Tuesday, July 23

Submission: Israeli soldier-led seminars mask history of violence against Palestinians


Imagine, for a moment, a seminar convened by some innocuously named student group: Bruins for Saving the Planet, or some-such. Imagine that at the front of the hall, speaking as guests and experts, are the CEOs of Exxon, BP and Chevron. Imagine that they give exactly the lecture one would expect: blithely dismissing the academic consensus that their industry’s activities are leading to massive climate change; asserting their industry is harmless; dismissing whatever “small problems” there may be, but insisting they’ve got them under control.

Such an event would rightly be dismissed as propaganda. The judgment would be near-unanimous.

Shift the mind back to reality; one need not imagine. When the topic at hand is the oppression of Palestinians, such events are not only commonplace at UCLA and other universities, but they can even go unchallenged.

Twice in the past two weeks, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has invited Israeli soldiers to speak as experts and honored guests. The Israeli army administers the world’s longest-standing military occupation; it perpetrates a brutal and illegal siege of Gaza; and it is repeatedly condemned by the international community for egregious human rights abuses. No matter – the Brandeis Center and its campus partners see fit to host soldiers of that army as lecturers and forum-leaders. Such events distort the political discourse around Palestine by promoting a propagandized version of past and present – one that holds Palestinian rights and persons in contempt. But these events do individual harm as well: They are a form of intimidation against those students who have personally suffered, or whose families have suffered, at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.

The human facts of the Israeli occupation are not in dispute. Since 2008, the IDF has subjected Gaza to periodic bombings; the most recent, in 2014, left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead (among them 538 children) and about 11,000 injured. Thirteen public and 17 private hospitals were destroyed or damaged; Amnesty International found that Israel deliberately targeted medical facilities. The IDF shelled U.N.-operated schools and shelters. All major human rights organizations – Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – have alleged that the IDF committed war crimes. It will take decades for Gaza to rebuild – Israel controls the borders, strictly regulating the importation of food and raw materials. Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, Israel pursues a path of colonial settlement, displacing Palestinian farmers from their land and carrying out regular reprisals against the population. Tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and random arrest are the daily reality in the West Bank; since the beginning of October, soldiers and police have killed 64 Palestinians, injuring many more.

This history is not easy to defend. Instead, soldier-guests seek to deny and distract. The Brandeis Center’s most recent soldier-led seminar presented an IDF that exists only in the imagination. While the guests spoke anecdotally about their professional lives in the IDF, none attempted to ground their claims in fact. Those claims – that the IDF is “the most moral army in the world” and “puts life first” – would seem laughably unhinged were they not so pernicious. But their goal is serious: to deny the present and history of the occupation, exchanging facts for a narrative favorable to the IDF. That narrative, however, is inevitably racist at its foundation. The logic goes like this: If the IDF is the “most moral army in the world,” then the bulk of its actions must be ethical. Violence against the Palestinians, then, must be justified by denigrating their rights and character; the ethical army does not treat them as human, and therefore they must be lesser. This racism was quick to expose itself at the Brandeis Center, with one soldier-medic readily admitting his belief that the protection of Israel required the violation of Palestinian rights.

Soldier-led seminars defraud the truth and spread racism among their audiences. They create a dangerous atmosphere for Palestinian students, discouraging them from participating in campus discourse at all. For the purpose of honest, egalitarian discourse, they are an intellectual disaster. So we are only left to wonder: Why is the Brandeis Center so desperate to justify Israel’s apartheid regime and war crimes that they invite apologists of the worst kind to our campus?

Koch is a music graduate student. Kureh is a mathematics graduate student. Both are members of UAW 2865, the University of California’s student-worker union.

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  • Bruce Gold

    Does the Bruin publish anything? This piece is amateurish. Comparing a corporation defending its profits to soldiers fighting for a country that is being attacked for its very existence? Arguing against “propaganda” by spouting propaganda about what Israel does in Gaza and elsewhere? Selectively quoting dubious sources like Amnesty International? 20 years ago, perhaps you might have fooled someone with an anti-Israel stat from Amnesty. Now, its like quoting Rush Limbaugh on black people in America. Not the best source.

