Last Thursday, Penn for Palestine published a guest column in The Daily Pennsylvanian encouraging students to commemorate Palestinian and Israeli casualties that occurred during recent outbreaks of conflict.
While Penn for Palestine’s proposal may have been well-intentioned, its analysis of the situation was littered with inaccuracies and the biases that perpetuate the exact conflict they denounce.
Let’s start with Penn for Palestine’s remarks about Operation Cast Lead, the 2008 bloodshed they memorialized on Friday.
Penn for Palestine painted a picture in which Israel — the aggressor — initiated a violent attack on Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinians and recklessly destroyed crucial infrastructure.
That’s not a fair portrayal of what happened.
Although Penn for Palestine acknowledged that Hamas fired rockets into southern Israel, killing soldiers and civilians “during this time,” they failed to mention that Hamas — classified as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union — had actually been launching deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians for over eight years.
The Israeli Defense Forces blog estimates that 12,800 rockets and mortars have hit Israel since 2001 — that’s an average of three attacks per day.
There was the 2001 Hamas suicide bomb at a nightclub in Tel Aviv that killed 21 teenagers and wounded 120 others. In 2004, two were killed when a Hamas rocket landed near a nursery school in Sderot. The list goes on — I could fill this page with similar examples.
Under international law, Israel is entitled — and obligated — to protect its citizens from terrorism. So, after exhausting diplomatic options, Israel took military action to stop the deliberate attacks against its civilians. Operation Cast Lead was launched against Hamas to destroy the terrorist infrastructure being used to kill Israelis.
While executing Operation Cast Lead, the IDF made every effort to avoid civilian casualties and conducted surgical operations targeting only Hamas’ weaponry. This objective was complicated by the fact that Hamas uses civilians as shields. Some of the weaponry was stored in schoolhouses, hospitals and mosques.
While I too am saddened by the Israeli and Palestinian civilian deaths that occurred during these hostilities, the fact that Penn for Palestine asks us to “hold the Israeli military accountable” is misguided. Hamas is at least as blameworthy for the Palestinian deaths.
There is an excessive tendency to declare one side “right” and the other “wrong.” But if it were that easy, the Gaza Strip wouldn’t exist. Instead, we would have a larger Israel or an indisputable Palestinian state.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely deep and nuanced, dating back over a thousand years. Generations of history can’t be fit neatly into such simplistic boxes. As rational, educated people, we should make a concerted effort to examine both sides and engage in factual — not demagogic — dialogue.
However, the type of partisanship, finger pointing and misinformation presented by Penn for Palestine will hinder a constructive discussion and a peaceful settlement to this conflict.
Caroline Brand is a College junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” appears every other Tuesday.