I do not know how often you get involved in debates about Palestine, either in person or on social media, but being part of ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ on my campus I spend quite some time in that boxing ring. Here are some things that I have learned when you get vocal about supporting Palestine.
- “Criticizing Israel is anti-semitic”
Firstly, speaking up about Israeli human rights violations, (documented by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and numerous Palestinian and Israeli organizations) is not anti-Semitism. It is speaking up about human rights violations. Secondly, arguing against illegal Israeli military occupation and brutalization of an indigenous population is not hate speech. It is arguing against human rights violations based on ethnic segregation and discrimination. Which we should all be doing, really. Thirdly, Israel does not equal Judaism. Conflating the two is dangerous. Not all Israelis are Jewish, not all Jews are Israeli or even pro-Israel. Painting them as the same marginalizes Jews who have dissenting views and paint Israel as encompassing all Jews, which it is not.
- “You are unfairly signaling out Israel. What about atrocities in Saudi Arabia/Iran/Syria?”
Yes, it is okay to speak about Palestine and Israel in relation to each other, just as it is okay to speak about any other place or government that oppresses people.
No, it is not required to mention the litany of other human rights violations every time you speak about one. That would take a very long time and we only have this room until seven.
Also, just a small thing, using other atrocities as a silencer to dialogue is in extremely bad taste. Or just not cool, if you don’t live on 221B Baker Street or in Downton Abbey.
- “Isn’t that supporting Hamas?”
It is not.
To be absolutely clear, no one in their right mind supports violence against civilians.
In addition to this conviction is the necessity to understand world events in the environment that surrounds them, in their world. Context. The source of the problem is the occupation. All problems about Palestine today (settlement, right of return, siege of Gaza, etc), all are direct result of Israeli occupation of indigenous Palestinian land. Never disregard context.
Finally, it is possible to talk about human rights violations that are hurting Palestinians in the occupied territories without lumping your name with Hamas. One is supporting international human rights law, and the other is going to ensure your name is on every permanent TSA list there is. Best not to go there.