It was merely seven years ago when Justice in Palestine week began to take place on college campuses in Canada and across the United States. Depending on the campus, the official goal of the week varied, but ultimately it comes down to telling over the Palestinian narrative.
There are many components to Justice in Palestine week. The most visible aspect is the wall erected every year on the main walkway on campus. A wall littered with pictures, paintings, statistics and quotes. Depending on the year and space allowed, there have been mock checkpoints, fake graveyards, coffins, and even fake refugee camps.
Throughout the day, loud music can be heard echoing across campus, generally playing the song Free Free Palestine over and over again. Sometimes there are speak-outs, rallies, and sometimes even fake killings. At night, speakers famous for their extreme rhetoric are brought to campuses to spread their messages.
Where then does the problem arise?
A closer look at the messages expressed, the timing employed and methodology used reveals a somewhat scary thought: Justice in Palestine Week does not aim to advocate for accuracy or even the Palestinians. Instead it spreads one sided propaganda throughout our student body.
The messages propagated during Justice in Palestine week are crafted to provide a single side of a very complicated issue. Even a novice beginning to learn about the conflict in the Middle East understands that it is not so simple. It is not a picture painted in blacks and whites.
If accuracy was the key, the wall itself would be made of a couple panels of painted wooden panels, and the remainder would be made of chain link fence. The separation barrier which exists between portions of the West Bank and portions of Israel is less than three percent concrete, while the other 97% is a chain link fence.
Almost every Justice in Palestine wall throughout the country displays the same series of hand painted maps. The first map shows the map of Israel during the Ottoman Empire. Almost the entire map is painted green, with small portions of white sprinkled around. The green is supposed to represent Palestinian Land while the white is supposed to represent Jewish Land. The next panel shows the area under the British Mandate, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the white land has begun to grow at the expense of the green land. So the map evolves, throughout the founding of the State of Israel until the present day. A simple comparison of the first and last map shows that the ratio of Jewish land to Palestinian land has been reversed.
At first glance, the claim that Israel is an imperialistic, colonizing state seems not only justified, but accurate. However, when perceived from a historically holistic view, the series of maps appears to be a misconstrued retelling of the story.
During the Ottoman Empire the land was neither Jewish nor Palestinian. There were Jews, Muslims, Arabs and many other ethnicities living under Ottoman rule. According to the map, all residents were “Palestinians,” Jews, Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs. The first map describes the land with a majority of Jewish people as Jewish land, and simply ascribes the rest of the land to the Palestinians, whether Arabs were living there or not As the map evolves, it becomes clearer and clearer that the only distinction made is between Jewish land and Palestinian land. There is no mention of the Jordanian occupation from 1948-1967. There is no mention of Britain’s control of the area. The map provides a biased view of the very beginnings of the State of Israel.
This year’s theme for Justice in Palestine week is Time for Accountability, and I hope that the organizers of the event have taken upon themselves the Herculean effort of finding all of those responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians, and holding them accountable.
I hope that this year will be different from all the other years. I hope that the corrupt leaders of the Palestinian Authority, the murderers who lead Hamas and Fatah, and the rulers of despotic Arab and Muslim regimes like the Hashemites of Jordan, and leaders of Syria are held accountable for their actions.
I hope that this year, the State of Israel will not bear the sole responsibility for all the evils of the region. That, instead of Israel being blamed for the corruption and suffering of Gaza, blame will rightly fall on the genocidal regime which was elected there a few years ago. I hope that the report put out by the Red Cross only a week ago stating that “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” is distributed.
The plight of the Palestinian people is one of the many narratives so often misunderstood and abused for political ends. Since 1948, the despotic leaders of the Arab and Muslim world have manipulated the Palestinian people as a political tool against the world and the State of Israel.
Moments after the State of Israel legally declared its independence, at the request and suggestion of the United Nations General Assembly, and Security Council, the Arab League attempted to abort the birth of the newly re-established Jewish state.
This violation of international law is one of the key sources of the Palestinian refugee problem. In the past, the existence of Arab refugees has been blamed entirely on the State of Israel, however, I hope that this year the current leaders of Syria are held accountable for their mistakes. In 1973, Syrian Prime Minister Khaled Al-Azem wrote in his memoirs that “by inciting millions of Palestinian Arabs to leave their lands for neighboring countries we have brought about their destruction.” In 1948 Al-Azem, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and other leaders called upon the Palestinians to leave their homes to make it easier to kill the Jews living in the newly born State of Israel. If this year is to truly be a time for accountability, we must hold these regimes accountable.
If this year is to be a year of accountability, we must call upon the leaders of Hamas to step down from their seat of power, and to hold free and fair elections for the first time since they took power in 2005.
If this year is to be a year of accountability, we must expose Hamas as the source of the deficiencies in Gaza. According to recent reports between 2009 and June of 2010, the Israeli Government delivered over one million tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza. That equals around one ton of aid per person in Gaza. Between January and March enough wheat for 53 million loaves of bread was delivered, along with 3,000 tons of hypochlorite, which is enough to purify sixty billion gallons of water. It is clear that aid is being poured into Gaza, so we must hold the officials in charge- the officials who deliberately squander and prevent their citizens’ access to the massive aid to Gaza- accountable for the suffering which is taking place.
The world is witnessing an historic time. The people of Tunisia, Jordan and Syria have taken to the streets to end the rule of their corrupt and oppressive leaders. Rebels in Libya are receiving international support in their attempt to fight for freedom. All of this has happened because the people decided to hold their leaders accountable for the disgusting standards of life they have had to live with. I can only hope that this year, the people of Gaza catch word of the theme, and hold their leaders responsible.
I hope that the people of Gaza recognize that Osama Bin Laden was an evil mastermind who oppressed his people and perpetrated one of the most severe attacks in history against innocent civilians on United States soil. I hope that they hold their government, Hamas, accountable for calling Bin Laden a “holy warrior.”
This year we have a unique opportunity to hold who are those truly guilty accountable for their crimes. To call upon Abbas and Hamas to abandon their attempts to destroy the State of Israel, and to focus on the domestic issues plaguing their people.
Let us embrace the theme of this year’s Justice in Palestine week, and call for an end to genocidal regimes, so that peace can finally be made, realizing the 63-year-old dream of a peaceful democratic Jewish State of Israel living side by side with a peaceful democratic Palestinian state.
Daniel Friedman is a junior in Revelle College majoring in political science-International Relations. He also serves as a Campus Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.