Many people at the University of Texas, including both students and faculty, believe in the “zero-sum game” regarding Israelis and Palestinians. Essentially, they believe that Israeli success equals Palestinian failure and vice versa. As a member of Texans for Israel, the pro-Israel organization at UT, I can say that this could not be further from the truth. As an advocate for Israel, I want nothing more for the Palestinian people than for them to live in peace and prosperity alongside Israelis. The very essence of Zionism, the movement that calls for the Jewish people to have a state in our historic homeland, requires coexistence with Israel’s neighbors. In Syed Rizvi’s recent article, he argues that support for the Palestinian people is not a religious issue, but a humanitarian issue. We cannot agree more. To achieve peace, Israel advocates and Palestinian activists must come together in open dialogue and finally bring an end to the cycle of hatred. This can start today on UT’s campus.
Undoubtedly, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza suffer. Checkpoints can cause journeys of short distances to take hours; unemployment has reached 25 percent; and wars have decimated major cities, killing many civilians. No knowledgeable person denies these facts, and no compassionate person ignores them. Yet many people forget the cause of the Palestinians’ suffering. According to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Yasser Arafat, the beloved leader of the Palestinians for over 40 years and founder of the Fatah party, diverted “over $1 billion in public funds to insure his political survival, [and] a lot more is unaccounted for.” He literally stole money from his impoverished people. This blatant corruption has plagued the Palestinian leadership ever since they received autonomy in the historic Oslo Accords of 1993. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the people, tired of Fatah’s corruption, elected Hamas to power. Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel as well as the murder of every Jew on the planet. Corruption caused the civilian population to get desperate, giving a terrorist group the ability to take over Gaza. Hamas, like Fatah, has neglected the Palestinian people and, instead, has spent millions of the dollars given for aid on weapons and tunnels to murder Israeli civilians. The only reason Israel established the checkpoint system is to prevent terrorists from attacking Israeli civilians. In fact, as the number of terror attacks has declined, so too has the number of checkpoints. However, the recent wave of terror attacks has escalated tension and can possibly lead to an increase in security.
Unfortunately, the pro-Palestinian movement on college campuses has been manipulated into becoming a crusade against the state of Israel. Pro-Palestinian student leaders should relish the opportunity to meet with Israel advocates and find common ground. We, at Texans for Israel, resent the accusation that we see the Palestinian people as “collateral damage that is executed by Israel for security reasons,” as Rizvi wrote, and we reach out our metaphorical hand to anyone who wishes to promote the coexistence between Palestinian and Israeli people. The next time there is an event promoting the Palestinian cause, we ask that Rizvi or another Muslim student leader invite a representative of Texans for Israel. I promise we will make the utmost effort to help.
On campus, advocates have a moral obligation to promote human decency throughout the world, but we must remember that the prosperity of one people does not impede the success of another and that corrupt leadership will not stand. Both peoples have suffered long enough. It is time for advocates of Israel and Palestinians to, as Rizvi said, “break bread” as we call for an end to the corrupt leadership and the beginning of peaceful times between Israeli and Palestinian people.
Finally, Rizvi’s accusation that Zionism equals racism is extremely offensive. I truly hope that it came out of ignorance and not malice because to say that Jews, a long-persecuted minority, have no right to a homeland would mean we are destined to live as minorities in lands that have historically discriminated against us.
Lefkowitz is a history freshman from Houston. This was written in response to Syed Rizvi’s Monday column titled “Palestine issues are humanitarian.”