Today, I and a number of other students (the exact number I do not know – I estimate conservatively around twenty) stood briefly during Dore Gold’s speech during the debate (regardless of what the organizers say, this was a debate). Surely many believe that this was inappropriate and rude – and for the most part I agree, but I also think that we had an important message.
Justice Richard Goldstone is one of the most credible sources on the matter of War Crimes. He’s investigated crimes in South Africa, Rwanda, the Balkans and other hot-spots of violence. If anyone knows what a war crime is, it’s Justice Goldstone. To further add to his credibility as a neutral investigator, he is a long-time Zionist. Yet this man was pitted against a “pro-Israel” speaker – putting him in the uncomfortable position of being “anti-Israel,” which he most certainly is not. Just two weeks ago Dan Meridor was allowed to speak uncontested by a speaker from a different narrative – Goldstone should have been afforded the same respect. I am certainly not opposed to discussion and debate, but this event lopsided the discussion. No Palestinians were invited to speak and thus the Palestinian narrative was excluded from this event.
This is what we were protesting. Taped to our shirts we had the names of both Israeli and Palestinian civilian victims of the Gaza War. We stood silently – for just a few moments to let the audience know our discontent.
Though I myself was not harmed or attacked in anyway – many of my fellow protesters were physically violated for their peaceful protest. One protester commented that after she sat back down, the person in front of her repeatedly pushed their chair back against her. Another said that she was repeatedly slapped lightly by her neighbors. Yet another said that while standing she was shoved and her hair was pulled. This is most certainly a disturbing use of force, and in my mind takes away any sort of moral high-ground the right-wing might have gained from us being ‘rude.’
All of this makes me think. We live in a world where culture dictates that when we feel ‘wronged’ it is acceptable to use violence to make things right.
I have a lot of sympathy for the people of Sderot who lived in terror due to the rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza. When Israel invaded Gaza this winter – it did so to put a stop to the rocket fire. It did so under the assumption that it is acceptable to use force to right a wrong. Whether or not the invasion of Gaza did temporarily stop the rocket fire, but it did nothing to bring about a long term peace.
Hamas and other terrorist organizations fall into the same problem. They feel wronged by Israel and then think it is acceptable to use violence to make things right. Sixty years of on-and-off war has proven that this method does nothing – it hardens your enemies hatred of you and leaves behind a trail of dead civilians.
The people of Israel are scared and angry. The people of Palestine are scared and desperate. Both sides must come to realize that a failure to recognize how they have wronged the other and the use of violence will only prolong the conflict. Regardless of whether or not Israel acted ethically in Operation Cast Lead, the invasion angered Palestinians and destroyed their already weak economy, infrastructure, and usable farmland. The people of Gaza have nothing, there is very little work, very little food, very little to do. It does not surprise me that many of them turn to terrorism.
As a proud Zionist, I am determined to see the State of Israel survive this conflict. The use of force is simply a short-term strategy for creating an uneasy peace. To end the conflict, Israel must work to improve economic and living conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza. The first step is to lift the crippling economic blockade of Gaza. They must withdraw all settlements from the West Bank and East Jerusalem so that Palestinians can also have the right to self-determination. Though many may claim that these actions are counter-productive to Israel’s short-term security (they are not), in the long-run they are absolutely critical to creating a lasting peace.
Both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian people must cease using force as a means to achieve change. It cannot and will not work.
This is why I stood up today – to protest the use of violence. In using force against us, the right-wingers who opposed us achieved nothing. Yes, we were antagonistic, but we stood up for what we believed in and then peacefully sat back down.