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Sticking To Our Principles

Guest Column
Saad Z. Shakhshir

The other day after an e-mail was sent out to several lists encouraging people to sign the Harvard/MIT petition to divest from Israel. There were immediate responses from people and I wrote the following in response to their e-mails (it is somewhat modified because in the original I made some direct references to their e-mails).

I am deeply offended by the total disregard that some seem to have for Palestinian life. Some claim that, “Israel is an important American ally in our global war against terror.” The “global war against terror,” does that include my friends? Yes, I am Palestinian and yes I have had friends who have been murdered by Israeli soldiers, friends whose houses have been demolished, friends whose livelihood is threatened daily by the occupation. And no, they are not “terrorists.” In fact one of these friends was with me at a camp for Arab and Israeli youth called Seeds of Peace and his name is Asel Asleh. Search for him on the web and you will read the horrible story of his death.

Why is it that whenever someone criticizes Israeli actions, he or she is brandished as being either pro-Palestinian or anti-Semitic? How about defining them as being pro-justice or pro-human rights? Some are relating this petition to calls by Hitler to boycott Jewish businesses. Note that the petition only refers to the U.S. government’s arms sales to Israel and those businesses that are involved in the selling of arms to Israel. Why the continual hiding behind the Holocaust? The Arabs did not cause the Holocaust; there is no “historic hatred” between Arabs and Jews. Jews lived under Islamic rule for over a thousand years and their society flourished to levels unheard of in Christian Europe. Ninety percent of the Jews in the world at one point were “Sephardim” (a term give to the Jews in Spain) and this was under Islamic rule. The victims of such a tragedy as the Holocaust should not use it as a pretext to repress another people.

The hatred was initiated by illegal immigration to Palestine, the threat to Palestinian land which resulted in an unjust partition back in 1947, which of course, the Palestinians did not accept. If I came to your house, told you God promised it to me and my family, partitioned it, would you say, yes please do take my house?

But let us not argue about the past. There is an Israel today. This petition does not call for the destruction of Israel, does not call for the killing of Israelis, it calls for an end to the occupation. A people are being occupied and this is morally wrong, no matter who the people are. The daily humiliation, the lack of freedom, the extrajudicial killings, the demolition of home -- all this is being done officially by the government of Israel with direct funding from the United States. The Apache helicopters that have destroyed the house of a friend of mine are American. As a country that does support democracy, that does support freedom, that does support morals and human rights, the least I would expect of this country is to stop funding such inhumane acts.

Should we ask the American government to stop funding Hamas? To stop the $3 billion in aid it gives to the Islamic Jihad? The Apache helicopters, the tanks, the spare parts, the intelligence -- this all goes to Israel and it is being used to repress a people. The U.S. is blindly behind Israel. Why did Israel not allow a UN inspection team to go into Jenin? I would like to find one justifiable reason for that and for the silence of the United States on the matter.

I cannot believe that calling for an end to injustice and oppression, calling for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian people, calling for an end to illegal settlement building on occupied land, is being met with opposition in a country that is founded upon the ideals of democracy and freedom.

Saad Z. Shakhshir is a member of the Class of 2004.