    • hypocrisy

      Gosh, you omitted the entire apartheid and ethnic cleansing part in your “soldiers fighting for a country that is being attacked for its very existence?” spiel. And you wanna complain about Amnesty International and Rush. Kettle, the Pot is calling.

      • Bruce Gold

        Gosh, you don’t see you’re part of the problem, throwing out terms at the Jewish state that you would never throw at states that do far worse. You whacked out loons acting like Israel kills a million Palestinians a day, throwing out terms like “genocide”, “open air prison”, “ethnic cleansing” as if they apply to Israel even one tiny bit. You’ve replaced the evil Jewish banker with the evil Israeli soldier, and you’re repeating the same blood libel that’s been repeated for hundreds of years. We’re not fooled anymore. The caricature of the Israeli soldier is Jew hatred at its finest!

  • Cause and effect

    So you find hosting Israeli soldiers to be problematic but have no problem with SJP hosting vile anti-semites like Omar Barghout? Double standard?

    • garyfouse

      Or how about speakers like Amir Abdel Malik Ali, with his rants about Zionist Jews and support for Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad. I have personally heard all of it at UC Irvine.

  • kcat

    Your Jew hatred is showing!

  • kcat

    The reason why all those Palestinians died was because Hamas made them stay there when Israel was trying to bomb Hamas and protect itself. The idf sent out paper warnings that they were going to attack. Also FYI that land never belonged to the Palestinians. It belonged and has always belonged to the Hebrews for over 2000 years. They let the Christians and the Muslims live there with them and they still do. Arab Muslims have been elected every single election since the founding of Israel. Jews cannot even go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or Mecca without fear of being beheaded or attacked by Hamas. Please stop spreading lies.

    • Michael H.

      There are several points in your comment which are not true:
      1. Arguing about who lived there for thousands of years is absurd, since others also lived there for thousands of years. Can Persians occupy lands from China borders to the Mediterranean Sea because for thousands of years those territories belonged to them?
      No surprise Israel is called an apartheid state, because as you said, Israel is in charge of deciding who has the right to exist.
      2. Hamas is not in charge of the West Bank, where recent violence occurred. Israel indeed bombed the UN school and camps in the last Gaza conflict, killing civilians and the UN investigators. That incident proved that the Israel’s (and your) argument about human shield is a lie (Hamas may have done it but most of civilian casualties are not due to that). FYI, in the UN report on the recent Gaza war (I urge you to read it), it is mentioned that Israel committed war crimes by targeting civilians.
      3. Jews can indeed go to Jerusalem and are living there as of now. For your info Israel is the one opposing the 1967 UN designated borders by building illegal settlements and occupying Golan heights, West Bank, Gaza, etc. Thus, Israel as the aggressor is responsible for the violence and civilian casualties.

      • kcat

        Israel is not an apartheid state. Look up the definition of an apartheid state. Arab Muslims have been elected since the founding of Israel. Yes Hamas is part of the reason Gaza was bombed because they instigate violence and tell the palestinians that Jews and the Jewish state should not exist. Look at the preamble of the Hamas constitution. You are occupying and destroying the land actually. People are getting stabbed everyday by Palestinians for going to the Holy Land and don’t feel safe being a Jew. You can fact check everything I said. The goal of the agressors, Hamas and some of the Palestinian people is to kill all the Jews and wipe Israel off of the face of the Earth. We want a two state solution but on many occasions Palestine rejected it (ie. Arafat during the clinton administration). You preach SJP solely because you are an anti semite who believes in the extermination of the Jewish people. Like I said previously. Your Jew hatred is showing.

      • kcat

        Palestine has committed many more human rights violations than europe, israel, and the USA combined. Israel is the only democracy in the middle east, they saved over 200k Ethiopian jews, over 1 million Arab Muslims live in Israel, if you support Palestine, you support violence, genocide not only of the Jewish people but of your own people.

