Palestinian Territories

Recently, the Palestine Solidarity Movement, in concert with other forces, proposed a resolution in Student Government urging the University of Texas Investment Management Company to divest itself from companies that the PSM deems to facilitate the oppression of Palestinians. 

Specifically, the resolution is part of a broader platform of boycotts, divestment and sanctions that has been proposed by likeminded individuals nationwide. I agreed with my compatriots on the Texan’s editorial board last Friday when we rightly recommended that the Student Government vote down this asinine resolution because it is not SG’s role to meddle in “foreign policy squabbles.” That much is true. But it is also true that this resolution, like any part of the misguided BDS movement, is hypocritical, anti-Semitic and wrong.

Proponents of BDS claim that such tactics are necessary to dissuade Israel from continuing its illegal occupation of Palestine. They have also been emboldened by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent dishonorable comments opposing the creation of an independent Palestinian state, an ostensible Israeli policy goal for the past 22 years. 

I, for one, certainly agree that Netanyahu’s comments are inexcusable and some of Israel’s conduct is nothing short of egregious. But punitive measures against the whole of Israeli society, such as the divestment considered by the university, are most definitely the wrong way to voice opposition to the many foreign policy mistakes that the Netanyahu government has made.

Countless other countries around the world, including Armenia, China, India, Russia and Turkey, to name a few, occupy others’ lands. Plenty more, including Georgia, Morocco and Serbia, have dragged their feet on recognizing breakaway regions as independent. Where is the controversy and, more appropriately, where are the organized punitive measures?

There are none, of course, because disagreeable foreign policy actions do not necessitate the collective punishment of a politically, culturally and ethnically diverse group of people such as the Israeli public. Comparisons to the South African apartheid, as the BDS movement regularly makes, are hyperbolic and incorrect.

During apartheid, blacks in South Africa were systemically denied their basic civil rights nationwide. They were denied rights based solely on the color of their skin, and no other rationale. In Israel proper — that is, the portion of the nation outside of the Palestinian territories that are the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, are granted full civil rights. More than a million Arab citizens enjoy all the rights and privileges of Israeli society, including the right to partake in all portions of the Israeli welfare state, vote and hold public office.

Palestinians in the occupied territories face discrimination and unneeded roadblocks to self-determination, but they are simply not victims of apartheid; rather, they are victims of a dragged-out war with a neighboring nation. The comparison to the apartheid is simply, to say the least, one of apples and oranges.

Sadly, though, BDS is not about seeking justice for Palestinians. Instead, it is about seeking to stigmatize, isolate and otherwise attack the Jews in our two-thousand year quest for a homeland. As reported in a New York Times op-ed, the leaders of BDS have revealed that their true quest is not an independent State of Palestine, peacefully coexisting side-by-side with an independent State of Israel. Omar Barghouti, one of BDS’ founders, was quoted by the article as saying that he does not want “a two-state solution,” instead advocating for “a Palestine next to a Palestine.” National leaders of BDS like Barghouti want one Palestine and no Israel.

I support a two-state solution, as do almost all of the American-Jewish community and a majority of the Israeli public. Sadly, Netanyahu does not appear to share this sentiment. He does, after all, have a lot of company in that position, including the Ayatollah of Iran, Hamas and the BDS movement. Prejudice, hatred and bigotry, be it Netanyahu’s islamophobia or BDS’s anti-Semitism, have much more in common than their proponents may admit.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.

Tracy Frydberg’s editorial response “BDS legislation would isolate UT's Jewish community” entirely avoids the points that my original article makes. I make two key points: First, that Unify Texas is not open about its pro-Israeli politics and that prevents an honest campus debate; and second, that Palestine is a relevant issue of justice and human rights for students and UTDivest is a way to get involved.

For the first point, I explain that they are run by Texas Hillel, which announced Unify Texas in an email to its supporters and said they “must speak with one voice” that is pro-Israel. This is an explicitly political position. Neither Hillel nor this position is acknowledged by Unify Texas, and repeated requests about this from the author were ignored. To elaborate on why Hillel’s politics matter, I discuss the Open Hillel movement of Jewish college students. In short, the movement calls on Hillel chapters to reject the restrictive political standards of the organization and engage in dialogue about Palestine.

