<< Front page Commentary April 9, 2004

Corrections to divestment and rights article

Dear Editor:

Thanks to the Review and Jillian McFarland and Lily Schatz for your faithful reporting of my talks on Palestinian and Iraqi women’s liberation struggles and the importance of divestment from Israel. I would like to clarify a few points which I feel may have been confusing in the article due to lack of context.

Students for a Free Palestine invited me to Oberlin, because I was involved in the struggle against South African apartheid at Oberlin in the ‘70s and now am involved in the struggle against Israeli apartheid.

Contrary to what the article states, I do not make the comparison with South Africa primarily because Israel now controls more than 85 perfent of the land of historic Palestine; that merely proves that their goal is to steal the land.

In that respect, the colonial project carried out on this continent, of annihilating the indigenous population and expropriating their culture in order to take their land, is a better analogy for the Israeli policy toward Palestinians than that of South Africa. Instead of the Apartheid Wall and its creation of Bantustans, we might more aptly talk about the Manifest Destiny Wall and reservations.

The apartheid label refers to the policies of segregation, repression and dispossession, which Israel practices both in the P.O.T and toward Palestinian citizens living within its recognized borders.

The crime of apartheid, as defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, contains eight elements. The Israeli government is guilty of seven and arguably of all eight..

These include:

(1) “Murder of members of a racial group” — Israeli forces have killed at least 2,372 Palestinians in the last three years, of whom most were unarmed civilians. Relative to population, this is the equivalent of 67,771 U.S. citizens.

(2) “Infringement of [a racial group’s] freedom or dignity”: there are 420 Israeli checkpoints currently in the OPT and a larger number of roadblocks, which prevent Palestinians from moving freely between villages and towns, from seeing family, accessing schools, doctors and hospitals and where large numbers of people are daily exposed to humiliation and harassment such as being blindfolded and handcuffed for hours, being made to strip or lift up their clothes, to kneel, squat or put their hands over their heads.

(3) “Arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment:” there are currently over 600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons without charge. The army has arrested more than 15,000 individuals in the last three years (US equivalent 420,000).

When I responded, “That information is out there,” to the question of why I did not discuss the attacks against Israelis by Palestinians, I mentioned that 81 percemt of Israeli deaths are reported in the U.S. media, compared to 34 percent of Palestinian deaths.

Moreover, on the Palestinian side, killings of adults are more widely reported than killings of children (38 percent vs. 20 percent), while on the Israeli side the opposite is true (89 percent of children vs. 78 percent of adults).

I, like other human rights workers in Palestine, am trying to redress this imbalance. I also stated, however, that all deaths are tragic and that I believe the attacks against Israel will cease when there is an end to apartheid and occupation.

Israel is neither the only human rights violator in the world nor necessarily the worst, but it must be held to international standards of human rights. It has consistently violated UN resolutions calling for an end to its occupation of Palestinian lands and for the return of the refugees driven out in 1948.

Divestment has been shown to work, and it is the appropriate response of the international community to a situation of systematic and worsening oppression of a population. Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine is calling for the College to block investment of its funds in companies doing significant business with the Israeli military. This is a reasoned first step that anyone who cares about justice must support. For more information about International Women’s Peace Service-Palestine, see:www.iwps.info.

For divestment info, visit:

–Kate Raphael
OC ’80


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