I was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. When I was 10 years old, the Second Intifada began and weekly Palestinian terrorist attacks in my hometown became a routine. One of my classmates died in one of those attacks when the bus she took to school exploded and burned. She was only 10 years old. A few weeks later, a friend of mine lost her hearing in a similar bus attack. In the chaos of the Intifada, on our way to school, my little brother turned to me and asked, “Ben, am I going to die?” Over the following three years, more than a thousand Israeli civilians lost their lives in bus and restaurant bombings, kidnappings and shootings.
Despite the war, my friends and I never gave up the dream of peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Rather than leading to hatred, my experiences have led my friends and me to meet and collaborate with Palestinians towards mutual understanding. We dream of the day Israel and Palestine co-exist as neighbors.
In a recent op-ed, Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine stole my country’s narrative. Their proposal is regressive. It eschews dialogue. It is one-sided, omits crucial facts and hides the true goals of the divestment movement. As a strong supporter of peace, I believe that divestment is not only morally wrong, but will also be very harmful to the Palestinian struggle for independence.
Divestment is a tool designed to win a propaganda war, not to realize the ultimate goal of peace. Divesting from Israeli businesses prevents a dialogue and blocks the establishment of trust. Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine is connected to Students for Justice in Palestine, the national organization of which has adopted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s principles. This movement frequently calls to boycott Israeli universities. Harming Israel’s education will not help the Palestinian struggle for independence. Even the Palestinian leadership understands that the BDS movement will harm future peace negotiations.
Omar Barghoutti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Israel’s right to exist. The Hamas leadership that previously governed the Gaza strip openly calls for the destruction of Israel promotes anti-Semitism and educates children to kill Jews. The others’ right to exist is the most basic contingency for coexistence.
Divestment imposes the entire blame for the continuing Israeli occupation and settlement policy on the Israelis. It refuses to acknowledge the historical reality that on at least three occasions, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept Israel’s offers to end the occupation and that in 2005, in a gesture for peace, Israel removed its entire population from the Gaza strip.
The article suggested that the situation in the Middle East presents a “similar dynamic” to what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police responded with “unwarranted violence.” This is an effort to garner sympathy by drawing oversimplified and fallacious parallels between unrelated situations under the generalized pretense of oppression. They go as far as accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. On the contrary, the facts prove that Israel is not an apartheid state by any means. There are three Arab political parties in Israel’s current parliament. Arabs serve in Israel’s Supreme Court. In a recent survey, the majority of Arabs in East Jerusalem said that in case of Palestinian independence they would prefer to stay in democratic Israel. The Palestinian population in Israel boasts among the highest college graduation rates and the lowest infant mortality rates in the Arab world. The insinuation of apartheid flies in the face of this reality.
When I was 15, I helped one of the Israeli families move out of their home in Gaza. I assured them that this good gesture would bring us closer to peace. But, instead, what followed since then were thousands of rockets being fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza strip. I realize I was wrong. Shouting for unilateral actions without striving towards dialogue will not lead to a peaceful coexistence. I wish that the Palestinian people will gain independence soon, but to achieve this goal we should put our efforts into promoting a dialogue, not divestment.
Ben Limonchik ’17
Ben Limonchik is a sophomore majoring in computer science, originally from Jerusalem, Israel. He can be contacted at benlimon ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Individual co-signatories: Adam Schorin ’17, Alex Lubkin ’17, Alon Devorah ’14, Amanda Smith ’14, Ariella Axler ’15, Asher Kaye ’15, Coraal Cohen ’17, Daniel Maroko ‘16, David Wintermeyer ’17, Doniel Kaye ’15, Gideon Weiler ’14, Gil Shotan ’12, Guy Amdur ’17, Jenna Shapiro ’17, Jennifer Rosenfeld ’09, Jordan Shapiro ’14, Josh Grinberg ’15, Julia Turan ’14, Liana Kadisha ’15, Matthew Lebovitz ’15, Max Weiss ’17, Miriam Pollock ’16, Molly Horowitz ’16, Nico Perdomo ’14, Noa Glaser ’18, Roy Lederman ’17, Sarah Kahn ’17, Sawer Altman ’17, Steven Greitzer ’14, Tamara Mekler ’17, Tatiana Grossman ’17, Victoria Anikst ’13, Yale Goldberg ’17, Yisroel Quint ’17.