Why I care about Israel’s occupation of Palestine

Nov. 26, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

From my writing and activism over the past few weeks, some students have asked why I am so interested in the illegal American-Israeli occupation of Palestine.

It seems as though it is weird for me to be concerned about the international human rights conflict in which I am most heavily implicated — both as an American citizen and as a Stanford student.

Underlying the American-Israeli occupation of Palestine are issues of grave importance to me:

State, police and military surveillance and control of marginalized people and dissenting voices; the immorality of global markets where multinational companies profit off of human rights violations at home and abroad without accountability; and a future where marginalized people of any background do not have to worry about discrimination, persecution and dehumanization at the hand of the nation-state or corporations.

As a member of the African diaspora I have a direct connection to all of these issues.

The mothers of the mothers of my mothers were torn away from their lands, cut off from their languages, histories and cultures to become “tools” and “things” on this soil — all in the interest of economically supporting a growing “democracy.”

The fathers of the fathers of my fathers have been controlled by state-sanctioned fear and police brutality since they were first forcibly taken here — first as runaway slaves, then as Emmett Till and now as Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin — all in the interest of maintaining the economic, political and social order of this nation.

Throughout American history, blacks seeking equal rights or liberation have been labeled “agitators,” “criminals,” “militants,” “combatants” and “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States,” all for demanding to be treated like any other human.

The story of America building itself off the backs of my ancestors runs parallel to the history of dehumanization, criminalization and military-state control that Native Americans have experienced–as does this country’s historical amnesia about the past and present racial injustice our communities have experienced.

Coming from this background, I feel compelled to speak out against similar forms of oppression this state perpetrates against other minority groups. I feel especially compelled to speak when the nation that supports Israel’s right to defend itself against an oppressed minority group has always predicated its success upon the oppression of some minority group.

Why I care about Israel's occupation of Palestine
Palestinian Land Loss 1946-2000 Native American Land Loss 1850-1990

Just as this state has justified oppressive policies by blanket-labeling Native Americans “savages,” blacks “subhuman,” the Japanese “enemies,” undocumented migrants “illegal,” and anyone brown and non-Judeo-Christian “terrorist,” so too is the state of Israel justifying its dehumanization, oppression and murder of Palestinians by blanket-labeling a population of 1.7 million people “combatants” or “collateral” in the pursuit of said “militants.”

The 34 children and 13 women Israeli forces killed last week were not terrorists. The 970 civilians Israeli forces injured last week are not terrorists.

The only way states have been able to justify the denial of rights to or perpetration of violence against communities within their borders have been through criminalizing and dehumanizing various communities.

As in the past, apathy, indifference or lack of education support a violent and oppressive status quo that currently violates international humanitarian law in Palestine.

Furthermore, at stake in the multi-billion-dollar American-Israeli occupation of Palestine are contemporary issues that I and many other Stanford students care about, including the increase of racial profiling, police brutality against nonviolent political dissidents, American immigration policy and the welfare of the global poor.

The Oakland police that used rubber bullets, tear gas, shot and critically injured an Iraq War veteran and dozens of others during the Occupy movement were trained a month before alongside Israeli police. The NYPD, which has been racially profiling Muslim and Arab citizens since 9/11 has been modeled on techniques Israeli forces use in the West Bank. Over 9,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officials have participated in Israeli-led training sessions that have led to increasingly militaristic surveillance and police control in airports, malls and cities across the nation.

Parts of the “separation wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border are contracted by the same company that built the apartheid wall, which violates international human rights law, in Israel.

The state of Israel has provided Brazil and other Latin American countries with hundreds of millions of dollars in drones for police surveillance. Brazil claims to use these drones for “counterterrorism” and “drug trafficking,” but Brazil has also criminalized the slum dwellers across the state and used police brutality to evict its poorest citizens.

The F16s and missiles that companies like Lockheed Martin ($36.9 billion revenue FY 2011) and Raytheon ($25 billion revenue FY 2012) develop are the same military weapons that Israeli forces used to kill 105 civilians, including 34 children and 13 women, in Gaza last week.

The bulldozers that Israel has used to demolish 25,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and internally displace over 160,000 are provided by Caterpillar, Inc. ($60 billion revenue FY 2011), whose CEO addressed this campus last spring in the GSB’s “View from the Top” series.

Divesting from the U.S.-Israeli occupation of Palestine is the only neutral option.

When more U.S. aid goes to Israel than Latin America and Africa combined each year, the Israeli occupation of Palestine becomes the U.S.-Israeli occupation of Palestine, and all American citizens become implicated in the side of the oppressor.

When Stanford’s $17 billion endowment does not even investigate whether any cent of its funds are invested in companies like Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar or Raytheon, all Stanford students become implicated in the side of the oppressor.

Our current status quo is one that supports oppressive policies and international human rights violations. To divest is to take our money out of this U.S.-Israeli occupation.

The UC-Irvine student body unanimously passed a resolution for its university to divest from the Israeli conflict on Nov. 12. The Brown Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) recommended that the Brown Corporation consider divestment from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine on Nov. 14.

It is time for Stanford to do the same.


Sign Stanford’s divestment petition at sper.stanford.edu. Write to the University to investigate its investment practices at ircommunications ‘at’ smc.stanford.edu.

Kristian Davis Bailey is a junior studying Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. A full time journalist/writer and occasional student, he's served as an Opinion section editor, News writer and desk editor for The Daily, is a community liaison for Stanford STATIC, the campus' progressive blog and journal, and maintains his own website, 'With a K.' He's interested in how the press perpetuates systems of oppression and seeks to use journalism as a tool for dismantling such systems.

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