By: Bruce Lerner, Collegian columnist
Several weeks ago, Rateb Abu Rahma and Kobi Snitz, members of the group "Faculty for Israeli - Palestinian Peace," visited the University of Massachusetts and the surrounding area. Their talk was titled "Bil'in, Village of Resistance," and referred to a town where non-violent resistance led to an Israeli court ruling to redirect a portion of the wall that goes through the area. The event was poorly attended at UMass but nevertheless proved to be very informative and was greatly appreciated. It was a privilege to have people who have experienced Israeli crimes firsthand come speak for the sake of spreading knowledge and nurturing concern for innocent people on both sides of the conflict. The speakers' message was clear: the separation that Israel has built along the West Bank is a hindrance to people's lives in the region and must be torn down if peace is desired.
First of all, one thing must be noted. The wall (and it is a wall, not a security fence) is completely unlawful. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that building the wall is "contrary to international law." Any discussion of the separation wall must have as its central tenet this crucial fact of the wall's inherent illegality. Even before one turns to the physical and moral implications of the hideous concrete barrier, the fact that it stands contrary to the somewhat basic legal obligations of countries in the international community has to be taken into
consideration. However, considering that the discussion of international law is egregiously absent from mainstream U.S. publications, there are many other reasons to knock the wall down.
First, to make a moral argument, the wall is completely harmful to the Palestinian people. It snakes through Palestinian land, fencing off valuable land and water resources and effectively starving people to death. These resources belong to the Palestinians, and the Israeli elites have no right to them. It has been noted that the average Israeli has as much drinking water as a Palestinian farmer has to grow his crops. This drastic inequality is unjustifiable and the wall serves to further the discrepancy and to steal the very livelihoods of the people who live in the West Bank. One must remember that many of the affected people are innocent children who have committed no crime except that of having dark skin in the Middle East.
The racism that politicians and concerned American elites spout is quite apparent. One thing that Snitz said during his talk was very interesting. He said we should replace the word "Palestinian" with the word "Jew" when we talk about the reasons for building the wall. Imagine someone, especially in the United States, talking about building a security fence for protection from Jewish terrorists and radical Judaism. It sounds absurd, just as it is when the word Palestinian is substituted. The Palestinians are not terrorists to be corralled off - they are victims who have basic human rights that are not being respected by the governments of the United States and Israel. Both of these points were made on the UMass campus recently.
Another reasonable point to make about the construction of the wall is that it is impeding progress to peace, the very thing that people like Bush and Sharon say they want in the region. Ignoring the obvious hypocrisy and lies in the words of the above-mentioned world leaders, peace cannot be accomplished while people are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. Simply put, vicious practices breed hate and especially retaliatory violence, some justifiable and some not, the unjustifiable being known as terrorism. Any actual attempt at peace would take into account the other side and its wishes. Anything less than this should be considered a cruel joke, just like the Annapolis peace
The Faculty for Israeli - Palestinian Peace stressed that students can and should get involved in the process for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine. The organization offers opportunities for students to travel to the occupied West Bank and Israel to see with their own eyes what people go through and to help the situation. The speakers stressed the importance of international outcry in ending the occupation and urged people to become active. Their message was powerful and offered a taste of the type of success people can strive toward.
Bruce Lerner is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.