In Friday’s Daily, outgoing ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 published an op-ed in support of a petition advanced by a group previously named “Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel” (SCAI), now called “Students for Palestinian Equal Rights” (SPER). SPER’s – formerly SCAI’s – petition advocates for “selective divestment” from companies variously involved in Israeli activity east of Israel’s pre-1967 border. Cruz’s title, “Why I support Israel, Palestine, and divestment,” positions him as supportive of all parties, and in no way do I doubt Michael’s good intentions to aid both peoples. However, Cruz has fundamentally misunderstood what “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israeli” mean, which has been evidenced in the days since his op-ed was published by the elated disbelief of the SPER community on the one hand – “best ASSU president ever?” asked one vice president of SPER – and the incredulous frustration of our community on the other.
First and foremost, selective divestment is not pro-Israel because if it succeeds, media reports will never represent SPER’s petition as the carefully fine-tuned policy position that it professes to be; rather, the headlines will declare that “STANFORD DIVESTS FROM ISRAEL.” Moreover, divestment is not pro-Israel because it seeks to point the finger at and punish only Israel for its perceived misdeeds, without examining the record of the Palestinians and their governing body, the Palestinian Authority (PA). While I can list many Israeli policies I would like to see changed, Cruz in his op-ed belies his avowal to “promote all human rights” by failing to consider what we might demand of the Palestinians. Should the PA recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, as they have failed to do? Should the PA implement the institutions of a real democracy, and the rights one entails that are now regularly contravened by the PA – the freedoms of the press, of expression, of religion? Most ironically, SPER in its previous incarnation as SCAI wrongly accused Israel of somehow perpetrating apartheid, but what of the clearer case of Palestinian apartheid – the official, abhorrent PA positions that a future state in the West Bank must be free of Jews, and its law that selling property to Jews in the West Bank is a capital offense?
In March, Cruz told me that he believes “firmly” in “a strong state of Israel,” but his proposal Friday only weakens Israel while failing to strengthen the PA. In fact, the West Bank’s greatest hope today is not divestment but the drive to build up its civil society, led by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and most strongly supported by the United States, who contributed $600 million to the PA in 2010, and Israel. Both countries work daily with the PA to train its security forces, and the PA has begun to successfully assume responsibility for arresting and disarming terrorist factions within its own midst. As security cooperation has dramatically improved, Israel has been able to work with Fayyad to bolster the economic, health, and educational situations significantly in the West Bank. With a safer, stronger, and more prosperous PA, Israel is safer; with peoples that work more closely hand-in-hand, the greater trust that results enables brighter prospects for peace.
In striving towards peace, I believe that we must not seek to castigate, to demonize, to weaken the other – those we deem “at fault,” in Cruz’s words – while simultaneously shielding ourselves from all criticism and harm. Rather, we must look inward, identifying our own flaws so that we can act more humanely and productively, while also moving forward however we can with our adversary – who must eventually be our partner – to find opportunities for their actions too to be more tolerant, more constructive, and to create room for hope. Today in White Plaza, the Stanford Israel Alliance celebrates the founding of the Jewish state of Israel, 64 years ago. We will not be celebrating Israel’s policies or borders, but rather its existence – the visceral manifestation of the Jewish right to a national homeland. May we one day soon be able to celebrate too a Palestinian Day of Independence, one which from that point forward will mark a peaceful future of self-determination and coexistence for all the peoples of the Holy Land.
Marty Zack ’14
Co-President, Stanford Israel Alliance