Category Archives: Viewpoints

Viewpoint: Unfounded claims

By Bayan Founas, LSA junior at the University of Michigan
Viewpoint published in The Michigan Daily

A recent viewpoint in The Michigan Daily (“Israel acted in defense,” 11/18/12) claimed that Hamas initiated the recent violence between the Gaza and Israel “without justifiable provocation.” This claim, however, is misleading and feeds University students false information. According to Reuters on Nov. 8, Israeli military forces crossed the border into the Gaza Strip in an apparent incursion, prompting retaliatory fire — at the Israeli force, not into Israel — from the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces returned fire, killing a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the process. This incident ended a two-week standstill in violence between the two parties.

On Nov. 14, Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defense,” which resulted in the death of 170 Palestinians and the injury of 1,220 more, most of whom were civilians. The people of Gaza faced relentless bombardment from the air and sea, with any semblance of calm quickly interrupted by the buzz of a drone or roar of an F16.

The viewpoint also states that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 with “hope for peace,” but IDF only repositioned their forces on the periphery of Gaza. The blockade imposed on Gaza has been equally — if not more — abusive and oppressive on Gazans than the pre-2005 Israeli occupation there. The Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated regions, with its 1.6 million residents living in what has been deemed the world’s largest open-air prison.

Amnesty International reports that more than 70 percent of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid for survival. They also report that “Israeli authorities hindered or prevented hundreds of patients from leaving Gaza to obtain medical treatment,” as well as workers and students from pursuing their jobs and education, respectively. And, as we now know from a recent Ha’aretz report, food consumption in Gaza has been restricted — by calculating a minimum number of calories per person — so as to keep Gazans on the brink of starvation. The policy can be summed up by the following quote from Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Thus, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, in this case via starvation, has been a part of Israel’s “defense” strategy, in clear violation of international laws and covenants on human rights.

The viewpoint mentions the dropping of warning leaflets in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in Dec. 2008, a three-week Israeli offensive. But given the inescapability of the besieged Gaza Strip, these leaflets functioned more as death sentences than well-intentioned warnings. The three-week assault resulted in more than 1,400 Palestinians killed and more than 5,300 wounded, as well as more than 10 Israelis killed and more than 500 wounded. Of the 1,400 Palestinians killed, more than 900 were civilians. The killing of almost 1,000 civilians is not collateral damage as the authors state — it is a massacre.

Israel’s recent onslaught on Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods is part of a pattern that reemerged again a few weeks ago during Operation Pillar of Defense, the death toll consisting mostly of Palestinian civilians. This operation included a strike that killed three generations of the same family, which resulted in nine total fatalities, including four children aged between 1 and 7. The Dalou family has no affiliation with any militant group, yet Israel has yet to issue anything resembling an apology to any of the victims.

Moreover, a ceasefire was mediated last Wednesday by Egypt to halt this recent escalation, which Israel has repeatedly broken over the week by shooting civilians near the border fence for protesting. About 19 people have been wounded and 20 year old Anwar Qudaih was shot dead.

Israel cannot claim self-defense as long as it occupies, annexes and destroys Palestinian land, while collectively punishing an entire population for resisting that occupation. This punishment includes restrictions on movement and essential goods, kidnapping and torture, the destruction of homes and theft of resources. As long as Israel’s brutal occupation continues, so too will the resistance from Palestinians, until their genuine cries for freedom are heard and recognized.

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Michigan BDS: SAFE’s New Campus Divestment Initiative

By members of the new SAFE-affiliated MichiganBDS initiative at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily here.

As we write this piece, more than 5,300 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Zero Israelis are imprisoned in Palestinian jails. A total of 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Zero Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians since then. Some 172 Jewish-only settlements and 101 “outposts” have been erected on confiscated Palestinian land. Zero Palestinian settlements exist on any Israeli land. These facts and many like them make clear that what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not simply a “conflict.” It’s a decades-long colonial campaign led by the Israeli military that aims to disenfranchise the indigenous race and to purify the land of non-Jews by implementing an apartheid system. Continue reading

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SAFE Supports Human Rights

By Joseph Varilone, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily, which can be seen here.

