In very few ways does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “resemble domestically sticky political conflicts in the United States.” Still, people would have you believe otherwise. People would have you believe that the conflict is merely a squabble over land, with hardheaded opponents on each side, or a poorly managed government soiling an otherwise unanimous peace. Most people know how difficult it can be to get steadfast opponents to agree on anything. So, is this the case here?
Matt Fisher wrote an opinion article in The Tech, titled “What are the Goals of Palestine Awareness Week?” He states that, “the analysis can support any statement. This type of debate leads to circular, unproductive conflict and rhetoric. We get too caught up in arguing over inconsequential facts, and rarely talk about what we want out of a resolution.”
He then continues to deliver his own rhetoric about how the situation isn’t bad, making it seem as if the Palestinians are simply complaining. After all, “Israel also provides the majority of power and fuel to Gaza and the West Bank.” Surely that is reason enough to give praise to Israel? Maybe not, considering The United Nations says that: “Much of the population of the Gaza Strip continues to live without electricity, though some parts of Gaza City (fewer than 50,000 people) are now receiving electricity for 3-6 hours per day.”
As a MIT student, I appeal to the data. According to B’TSELEM, an Israeli human rights organization, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6,348 Palestinians and 1,072 Israelis have been killed since September 2000. Moreover, B’TSELEM further elaborates on the deaths by saying that 2,192 of the Palestinian deaths were Palestinians who did not take part in the hostilities and were killed by Israeli security forces. That figure does not include the recent attack on Gaza, where over 1,000 Palestinians lost their lives. According to If Americans Knew, an organization critical of Israel, 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished, yet zero Israeli homes have been destroyed. If Americans Knew also states that 39,019 Palestinians have been injured in comparison to 8,864 Israelis. These are facts, not rhetoric.
So what is the goal of Palestinian Awareness Week? It is to educate and inspire the MIT community to help in putting an end to the wanton abuse of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Yes, values and point-of-view matter, but I think few would argue with the right to live and the right to have water. I don’t think any Americans believe any peaceful civilian deserves to live under constant attack, his/her home riddled with gunfire. The goal of PAW is to stop these practices. Yes, the Governments on both sides need work. There are few people who would say Hamas is doing a sufficient job, even if, despite “representing” an occupied territory, the Council on Foreign Relations says that approximately 90 percent their work goes to social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities. But few mention the errors of Israeli government, the occupying government, and its cruel policies to the Palestinian people.
Is Palestine Awareness Week aimed at badmouthing Israel? No. Admittedly, the picture of Israel that is painted is not a pretty one. However, it is not the events of Palestine Awareness Week that created that image; they are merely presenting the facts. And considering that events such as Getting Involved: Abroad Initiative in Palestine were mostly concerned with humanitarian projects, the allegations of rhetoric seem a little undeserved. The message of PAW is not simply that Palestine should be a country or that we want a resolution. The primary message is that the first step to an end goal is to stop the death, destruction, and disrespect of a vastly defenseless people. But I do agree with Mr. Fisher on one thing; we should stop the rhetoric. We need action. Human lives are in the balance.
Submitted by Adam Mustafa ’11 on behalf of Palestine@MIT. Mustafa is the President of Palestine@MIT.