For the second point, I quote famous activists like Dorothy Zellner and Nelson Mandela, who argued that their work for civil rights and against apartheid rests on a principle of justice which should be extended to Palestinians. I explain that Palestine is particularly an issue for UT students because our University and our government support the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine with various investments. UTDivest and BDS are a way to fight against the occupation by ending our institutional complicity. I cite Martin Luther King Jr. and how white America hated him to show that we have to fight for justice even if it’s divisive.

Frydberg does not address any of these points. She argues that UTDivest activism will promote anti-Semitism and that I have already done so through my article. Her article contains no citations and makes verifiably false claims.

Frydberg says that I have “refused to engage with Jewish student groups on the issue.” There is no citation. This is false and is particularly odd because I have never even been approached. On the other hand, I recently contacted Jewish student groups like Open Hillel to discuss Palestine and Hillel.

Frydberg says Texas Hillel is non-political. This is false, as repeatedly stated by Hillel itself. They openly advocate pro-Israel politics in the Unify Texas email and on their website. On their “About Us” page, they proudly say that they won the “Best Campus Political Organization” award for work that included “Texans for Israel advocacy.”

Frydberg accuses me of “insidiously” going from being “anti-Israel” to “anti-Semitic.” There is no explanation for how I or my article does this (because, again, she does not address anything I actually say). Perhaps the accusation is because I support UTDivest, which she says decided to “single out one Jewish state for its vitriol.” Readers should read the UTDivest resolution and my original article (and others I have written), all of which is on the basis of human rights. As such, I agree that the same standard should be applied to other companies and other countries.

Frydberg says that Israel and the Jewish people are “intertwined” and “inseparable.” It’s not clear what this means, but it’s clear after the recent Israeli elections that an increasing number of Jewish Americans do not agree with this. This is especially true for those who are in organizations like Open Hillel and Jewish Voice for Peace, which explicitly reject the idea that Israel has a monopoly on Judaism.  Frydberg claims that UTDivest has “slapped away” invitations from the “Jewish community” (again no citation). It’s also unclear what this means, especially because Austin Jewish Voice for Peace and Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights are members of UTDivest and have been publicly speaking at events.

Frydberg then makes a series of accusations about BDS and anti-Semitism at various universities with no citations. Moreover, she doesn’t actually state who is supposedly being anti-Semitic or what their relationship is to UTDivest. I can’t respond to these accusations without knowing this information.

Frydberg then repeats accusations that UTDivest is anti-Semitic and does not actually care about human rights because they are singling out Israel. Again, the reader should review UTDivest and see for themselves that everything is based on human rights, and that they are fully supportive of other such initiatives. As mentioned, BDS is modeled on a similar campaign conducted on US college campuses against South African apartheid.

UTDivest provides an opportunity for students to act on UT’s core values of Freedom and Responsibility with regards to the Palestinians. This requires open debate on the actual issue and honest politics. Students who are concerned about human rights and justice should take this debate seriously rather than avoiding the issue and relying on non sequiturs and baseless accusations.

— Mukund Rathi, computer science honors junior, in response to Tracy Frydberg's Wednesday Firing Line titled "BDS legislation would isolate UT's Jewish community."

Collin Poirot, Plan II and communications studies senior, voices his opinion of the divestment legislation.
Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

Students debated a Student Government resolution that would support divestment of the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) from corporations that supporters said facilitate in the oppression of the Palestinian people.

The legislation, introduced Tuesday, states that UTIMCO’s investments in these corporations violate University values. The legislation asks UTIMCO to divest from five specific companies in which UTIMCO holds shares: Alstom, Cemex, Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, and United Technologies.

“UTS continues to hold securities in — and thereby profits from — companies which have an active role in the human rights abuse and institutionalized structural violence perpetrated against the Palestinian people, consequently making it a complicit third party,” the legislation states.

Collin Poirot, Plan II and communication studies senior and an author of the document, said the investments directly affect students despite the overseas distance of Palestine and Israel.

“This resolution has direct implications for a number of UT students,” Poirot said. “These companies that our tuition dollars are supporting are directly responsible for the persecution and oppression of family members of UT students.”   

Rebecca Hanai, an advertising junior who spoke in opposition to the legislation, said the issue is too divisive for SG to take a vote.

“A resolution proposing a divestment from Israel would indeed divide our campus for the worse,” Hanai said. “As a Jewish student leader on this campus, I can personally say that I attend a school that supports such a polarizing issue.”