        • Michael H.

          And 4-7 millions Palestinians were forced out of their homes, while hundred of thousands were massacred. It’s not called “protection”, it’s called “ethnic cleansing”.

          • kcat

            And millions of Jews have been beheaded in the name of Islam in Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Quatar, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. There are basically zero jews in those countries. Oh and they rape their women and children, have children married at the age of 9, and just constantly violate the right for anyone with a different opinion to exist. They do not have freedom of speech or press. The are forced to submit. It is not ethnic cleansing if over 1 million Arab Muslims live in Israel. You are spreading anti semitism once again. Face it, it’s easy to see that you hate Jews and Israel. Third time I have to say this: your Jew hatred is showing.

          • Michael H.

            Your statistics are absolutely wrong and pure propaganda. You are trying to demonize millions of people with your hatred, prejudice, and bigotry to cover up Israel crimes and genocidal actions. For instance, Iran has the second largest Jews population in the Middle East. Jews are protected by their constitution and they are Jews in Iran parliament. Your generalizations are disgusting and you are a racist anti-semitic. Since you continue to reply with lies, propaganda, and racist remarks instead of facts, I will end the discussion here.

          • kcat

            Lol you can fact check everything. You are actually hilarious because you don’t have an argument as to why government officials, hamas, al queida, hesbulla, jihad, isis, etc kill their own people, kill jews, and kill christians on a regular basis. I am not making a single generalization. I am pointing out the specific people who want Israel to not exist. Iran is an exemption. And has only appointed a few Jews. They have a history of anti semitism and a resurgence But since the foundING of Israel Arab Muslims have always been elected. Israel is the only democracy in the middle east. I should also mention that they are the only country that protects lgbtqai people. The rest are condemned to death.

          • kcat

            Lol you can fact check everything. You are actually hilarious because you don’t have an argument as to why government officials, hamas, al queida, hesbulla, jihad, isis, etc kill their own people, kill jews, and kill christians on a regular basis. I am not making a single generalization. I am pointing out the specific people who want Israel to not exist. Iran is an exemption. And has only appointed a few Jews. They have a history of anti semitism and a resurgence that is accounted in several maintstream media outlets.But since the founding of Israel Arab Muslims have always been elected. Israel is the only democracy in the middle east. I should also mention that they are the only country that protects lgbtqai people. The rest are condemned to death. Sorry that you hate Jews and their right to exist so much. You even hate your own people since you don’t acknowledge the endless amount of horrors perpetrated by their governments. At least you are losing the debate and are the minority voice for destruction and for genocide. I am glad that you express these thoughts so that people can see you for who you really are: a sell out to your own people and a violent instigator. Israel cares about everyone.

          • kcat

            This is not about race, it is about your hatred of jews. I am jewish so I cannot be an anti semite lmao. I LOVE your flawed circular reasoning. You have shown me zero facts. You have been fed hateful propaganda and I think we all know you really don’t want me to exist under your lies for “justice in Palestine”. That has always been your endgame.

          • kcat

            You keep on responding with the same anti peace anti semetic propaganda. You use your cute little buzz words. We all know who is doing the killing. Facts don’t care about your feelings. You like to blatantly ignore the human rights violations that are constantly happening in the middle east. You are part of the problem.

          • kcat

            Also did you see the demonstrations in Iran today: saying death to America, death to Israel? They were burning the Israeli and American flags. Just because there are Jews in Iran does not make it Jew friendly.

          • Tasha Simpson

            most iranian jews left iran, many have been hung.

          • Bruce Gold

            About 95% of Iranian Jews have been expelled or migrated out of Iran, so what facts were you talking about, person who claims NOT to be a Jew-hater?

          • garyfouse

            Michel,

            Jews, Christians and Baha’i are subject to discrimination in Iran. In the case of the Baha’i we are talking about serious persecution, murder, arrests and prosecution for trumped up charges. That is because they are not recognized as People of the Book (a dubius protection), but as heretics from Islam. In addition, they hang gays.

