Israel and its apologists can no longer defend the country on its merits, instead they must try to suppress debate 16Nov13 November 16, 2013

JoshRuebnerby Josh Ruebner   -   Mondoweiss   -   16 November 2013

In yesterday’s New York Daily News, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin scurrilously attacks Brooklyn College President Karen Gould and the university’s Political Science Department for encouraging an open debate on campus about Israel’s apartheid policies toward Palestinians. She baselessly charges that I, having spoken yesterday on campus, support “anti-Semitic” policies, “condone terrorism,” and “advocate the elimination of the Jewish state” in my effort to change U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to support human rights, international law and equality.

Curiously, despite the recent publication of my book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace, dozens of op-eds, and hundreds of lectures on college campuses, Rossman-Benjamin marshals not one iota of evidence to substantiate these allegations because it does not exist.

As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, I understand “never again” to mean that all human beings have an obligation to abhor and dismantle all forms of racism and bigotry, which includes opposing Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians.

As someone who was slightly injured in a Jerusalem bus bombing in 1996, I have witnessed the horrors of terrorism and condemn as a violation of international law all forms of violence deliberately targeting civilians, whether the perpetrator of those acts is Israel or a non-state actor.

And I do not advocate for either a one-state or two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but simply point out that Israel’s torrid colonization of Palestinian land is making more remote each day the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land is a clear indication that it is not interested in having a truly sovereign Palestinian state on any portion of historic Palestine, thus creating the conditions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be resolved eventually on the basis of equality between Palestinians and Israeli Jews within the same political entity.

Israel is now demanding that Palestinians accept it as a “Jewish state” that continues to treat its own Palestinian citizens as second-class citizens at best, while privileging its Jewish citizens, and to deny Palestinian refugees their internationally-guaranteed right of return to the homes and lands they were ethnically cleansed from by Israel in 1948. These Israeli efforts to demographically engineer a Jewish majority and deny Palestinians full citizenship fly in the face of universal human rights standards and cannot form the basis for a truly just and lasting peace.

But, to be clear: Ms. Rossman-Benjamin’s attacks are not aimed primarily against me or the organization for which I work, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, whose name she could not even be bothered to get right in her article. Instead, her efforts are part of a concerted strategy by the Israel lobby to stifle freedom of speech on campus and leverage pressure against university administrations to constrain the abilities of chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine from effectively organizing on campus.

Why are Ms. Rossman-Benjamin and her organization, the AMCHA Initiative, exerting such strenuous efforts to attempt to prevent Students for Justice in Palestine chapters from raising awareness on campuses of Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinians–and U.S. military and diplomatic support for them–and why is the Israel lobby spending millions of dollars to try to defeat the increasingly successful student-led movement on campuses for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations that profiteer from its human rights abuses of Palestinians?

Simply put: Israel and its apologists can no longer defend on its merits Israel and its apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Instead, they must try to suppress any such discussion from occurring in the first place because they are backing a losing argument.

The historical tide has turned and the only factor preventing Israel from becoming the international pariah that apartheid South Africa was is the backing it enjoys from the United States and the existence of the charade-like “peace process” it dominates. However, this “peace process” is no longer capable of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes and is widely viewed as facilitating Israel’s continual land grabs rather than a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As the sputtering “peace process” gasps its last few breaths and as the BDS movement gains more important victories nearly every month, the only thing left for Ms. Rossman-Benjamin to do is hurl her invective ineffectually at those working for peace and justice.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).


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