The divestment resolution, which members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee and other allied groups drafted, is part of a larger “boycott-divestment-sanctioning,” or “BDS,” movement that Palestinian civil rights organizations have started.

Hanai said BDS movements cut off dialogue between the two  groups.

“The notion of [BDS] movement coming to the Forty Acres is a regression to change of any kind,” Hanai said. “The AR resolution poses a threat to our campus, not only by demoting justice, human rights or peace at UT-Austin, but also by repressing any opportunities for open dialogue.”

Amy Nabozny, College Republicans president and history and government junior, said she thinks the resolution would target Israel. 

“This piece of legislation would be responsible and deliberately singles out and demonizes the only Jewish state and few democracies in the Middle East,” Nabozny said.

Law student Mohammed Nabulsi, a law school representative and author of the resolution, said Unify Texas, an organization opposed to divestment, has misrepresented UTDivest, the movement that supports the resolution.

“It’s not asking for a divestment from businesses who do business in Israel; rather it’s asking for divestment from a little, limited amount of companies … all whom do business in the Occupy [Palestine] territories, participating in illegal activity and also participating in a violation of human rights,” Nabulsi said.

Student groups at other universities, such as UC-Davis and DePaul University, have been successful in passing similar legislation. UT’s SG also passed a resolution last session asking for UTIMCO to divest from companies that facilitate in genocide in Sudan.

The legislation will be sent to the Government Affairs Committee this week. 

Photo courtesy of the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Editor's Note: The Texan received this piece around the same time as Walker Fountain's piece. They are not intended to be read as a point/counterpoint.

 

In February, Harvard University’s Hillel center for Jewish students co-sponsored a civil rights panel on “Selma to Ferguson” which included Jewish civil rights veteran Dorothy Zellner. Zellner is also an unapologetic supporter of the Palestinian people and their call for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This caused confusion, however, because Hillel International (which I’ll call “International”) disallows engagement with individuals or entities which support BDS or “demonize” Israel.

 

International typically requires its chapters to react far more sharply to undogmatic speakers. In January of 2014, the Hillel chapter at UC Santa Barbara rescinded its invitation for Jewish author David Harris-Gershon to speak on his book about reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Harris-Gershon committed the sin of backing the BDS movement (though he still supports the two-state solution), so Hillel decided his presence would lead to a “hurtful distraction.”

 

Shortly after the Harvard panel, Zellner and other civil rights veterans were barred from speaking at Hillel chapters at UMass Amherst and MIT. Just last month, the Hillel chapter at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania decided to host Zellner and others on a panel and was threatened with legal action by International.

 

International stated that the panel would be acceptable so long as the discussion was restricted to American civil rights and did not take up BDS and the occupation of Palestine. At Harvard, Zellner explained the problem with this perspective: Her support for BDS is simply a continuation of “the work that I learned from black people” in the civil rights movement. International’s standards thus cause a serious contradiction for civil rights activists and their underlying principle of justice.

 

The Swarthmore Hillel realized this contradiction in December of 2013 and made a choice to err on the side of justice, passing a resolution to “become an Open Hillel.” They charged International with trying to present a “monolithic face” which does not represent American Jewish diversity, falsely equating Israel with Judaism and generally obstructing open discussion with its restrictive standards.

 

The legal threats by International have culminated in Swarthmore Hillel’s effective expulsion from the organization. Open Hillel has since become a larger movement of Jewish students who believe that dialogue with Palestinians and anti-Zionist Jews is important and should not be subject to International’s authority.

 

Justice-minded students at UT Austin now have a similar choice to make. The Palestine Solidarity Committee has formed the UTDivest coalition, which calls on UT to end its multimillion dollar investments in corporations that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

They hope to pass such a resolution in Student Government and demonstrate student support through a petition. Of course, International is against such activism and so the Texas Hillel chapter is campaigning against UTDivest for its similarity to the BDS movement. They have formed a “Unify Texas” campaign which, on its Facebook page, calls for “open dialogue” and “peace and justice.” They do not provide any alternatives to BDS. They do not mention Texas Hillel and did not answer repeated requests from the author to publicly or privately clarify their relationship.

