar to the program which was employed successfully against South Africa. In addition they want an academic boycott. An academic boycott means no engagement or collaboration on a national or international level and no subsidies. The academic boycott began in 2004. In 2005 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague found Israel’s Separation Wall to be illegal. Palestinian civil society asked for a boycott similar to the one imposed on South Africa. A boycott simply means: do not purchase Israeli goods; divestment means the withdrawal of investments in companies doing business with Israel; sanctions means penalties and moral pressure.

Ms Salahi spoke of the successful boycott of Motorola. Motorola, thanks to the boycott imposed, no longer makes bomb fuses for Israel.

“Israel has gotten away with murder” said Ms Salahi.

She left her audience with suggestions. 1)Identify a goal; 2)Engage in an education campaign; 3)Preempt the opposition – there will always be a push back against your actions; 4)Keep up morale; 5)There should be support groups.

Professor Abed then took to the podium. He said that he would make the moral case for BDS. He said he would also answer in advance, as it were, the arguments which those fighting for BDS would encounter from the opposition.

Many opponents of BDS claim that there are nations in the world with worse human rights records than Israel. Why not work against China and/or Sudan? Professor Abed said that in China and Sudan the citizens do not have the ability to change their government’s policies. The nature of Israeli society is such that citizens can force a change in that nation’s actions.

Referencing the charge that BDS would harm all Israelis, not only those in charge of policy, Professor Abed said that there would be ways of structuring policy to minimize that effect.

He portrayed Israel as an unruly child and the United States as the parent of that child. If one’s child misbehaves, a parent cannot look away and say that other children have behaved in an even worse manner.

Professor Abed reminded his audience that Israeli occupation is not benign. It not only effects the West Bank, Gaza, Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in the Diaspora; it impacts on the entire Middle East. It is the central irritant.

“It is time for third party intervention’ said Professor Abed.

In describing the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, Professor Abed said that Israel has destroyed a culture.

A lively question and answer session followed the presentation.

“I feel that I really earned a lot” said one woman in the audience.

Students for Justice in Palestine may be reached at: sjp@ucla.edu.

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