Security figures prominently in the arguments of those who support maintaining Stanford’s investments in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Two op-eds in The Stanford Daily last quarter, as well as a recent letter to the editor, invoked “thousands of rockets” and even the well-worn “terror tunnels” to justify Israel’s killing of over 2,100 Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge. Security is the rebuttal to efforts to hold Israel accountable for atrocities and violations of international law, like the collective punishment of Gazans or the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank. Security is the precondition that Israel puts on any negotiations.
This security narrative, however, operates from the standpoint of the oppressor. It obscures the fact that the violence is largely a one-way street. Since September of 2000, over seven and a half times as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis, and over fifteen times as many Palestinian children have been killed as Israeli children. Even though the United States and Israeli governments repeatedly cite Israeli security concerns as paramount, it is Palestinians who overwhelmingly lack security. And when defenders of Israeli policy decry terrorism, they never acknowledge that in this conflict the greatest purveyor of terrorism — political violence against civilians — is the Israel Defense Forces.
The western media is all too willing to cooperate by highlighting Israeli loss and effacing Palestinian suffering. In the early days of Operation Protective Edge, ABC News showed a photo of missile strike damage in Gaza but claimed that it was rocket damage in Israel. Peter Hart of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting described this error “as a reflection of a worldview” that doesn’t consider Palestinian deaths “more newsworthy than Israeli fear.”
This is not to say that Israelis don’t face suffering and pain due to violence. Rather, it’s to ask why Israeli fears and loss are so often emphasized when Palestinians suffer so much more. One reason is that anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia make Palestinian lives matter a lot less to the political and media apparatus. Another reason is that all Palestinian armed resistance is delegitimized as terrorism by Israel and its western backers who rely on Israel as an extension of their military power in the region. Therefore, any violence against Israel, even against Israeli soldiers, is an unthinkable, inhuman act that threatens the peaceful status quo. This notion fails to grasp the basic dynamic of the conflict.
Israel, a state founded on the dispossession and expulsion of the indigenous population, has no grounds to assert its desires for security over the Palestinians’ rights to basic justice and equality. Until Israel comes to a just resolution with the Palestinian national liberation movement, its attempts to impose a one-sided security on the region amount to the creation of a Pax Israeliana — security, prosperity, annexation for Israel; violence, poverty, dispossession for Palestinians. It is the peace that French colonists wished to impose on occupied Algeria, or the security that white settlers hoped to achieve over Native Americans.
Resistance — both nonviolent and armed — is the language of the oppressed who refuse to live on their knees. The Palestinian liberation struggle has included many acts of courage as well as acts that are indefensible, but to condemn all resistance without condemning and combating the conditions which breed it is to stand for injustice and suffering.
Until Palestinians have no reason to resist, Israeli appeals for one-sided security, for a sham peace process and for an “end to violence” serve as little more than cloaks for Israel’s ongoing oppression and domination of the Palestinians. And make no mistake — Israel is the oppressor in this conflict, holding and exercising a massive military, economic and diplomatic advantage over Palestinians, who possess no air force, no navy, no tanks and a wrecked economy. The facts of Operation Protective Edge, particularly the civilian death toll, tell the story.
Ending the occupation would be one step towards justice, which is the precondition for peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis. Stanford University can play a role in advancing justice and reducing violence by withdrawing its investments from companies that enable the occupation, the source of the vast majority of deaths and injuries in the conflict.
Contact Siddharth Patel at sidpatel ‘at’ stanford.edu.