 

That relationship is incredibly important for understanding Unify Texas, as outlined in an anti-BDS email that Texas Hillel circulated. Even while acknowledging that some of its members “struggle with some of Israel’s policies,” Hillel advocates International’s standards of restriction and states that its members “must speak with one voice,” particularly a pro-Israel and anti-BDS voice. The unity and open dialogue that Unify Texas is calling for is a sham, as it rests on a core of restrictive standards and official dogma.

 

Moreover, as UTDivest supporter and SG representative Mohammed Nabulsi explained to The Daily Texan, the first prerequisite of open dialogue is justice. Nabulsi explains that “BDS is a step toward leveling the negotiating playing field so that the Israeli government is forced to take Palestinian demands seriously.”

 

PSC has consistently followed this standard of open and just debate, having recently hosted public demonstrations and events to discuss Palestine and BDS when their criticisms of Texas Hillel were ignored or deleted. They will host yet another public forum Wednesday to discuss UTDivest and BDS with the UT community before their SG resolution is voted on next week.

 

Students who actually care about justice should stand with movements like Open Hillel, UTDivest and BDS. This is not simply a “foreign policy squabble”, as the Texan editorial board wrongly framed it.

 

Those who stand against justice on the basis of “open dialogue” are not only paradoxical, but also on the wrong side of history. We should all reread Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Birmingham letter in which he rejects the deception of white liberal calls for patience and unity, because freedom “must be demanded by the oppressed.” Do not forget that King himself was a striking point of disunity, having been overwhelmingly hated by white America and sabotaged by the federal government for his radical allegiance to justice.

 

We should honestly consider the statements on Palestine by South African anti-apartheid leaders such as Nelson Mandela, who stated that “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Do not forget that Mandela was considered to be a terrorist by the United States for decades. Justice is justice even if it goes against the will of power, and all peoples deserve it, including the Palestinians.

 

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

Karina Alvarez (left), an alumna of Texas A&M International University in Laredo, and Mirla Lopez, a UT alumna, go over their speeches before testifying at the Capitol against a bill that would eliminate in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

On this week's episode of the Daily Texan NewsCast we discuss a bill to repeal the Texas Dream Act, a bomb threat at the Butler School of Music, student organizations advocacy for divestment related to Palestine, and a retrospective on the Rady-Strickland administration.

“A celebration of culture does not require supporting a political entity. However, the Holi festival on the LBJ Lawn makes it unapologetically clear that it promotes India and proactively legitimizes the state.”

“A celebration of culture does not require supporting a political entity. However, the Pakistani Student Association’s Basant celebration makes it unapologetically clear that it promotes Pakistan and proactively legitimizes the state.”

In all likelihood, you haven’t heard anyone make such ridiculous arguments. And if you did, you’d correctly identify them as racist strawmen.

You most likely take for granted that the people of India should hold the power to govern themselves within the state of India, and that Pakistanis hold that same right within Pakistan.

You understand that Indians and Pakistanis of any religion or nationality, like all peoples, enjoy the right to celebrate their respective customs, free from harassment and persecution.

And you accept that people of all races, religions, and ethnicities are entitled to define the sounds and flavors of their culture as affirmations of a collective identity, not as political statements. By extension, you accept that a cultural event is not a political event, and that while protesting the latter is an essential feature of a free civil society, protesting the former dehumanizes the event’s participants, signaling that their very existence should be called into question.

So if student groups were to disrupt either Holi or Basant to call attention to military or ethnic conflicts in Kashmir, Gujarat, or Balochistan, you would (or should) criticize their behavior as intolerant and cruel.

But when an association of Israeli and Israeli-American students organized just such a cultural celebration, they were greeted with the following message, published on the event page of a protest organized by members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee:

“A celebration of culture does not require supporting a political entity. However, the Israel Block Party makes it unapologetically clear that it promotes Israel and proactively legitimizes the state.”

Sadly, such behavior is not unusual for the PSC, whose Facebook cover photo imperialistically features a silhouette of both Israel and Palestine draped in the colors of the Palestinian flag. By framing the self-determination of the Israeli people as a political controversy, it attempts to justify targeting anything related to the state or its inhabitants with aggressive and racially charged theatrics.

There are obvious moral concerns with this tactic, which directs vitriolic hatred towards a group of people on the basis of a characteristic as immutable as ethnicity. There is nothing Israeli students can do, save for renouncing their right to live in a safe haven from oppression and genocide within their ancestral homeland, to appease those willing to protest their culture and their customs.

