Over the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in divestment campaigns on university campuses across the US by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and anti-Israel movements on college campuses such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). These campaigns have cleverly disguised their anti-Israel libel as humanitarian pro-Palestine activism and try to persuade other campus organizations to join them with misinformation and hateful slander.
What is most interesting about the BDS movement and SJP is the extent to which it mirrors the situation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. While Israel tries building bridges and peace, the other side is unwilling to meet her halfway. Israel has, time and time again offered land for peace, only to have the Palestinians walk away from the negotiations table and continue to call for Israel’s destruction. Other groups, such as Hamas, refuse even to speak to Israeli negotiators.
In his recent speech in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said that “peace is Israel’s highest aspiration,” and that Israel is “prepared to make historic peace with [her] Palestinian neighbors.” He then went on to say that not only would Israel gain from peace, but so would the Palestinians and “peace would also open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and leading countries in the Arab world” and that “peace with the Palestinians would turn [Israel’s] relations with [Arab leaders] and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships.”
By contrast both ruling groups of the Palestinian Territory – Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank– maintain an official written goal to obliterate Israel. Hamas’ charter states “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” This belligerent tone has increased in recent years. In 2012, Khaled Mash’al, a leader of Hamas, said on Gaza’s government-run television station that “Palestine – from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, from its north to its south – is our land, our right, and our homeland. There will be no relinquishing or forsaking even an inch or small part of it.” The River to the Sea, of course, refers to the modern day borders of Israel. Similar messages are constantly expressed on college campuses by the anti-Israel groups with chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” which show a complete disinterest in talking and dialogue, but rather a focus on hate and false accusations. They have made it very clear that they would rather accuse our speakers of being “terrorists,” “rapists” and “baby killers” and condemn Israel than sit down to dialogue.
This sentiment of hate and lack of interest in cooperation continues with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who has expressed interest in peace talks however the Palestinian National Charter still states “Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation.” And that “the partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time.” Mr. Abbas speaks internally and on Palestinian media about “liberation [of] the occupied territories of 1948,” which is the entire State of Israel.
When asked about her thoughts on the issue, Adrienne Naor, a first-year student at Cal Poly Pomona said that “80 years ago people had a hard time believing a homeland for the Jews would ever exist again, but now there is and it is a miracle.” She then continues to say that “it isn’t far-fetched to believe in the same for the Palestinians one day, but peace and a two-state solution begins with partners willing to negotiate and compromise. A peaceful coexistence and self-determination is possible.”
By trying to intimidate the Jewish and Israel supporting students on college campuses, the anti-Israel organizations make it very clear that they are unwilling to dialogue or even respect an opposing view. At the same time, the Jewish and pro-Israel students on campuses across the nation have taken this experience as a chance to unify and build a stronger, better-knit community that will continue to grow and prosper in the face of hate, intolerance and adversity.