Submission: Dialogue on Israel-Palestine should account for power imbalances


On Jan. 17, a rare event will occur at UCLA. Iyad Burnat, a Palestinian citizen of the West Bank village of Bil’in, will visit the campus to speak about non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

Burnat is the focus of the dramatic and acclaimed new documentary “5 Broken Cameras,” recently shortlisted for Oscar consideration. Burnat’s talk will highlight the real conditions that exist in the West Bank and dispel the often-repeated myth that the occupation is an issue of two equal sides.

As his film shows, the reality of the situation is that Israel operates on policies of racial segregation that involve political, legal and economic discrimination against Palestinians. These policies range from segregated roads to checkpoints, home demolitions and a separate legal system.

What we see is a system of discrimination similar to that which existed in Apartheid South Africa and even in the American South during Jim Crow. As Alice Walker, the author of “The Color Purple,” recently reflected,  “It’s so much like the South of … 50 years ago, really, and actually more brutal, because in Palestine so many more people are wounded, shot, killed, imprisoned.”

In response to these oppressions, Students for Justice in Palestine supports Palestinian equal rights and self-determination. We are joined by a wide range of students on campus who also agree that Israel’s current policies of occupation and discrimination are wrong and should be ended, like the 138 nations that recently voted in favor of Palestinian self-determination at the United Nations. Students for Justice in Palestine prides itself in representing the viewpoints of both Palestinians and Israelis who are critical of the occupation and our membership consists of individuals of a variety of different races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations.

Although we are working to build a campus consensus supporting Palestinian equal rights, we are often portrayed as being totally against dialogue with other groups. However, this is a misrepresentation of our position. We dialogue and collaborate with many student groups on campus, from the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán to the Afrikan Student Union, but we believe that dialogue should only take place between parties that agree on two basic principles: first, that discrimination against Palestinians is wrong and should end, and second, that Israel and the Palestinians are not equally powerful parties. Israel is the military occupier and Palestinian civilians are the occupied people. Those legal realities must be recognized if dialogue is to have any real meaning.

We also understand that there are students on campus who oppose Palestinian rights, and we believe that because the university is a central setting for student groups to advocate for their respective causes, when groups have opposing messages, students should be able to draw their own conclusions.

Palestine solidarity groups and pro-Israel groups are not the first opposing groups to exist on college campuses and no pressure should be placed on these groups to come to any forced agreement. While we are not interested in dialoguing with those students, we reiterate our long-standing offer for a public debate. We first made this call in the Daily Bruin in November, but our offer has yet to be taken up by any pro-Israel groups on campus.

Meanwhile, we encourage students to join us in listening to Iyad Burnat present the reality of life under occupation and we hope that events like these continue to draw awareness to the Palestinian cause among students at UCLA. Co-sponsored with Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles, this event will take place on Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. in Humanities A51.

Dana Saifan is a third-year psychology student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine. Rahim Kurwa is a graduate student in sociology and member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

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  • Arafat

    The UN is a joke. Quit referencing it as if it were an objective entity.

    GENEVA, Dec. 10 – UN Watch condemned
    today’s election of Mauritania, a country that allows 800,000 of its citizens
    to live as slaves, as Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Council.

    In addition, the Geneva-based group also announced the failure of
    its yearlong campaign, with 55 MPs and NGOs, to get UNESCO to remove Syria from
    its human rights committee.

  • Arafat

    Israel should also withdraw immediately from the United Nations
    (whose full name seems more accurately to be UNAI, the United Nations Against
    Israel) and help found a robust league of democracies, a new body where human
    rights violators don’t preside over human rights councils and where blocs of
    Islamists and communists don’t dictate to progressive republics. The UN might
    have arguably been the greatest endeavor man ever embarked upon; instead, it is
    a tiresome farce run by malevolent circus clowns. This is one club to which the
    Jew, and the Jewish State, should not belong and not wish to belong.

  • Arafat

    ·
    There
    is no “Palestine”. There might have been, but they chose war instead-
    time and again:

    The
    would-have-been “Palestinians” would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the
    Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

    They
    would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but
    they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from
    BUYING land from Arabs).

    They
    would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently
    rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

    They
    could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967
    without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but
    they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah
    (1959) and the PLO (1964).

    They
    could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world
    issued the Khartoum Resolutions:

    A. No
    peace with Israel

    B. No recognition of Israel

    C. No negotiations with Israel

    They
    would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they
    violently rejected it- as always.

    And as
    soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the
    would-have-been “Palestinians” do? They immediately started shooting thousands
    of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official
    platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to
    rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap
    Israelis.

    And even
    afterwards, Ehud Olmert made his subsequent generous offer that went far beyond
    even that of Barak. The would-have-been “Palestinians” rejected it.

    They had
    many chances.

    They
    threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority
    list. It still is.

    Oh well.
    That’s their choice.

  • Arafat

    “The reality of life under occupation.”
    Here’s part of the reality:
    * There are enclosed malls in Gaza.
    * Obesity for men and women in both the West Bank and Gaza is in the top 20 of any country in the world.
    * There are almost unlimited restaurants to choose from in Gaza and in the West Bank.
    * Luxury expanisve homes are common in both territories.
    * Luxury cars are also commonly found in both territories.
    * Palestinian leaders wear custom suits and have Swiss bank accounts.
    * Arafat stole hundreds of millions from the Palestinian people. His wife has several masnions in Europe.
    * Spas and resorts can be found in both territories.
    On the other hand, in areas under Islamist rule – places like northern Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen – none of these amenities can be found so quit crying your crocodile tears and spreading lies about the plight of the Palestinians. A plight, let me remind you, that is of their own accord.

  • Arafat

    Imagine if the “power balance” was in equilibrium as is the case in Syria today.
    In Syria today 60,000 people have been killed thanks to a “power balance” (and Muslims running amok), it is reported 0ne million Syrians are suffering from lack of food, and millions more are refugees fleeing the barbaric violence.
    Of course, Dana and Rahim would tell us this would not happen in Israel if the uber-friendly and enlightened Palestinians had power akin to what Israel currently has. No doubt Dana and Rahim will tell us the Palestinians would not act towards Jews as Hamas has acted and treated Fatah members when they throw them off roof-tops and drag them to death behind motorcycles.

    Dana and Rahim, you’re good at writing fiction, you’re good at pointing fingers where they don’t belong, you’re good at making excuses for a people whose suffering is at their own hands, but you don’t fool me for a second.
    The Palestinians are a tool of the greater Jihad – the Islamic war against Israel. It’s not about the “Occupation” or anything else. It is about Jihad just as the murder of millions in Sudan is about Jihad, and the 500,000 refugees created in Mali in the last year is about Jihad, and the wholesale slaughter of Sunnis in Iraq and Shiites in Yemen is about Jihad.
    Be it the killing of Buddhists in Thailand, the killing of Hindus in Bangladesh, the killing of Bahai in Iran, the killing of Copts in Egypt and chaldeans in Iraq it is all about Jihad and the building of the Islamic caliphate.
    Poor, poor Israel is just a roadblock in that ugly drama and the Palestinians are the excuse needed in pushing towards that ugly, cruel goal.
    “Allahu Akbar” they shouted as they flew the planes into the World Trade Towers.

  • sweet jane

    Great article. you know it’s good when this “arafat” figure starts squirming and commenting with his islamophobic propaganda.