Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine
28. January. 2014
It has come to our knowledge that Paths to Peace,[i] a program that brings students of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) to study together for one semester at New York University has been recruiting university students from Gaza. The program is dedicated to training future leaders, endowing them with the skills and experience to advance “reconciliation and coexistence for future generations.”
This is supposed to be an experience the academic objective of which is “to focus on the historical, political, cultural, and religious relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.” Students in this program participate in two weekly workshops “conducted by experienced Palestinian and Israeli facilitators.” Students engage in “an in-depth process of exploration, observation and analysis of the conflict” and have the opportunity “to gain important insights into their identities as well as the dynamics of groups in conflict.”
The Palestinian Students‘ Campaign for the Academic boycott of Israel considers this an act of normalization that violates the boycott guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)2. Paths to Peace program seems to ignore the fact that the reason why Palestinians and Israelis cannot get together is because the former are colonized and the latter are settler colonists. It also ignores the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, as former American president Jimmy Carter and anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate Desmund Tutu called it; a state that discriminates not only against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (whom the program targets), but also against the 1.2 million Palestinians living in it as third class citizens.
We, Palestinian youth of Gaza, ask if the Israeli students participating in the program will be willing to admit to their Palestinian counterparts that the creation of the state of Israel was responsible for the (continuing) ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people since 1948? That it illegally occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and racially discriminates against the 1948 Palestinians in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after Apartheid South Africa of a “Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.” ? A state responsible for ongoing house demolitions, illegal settlement expansions and the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall—not to mention the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who are subjugated to a brutal, medieval siege entering its seventh year?
The program brings a group of students of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel and Palestine to endow them with “the skills and experience to advance reconciliation and coexistence for future generations.” We wonder whether the program will allude to the 500 children and teenagers killed by Israel in the last two genocidal wars of 2009 and 2012 against the Palestinians of Gaza. Will that also be referred to as from of “dialogue” between “two equal parities” engaged in a “conflict?’ Will it state the fact that two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from the towns and villages where their Israeli counterparts live now, and who are entitled to their right of return in accordance with UNGA resolution 194?
Where are the "two sides" of this "conflict?" Do we understand from the Paths to Peace program that there was a "conflict" between the native Blacks of South Africa and the White supremacists of the apartheid regime? Or the Americans of African descent and those of European descent in the South? If recruiting Palestinian university students in the program means that the Israeli “partners” will admit to these atrocities committed by their own state, as a group of a few, albeit courageous, Israeli activists from Boycott From Within have done, then perhaps we can reconsider our position.
This initiative is one more arrogant attempt to equate between colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed; victim and executioner. We ask: will it speak about the cultural confiscation, the occupation of Palestinian history, the system of racial discrimination, home demolition, settlement expansion, settler colonialism and land expropriation? Will it tell of how apartheid Israel slices the West Bank into Bantustans separated by more than 600 checkpoints and a monstrous Apartheid Separation Wall preventing Palestinians from access to local hospitals, schools and universities, not to mention their families and relatives? Will it even mention Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid? Isn’t it telling that some of those Gaza-based Palestinian students who have been offered this “opportunity” have been barred by Apartheid Israel from travelling to the US.4
“Visions” of real “coexistence” would involve spreading the voices of the marginalized, suppressed, and silenced Palestinians in the impoverished and crowded refugee camps, in the Gaza concentration camp, and in the Bantustanized West Bank, promoting their right to self-determination and the right of return of all those displaced and forcefully removed throughout Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in accordance with International Law.
We, therefore, consider this project a continuation of a campaign of normalization that aims at whitewashing Israel’s tarnished image and does nothing but falsely creates the facade that there are actually two equal sides to “the conflict.” Palestinian students from Gaza, and elsewhere, should refrain from joining such programs.
Coexistence that is not based on equality is a form of blatant racism! This is the lesson we’ve learned from Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.
The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Endorsed by University Teachers’ Association