There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They do not exist.
– Golda Meir, quoted in The Sunday Times, 15 June 1969
Arab voices on this campus have been ignored as much as Arab issues have been discussed. Like most people from the colonized world, we are regularly represented, spoken on behalf of, or commented upon, but rarely given the space to represent ourselves. An excellent example of this practice is the Varsity’s coverage of Hillel’s “More Humus, Less Hamas” campaign, celebrated as an “anti-terror campaign” that is “at the core a good idea.” No mention was made of the Arab students who protested this campaign with leaflets explaining the history of Palestine’s colonization, nor was their opinion even requested.
Hillel’s campaign, and its myopic coverage, reveals a far more dangerous phenomenon on campus than the marginalization of Arab student voices: liberal racism. The key ingredient of liberal racism is the “both sides” argument, where both sides (Palestinian and Israeli) eat humus, “both sides” have suffered, and “both sides” have legitimate claims. The fact that this kind of racism is consistently used in the information media around us is why many don’t even see it as racism. Being good liberals, the next step is to say that to take a side would be extremist, and in the name of objectivity allow matters to continue as they are. To understand why this attitude is a racist crime in itself we must understand the basic history.
The land of Palestine has been continuously populated for thousands of years, yet the Zionist movement of European Jews sought to establish a state exclusively for Jews on that land. The British forces occupying Palestine since WWI evacuated in May 1948 and the Zionists declared the state of Israel on land inhabited by over one million indigenous Palestinians. In the war that followed, the new Israeli state killed an estimated 13,000 Palestinians, and 531 Palestinian villages were entirely depopulated and destroyed. They forcibly evicted more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land (approximately three-quarters of Palestinians at the time). In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, expelling another 150,000 Palestinians.
Palestinians now are a diverse group. Five million are refugees and 250,000 are internally displaced. Palestinians in the land occupied in 1948 were given Israeli citizenship, but lived under military rule until 1966. Since then these one million Palestinians have become the exemplars of third class citizenship: although they make up 20 per cent of Israel’s population, they comprise only 3.7 per cent of its government employees, 50 out of 50,000 faculty positions, and of the country’s 61 poorest towns, 48 are Arab. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under a brutal occupation involving round-the-clock curfews, sporadic military raids, school and hospital closures, regular house demolitions, air strikes, and daily humiliation and abuse. The West Bank and Gaza lands have been chopped up by settlement blocks, Israeli highways, and the new apartheid wall creating a massive open air prison with three million Palestinian inmates.
The Palestinians under Israel have been dispossessed and brutalized. All people have the moral right to resist such oppression, just as the rest of us have the moral obligation to oppose it. The goal of campaigns like “More Humus, Less Hamas” (or “More Fried Chicken, Less Black Panthers”) is to vilify resistance to oppression by appealing to the “both sides” logic, and concealing the injustices committed by oppressors. From Jenin to Grassy Narrows, oppression must be resisted, and we must refuse any arguments that allow it to continue.
Hazem Jamjoum is a combined Law and MA International Relations student at Massey College.