That’s because the protest against the Israel Block Party falls within a broader movement intended to “anti-normalize” Israel, which requires that anything that might make an Israeli feel normal or human must instantly be shouted down, regardless of its relation to the country’s politics. The boycotters and their sponsors aren’t trying to protest settlement policies, call attention to security dilemmas, or question the morality of asymmetric warfare. They are targeting an event that, by sharing Israeli music and food and technologies and humor with the UT community at large, is designed to portray the Israeli people as more than a thorny political problem. 

By doing so, they’re targeting Israelis for exercising their basic right to human dignity. In that regard, the boycotters bear a strong resemblance to members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which uses similar protest strategies to promote an equally obstinate and equally shameful bigotry towards the LGBT community.

The protest’s organizers cloak this intolerance through the argument that the Block Party “excludes the voices” of Palestinians living outside of Israel. But that line of reasoning is both flawed and irrelevant.Because the Israel Block Party is exclusively a cultural festival, the political persuasions of its attendees are as tangential as they would be at a South by Southwest concert or a Memorial Day barbecue. And because the event specifically celebrates Israeli culture, its organizers emphasize Palestine as little as they do Australia, Bhutan, or Zambia. In other words, the protesters are calling out an event that has nothing to do with Palestine for not featuring their particular brand of a Palestinian agenda. By their own logic, they should be incensed by Events & Entertainment bringing Ra Ra Riot to campus instead of Rashid Khalidi.

Their bellicose racism doesn’t belie the protesters’ right to peaceably assemble. But, as with any hate group, no one should take their rhetoric seriously.

Shenhar is a Plan II, government and economics sophomore from Westport, Connecticut. Follow Shenhar on Twitter @jshenhar.

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.” 

Ex-NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf delivers the keynote address Friday at the Second Annual Let Palestine Shine Charity dinner.

Photo Credit: Usama Malik | Daily Texan Staff

This past Friday, the United Muslim Relief chapter at the University of Texas at Austin hosted its second annual “Let Palestine Shine” event, an apolitical charity dinner that provides direct relief to Palestinians in the form of sustenance, shelter, healthcare and education. This event was publicized to the general Austin community. In fact, the organization spent several days tabling and passed out several hundred flyers. Yet the participants of the event were mainly Muslims despite the fact that the event wasn’t religiously charged. 

This could be due to, in part, the stigmatization of the Palestinian cause as religiously charged. After years of propaganda and lobbying, people in America equate Zionism with Judaism and Judaism with Israel and Islam with Palestine. Thus, if you are anti-Zionism, you are anti-Semitic and even worse, anti-Israel. If you find such deductions implausible, just consider history; in fact, not long ago, here in America during the Red Scare, being a communist meant you were anti-American and surely a Soviet spy. 

To be concise, the Palestinian cause has been cast as anti-Semitic, anti-American, and, God forbid, pro-Islam. However, this should not the case. Palestine is a humanitarian cause, and events such as “Let Palestine Shine” should be able to bring people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together. 

For this humanitarian claim to make sense, it has to be made clear that the fight over Palestine is not a religious conflict. Religion does play a factor in the conflict, but in the same way that religion plays a role in your everyday life. Religion is a moral driving force for many Palestinian-Muslims, as I am sure it is for Palestinian-Christians. Similarly, as 20th century fascism was ostensibly based on Christian teachings and current Islamic Wahhabism,  Zionism is an ideology that is racist and oppressive. Thus, as quickly as we reject the association between fascism and Christianity and Islam and Wahhabism, we should reject Zionism equating to Judaism with the same fervor. The people of Palestine, which the United Nations recognizes as a state, are struggling for their basic rights every day. The region’s religious affiliations is irrelevant to the fact that we face a tragedy in Palestine.

The Palestinian conflict is political in part. However, as Americans, we should not forget the human element. The oppression and injustice against Palestinians violates the human conscious. There is a prevailing idea among Americans that the loss of Palestinians is a necessary evil and collateral damage that is executed by Israel for security reasons. This argument is dispelled by Israel’s disproportionate aggression, economic oppression, and invasive and illegal settlements, all of which independently go beyond sensible security measures. 