          • Tasha Simpson

            no about 700,000 Palestinians left the area, so that they would be out of the way while 5 arab armies attacked israel. about the same number of middle eastern Jews came to Israel.
            there is no source to claim that “hundreds of thousands” were massacred. In fact, no one was massacred, which is why there are a million palestinian arab citizens of israel.

      • Tasha Simpson

        would there have been a war in gaza if hamas had not launched thousands of missiles into Israel?

  • Publius

    Universities should be a place of speech freedom, exchanging of ideas, and debate. We shouldn’t picking and choosing what kind of speech we’ll allow to be heard at UCLA. If you want propaganda, if you want a narrow and skewed worldview to which you can be exposed, if you don’t like ideas and critical thinking, then feel free to live in Palestine.

  • M2000

    So let me get this straight, you Palestine supporters who ignore how Ayman al-Zawahiri recently endorsed your cause say you’re the “true” message here? And you want no freedom of speech from the other side right?

  • Tasha Simpson

    Your propagandized version of reality holds the right of Jews to have self-determination in contempt. You haven regard for the lives and human rights of Jews and Israelis.

    Why was gaza “subject to bombings”? Was it because gaza launched THOUSANDS of missiles into Israel, and built terror tunnels into israel?

    Why does Gaza have the money and material to build terror tunnels, but not bomb shelters?

    Gazans want to startw ar, then complain when they lose the war. The leaders of gaza oppress their own citizens by not protecting them. I encourage readers to read the Hamas Charter, which clearly supports genocide of Jews.

    How many civilians died in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? In Syria? Look at the numbers, that is why the Israeli army is the most moral in the world. they send warnings for civilians to evacuate. The hamas and Islamic Jihad used civilian locations to hide and embed their members, subjecting civilians to death needlessly.

    When The palestinians love their children more than they hate the Jews, they will utilize their aid, education, and talents to build their own society and economy, instead of wasting lives trying in futility to destroy Israel.

  • Tasha Simpson

    you forgot to mention how hospitals in gaza are used as command and control centers for Hamas, and how hamas launches rockets next to hospitals, as well as storing weapons in mosques and schools.

  • Tasha Simpson

    And, the “facts” you cite are very much in dispute. many of the people counted as “children” were in fact hamas and islamic jihad military, who had martyr posters celebrating their death and participation in the war.

  • Bob

    Few people know that “Hamas” is bullshit for “peace”.

  • garyfouse

    All this is is just another attempt to stamp out pro-Israel speech. Unfortunately for you, we have a First Amendment in this country. I wonder how many of you would be willing to put on the uniform of your country (US-Israel or other) and put your lives on the line to protect your country.

    (in this case from barbaric terrorists who want to kill every last Jew)

  • Adam OnWeb

    Once again, the hypocrisy of anti-Semitic articles like this are nearly too much to take. It is a rant that attempts to demonize and dehumanize Jews and Israelis.

    “Such events distort the political discourse around Palestine by promoting a propagandized version of past and present – one that holds Palestinian rights and persons in contempt. But these events do individual harm as well: They are a form of intimidation against those students who have personally suffered, or whose families have suffered, at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.”

    Remarkably, this writer is doing exactly the same thing he is accusing the Brandeis Center of doing, only this writer is much worse. Notice how this article makes no mention of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and others. These groups openly call for the total destruction of Israel. Hamas actually calls for the genocide of every Jew on earth. And yet this article makes no mention of their ultimate goals.

    Doesn’t that distort the political discourse? Isn’t that promoting a propagandized version of past and present? Isn’t the ignoring threats of genocide against Jews a form of intimidation against students who have personally suffered, or whose families have suffered from the holocaust – the most brutal genocidal event in history?

    More and more, I find that the defenders of Palestinian Arabs are adopting the most despicable tactics. They engage in incredible hypocrisy and double standards. They pick out the worst tactics that they use on Israel, and then they accuse Israel of using it on them.