In the Jan. 23 article “Viewpoint: Engage in Productive Discourse,” Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a student organization dedicated to the liberation and self-determination of the Palestinian people, was unfairly slandered by its author Max Heller, who inappropriately insinuated false things about SAFE as an organization and what we stand for. Heller’s accusation of SAFE propagating myths is directly contrary to the first-hand experiences and testimonies of the Palestinians themselves, and his historical analysis is predicated on colonialist assumptions. Continue reading

It’s Time to Talk About Palestine

By Noor Haydar, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan and Bayan Founas, LSA Sophomore at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily, which can be seen here.

Over the past couple years, there has been increased curiosity and speculation about SAFE (Students Allied for Freedom & Equality) and what it stands for. Simply put, SAFE is a diverse group of student activists at the University of Michigan, organized to promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people, as well as other oppressed people. We are committed to standing with the disenfranchised and are staunchly against the sugarcoating of oppression. Furthermore, we do not approve of allowing representatives of a government that is currently militarily occupying another nation and imposing an apartheid system on people whom it claims as citizens to come speak on our campus. When Ishmael Khaldi, a top advisor to Avigdor Lieberman (Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs) came to our campus, many student activists were offended by the fact that our university, which prides itself on social justice, openly provided a platform for Khaldi to speak. Lieberman, Khaldi’s boss, has blatantly employed his racism on more than one occasion, and according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Lieberman said: “[Palestinian] prisoners should be drowned in the Dead Sea” and that he would provide the buses to take them there. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Lieberman said that Arabs and Jews must be separated in order to achieve peace in the Middle East.  In other words, Israel’s 1.25 million Arab minority was a “problem” which required “separation” from the Jewish state. Interestingly enough, he believes, in his own words, that minorities are “the world’s biggest problem,” despite being a minority himself. Khaldi spoke about Arabs in Israel and the great privileges they enjoy, yet the people who Khaldi claims to represent (Arab Bedouins) are being expelled from their land on a daily basis. Khaldi travels as a mouth piece for Lieberman, and his fallacious and racist remarks are all reasons why we walked out of his speaking engagement in protest.

When we used a similar protest method against two Israeli Occupying soldiers who visited our campus last year, we were faced with criticism for not “dialoguing.” This call for dialogue is inappropriate in a situation where the power disparity between parties is so immense. Dialogue can only work when two parties are on the same playing field and have significant differences between them. In the case of Israel-Palestine, we have one party, Israel, that boasts the Middle East’s most powerful military (including hundreds of nuclear warheads, illegally held and undeclared) and enjoys limitless material and diplomatic support from the world’s lone superpower, the United States. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are stateless and without basic human rights. They are also victims of the worst of crimes: they’ve had their history and existence denied by those who continuously assert that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Although Palestinians have received overwhelming recognition internationally, Israel and the United States have yet to recognize the Palestinian struggle, much less push for their right to self-determination and freedom from a brutal occupation.

Our mission statement emphasizes that we are a student organization contributing to the campus community as social justice advocates. Nowhere within our mission statement will you find that we are anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. We, as an organization, do not endorse or ally ourselves with any political platform, organization or politician. We don’t advocate for a one-state, two-state or no-state solution. We do not support the PLO, Hamas, Fatah or any such entity. We simply believe in the self-determination of the Palestinian people.

In October, 30 SAFE members attended the first national Students for Justice in Palestine conference at Columbia University. The conference was endorsed by many national activists, including Ali Abunimah, Noam Chomsky, and Cornel West. Before departing, members from the 140+ schools represented voted on points of unity, those being:

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization that works in solidarity with the Palestinian people and supports their right to self-determination.

It is committed to:

1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We believe it’s time to bring Palestine to the forefront of our conversations at this university. Next semester, we will be launching our PalestiMe campaign, as it is time, for Palestine.


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