Since Sept. 29, 2000, 132 Israeli children have been killed and 2,053 Palestinian children. In total, 1,185 Israelis have been killed and 9,100 Palestinians. The suffering of the Palestinian people extends beyond the graveyard. Israel has 5,271 Palestinian political prisoners detained while Palestine has 0. Now if you are lucky to be alive and not in prison, you may still not have a home or a livelihood. Since 1967, 28,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed, and the state has an unemployment rate of around 25 percent. Furthermore, what little hope they have remaining is dwindling as Israel continues to increase its number of its illegal Jewish-only settlements. Currently, there are around 262 settlements. The discrepancy is staggering, but as noted, there has been losses on both sides. That is why it is important to frame this as a humanitarian issue so the oppressors cannot continue to carry out their injustices under the guise of “security.”

You might be wondering, if the situation is really that lopsided, then why haven’t I heard about this? Well, in small part, because of a discrepancy in media coverage. In fact, a report shows that the Associated Press overreported Israeli deaths by 30 percent. In contrast, 34 percent of Palestinian deaths went unreported. The fact is that this is not a conflict of religiosity. This is a humanitarian issue, and it deserves our full attention and support. So next time, join me in breaking bread as we unite together in solidarity against the injustices against Palestinians. 

Rizvi is a government senior from Dallas. 

Cyrus Schayegh, associate professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, speaks at Garrison Hall on Monday afternoon. Schayegh talks about the economic developments that shaped Greater Syria in the 1930s.

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

The Great Depression and the influx of Jewish immigrants to Palestine shaped the economy of the Levant region in the 1930s, according to a lecture given by Cyrus Schayegh, assistant professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, at UT on Monday.

The lecture focused on the economics of the region known as the Levant, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. Schayegh, whose work originally focused on Iran, then spoke about the Arab world. He said, before the economic instability in the 1930s, the Levant region prospered as a result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

According to Schayegh, the British and French colonial forces decided to turn the region into a customs-free economic zone in order to help increase trade efficiency. He said, after the Great Depression, countries outside the Levant closed their markets from trading within the region.

While the Levant region struggled economically, the Jewish immigrants in Palestine, who were known as the Yishuv, began
industrializing and shifted to fiscal self-sufficiency. According to Schayegh, this helped shape the Jewish state of Israel, which was beginning to form.

Philip Issa, Middle Eastern studies graduate student, said the economic history of the region is integral to understanding its overall history.

“This sort of scholarship helps us move away from essentialist notions of the Middle East — perhaps focusing too much on a national or religious identity,” Issa said. “The economies used to be highly integrated, and the identities were fluid.”

Issa said it is important to consider that circumstances in regions are susceptible to change.

“When I think of the popular discourse of what you read in the media, I think people hold these notions that these nations really stretch back time eternal, or the national and religious [facets have] been the most important thing,” Issa said. “I think it is false.”

History graduate student Shaherzad Ahmadi said, although it is difficult to engage in discussions regarding the region without understanding the impact one region can have on the rest of the world, one must be careful when drawing conclusions.

“I’m constantly flabbergasted by how little people do know about the history of the Middle East,” Ahmadi said. “I’m always a little bit worried when direct lines are made between history and current issues.”

The original intent of the Ferguson to Palestine panel, covered by Kylie Fitzpatrick in a story that ran online Thursday under the headline “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza,” was to facilitate a discussion on the shared experiences of institutionalized racism and militarized state violence. By connecting the recent events of Ferguson, Missouri, to what is occurring in Palestine and Gaza, the panelists and audience began a critical discussion on these pressing issues. However, the article covering the event a) failed to recognize black student voices, b) mislead readers in the title and c) failed to adhere to journalistic integrity and objectivity.

The voices of black students at this event were entirely excluded from the coverage or even noted as participating members of this discussion. The original article failed to note that the event was co-hosted by the Pre-Law National Black Law Student Association and Association of Black Psychologists. The article failed to include any means of representing black students in this discussion. This is ironic because a substantial proportion of the discussion related to how the media lacks coverage of (or misrepresents) the struggles of minority groups. Rather, the author made the choice to include a volunteered comment by an individual from the organization Texans for Israel who was not in attendance. 

I found the title, “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza,” to be misleading. “UT Palestine group” suggests only pro-Palestine students organized this event. The title also suggests that the reader might learn more about what “connections between Ferguson and Gaza” were addressed in the discussion. Unfortunately, nowhere in the story does it explain the actual content discussed, which included the use of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles on civilian populations, how media coverage portrays minority struggles of racism and the respectability politics of minority groups that turns the victims into the responsible parties. 

As an unaffiliated participant in the event, I can say the author did not present a true representation of the event and its purpose. The author failed to adhere to journalistic objectivity by focusing more on the overlapping of the event with a religious holiday than on trying to convey the scope of the discussion that took place. She did this while largely ignoring the black student organizations that co-sponsored this event and the black students who participated in the discussion by not quoting them. 

As readers we must always question the integrity of the journalist, any journalist. It is the responsibility of the journalist to be objective and accurate when reporting on what takes place in the day-to-day. All consumers of any kind of media have to ask themselves how the facts are represented, what sources were used and whose voices are included or excluded. If the motto of UT is “What starts here changes the world,” then we need our journalists coming from UT to ensure that world is represented accurately. 

— Megan Maldonado, an international relations and global studies and sociology junior from Houston, in response to a Thursday news article that ran under the web headline “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza.”

Article leaves out black voices

The original intent of the Ferguson to Palestine panel, covered by Kylie Fitzpatrick in a story that ran online Thursday under the headline “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza,” was to facilitate a discussion on the shared experiences of institutionalized racism and militarized state violence. By connecting the recent events of Ferguson, Missouri, to what is occurring in Palestine and Gaza, the panelists and audience began a critical discussion on these pressing issues. However, the article covering the event a) failed to recognize black student voices, b) mislead readers in the title and c) failed to adhere to journalistic integrity and objectivity.

The voices of black students at this event were entirely excluded from the coverage or even noted as participating members of this discussion. The original article failed to note that the event was co-hosted by the Pre-Law National Black Law Student Association and Association of Black Psychologists. The article failed to include any means of representing black students in this discussion. This is ironic because a substantial proportion of the discussion related to how the media lacks coverage of (or misrepresents) the struggles of minority groups. Rather, the author made the choice to include a volunteered comment by an individual from the organization Texans for Israel who was not in attendance. 

I found the title, “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza,” to be misleading. “UT Palestine group” suggests only pro-Palestine students organized this event. The title also suggests that the reader might learn more about what “connections between Ferguson and Gaza” were addressed in the discussion. Unfortunately, nowhere in the story does it explain the actual content discussed, which included the use of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles on civilian populations, how media coverage portrays minority struggles of racism and the respectability politics of minority groups that turns the victims into the responsible parties. 

As an unaffiliated participant in the event, I can say the author did not present a true representation of the event and its purpose. The author failed to adhere to journalistic objectivity by focusing more on the overlapping of the event with a religious holiday than on trying to convey the scope of the discussion that took place. She did this while largely ignoring the black student organizations that co-sponsored this event and the black students who participated in the discussion by not quoting them. 

As readers we must always question the integrity of the journalist, any journalist. It is the responsibility of the journalist to be objective and accurate when reporting on what takes place in the day-to-day. All consumers of any kind of media have to ask themselves how the facts are represented, what sources were used and whose voices are included or excluded. If the motto of UT is “What starts here changes the world,” then we need our journalists coming from UT to ensure that world is represented accurately. 

— Megan Maldonado, an international relations and global studies and sociology junior from Houston, in response to a Thursday news article that ran under the web headline “UT Palestine group discusses connections between Ferguson, Gaza.”

 

Coverage of panel shows bias

After reading the article, I felt compelled to express my disappointment with this newspaper. Wednesday’s event was co-hosted by two black student groups and discussed struggles of African Americans, but Ms. Fitzpatrick failed to include comments from any black voices. She did, however, decide to include comments from Texans for Israel, who had no involvement in the event.

As a reader, it suggests to me that Ms. Fitzpatrick, the editorial staff and possibly even the entire organization, The Daily Texan, are heavily biased against the Palestinian human rights cause, the movements in Ferguson and speaking out about blacks’ struggle in America.

The whole lot of you ought to be ashamed of such an article and the message The Daily Texan has sent by approaching the article the way it has.

Black voices matter and, without question, should have been included in this article. The Daily Texan obviously disagrees.

— Moureen Kaki, a UTSA student, in response to the same article.