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I have read Matt Berkman, Madeline Notewaré, and Abbas Naqvis’ guest column of Jan. 26, entitled “BDS Explained” with curiosity. Given that I am sure the authors have knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I am taken aback by the piece’s blatant distortions of reality.

The three concede that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement seeks to delegitimize Israel, and rightfully so, they suggest, as “legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed.” Essentially, BDS attempts to equate Israel with an apartheid state in which discrimination is codified.

There are two obvious shortcomings in these beliefs. First and foremost, they presuppose that Israel actually “rules over four million Palestinians,” as the authors wrote. However, it is the Palestinian Authority that rules over most of the West Bank and Hamas, a terrorist organization posing as a political party, that rules over Gaza. Hamas’ charter states the following: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The organization has also taken responsibility for over 6,000 rockets fired at civilian populations in Israel since 2005, when Israel, despite widespread domestic outcry, completely withdrew from Gaza for the sake of achieving peace.

Even Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah, a relative “centrist,” just last month forcefully prevented dialogue between progressive Palestinian and Israeli groups because such discussions, he believed, would “undermine” the authority of the PA. Given Hamas’ utter disregard for human life, Fatah’s glorification of terrorists (such as naming public squares and athletic gatherings after suicide bombers), I challenge BDS activists to outline what the human rights record of any future Palestinian state would be.

Second, the status of minority religious groups in Israel (including Muslims) is far better than that in any other Middle Eastern country. Whereas the PLO ambassador to the United States established this past September that any future Palestinian state would be free of Jews, or Judenrein, Israel has nearly 1.6 million Muslims, many of whom occupy some of the most prestigious posts in Israeli society. Ishmael Khaldi, a Muslim in Israel’s foreign service and Abdel Rahman Zuabi, a Muslim Arab who sat on Israel’s Supreme Court, epitomize the opportunities offered to all Israeli citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Khaldi said the following about the circumstances of Israeli minorities: “I am a proud Israeli – along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deal honestly. By any yardstick you choose — educational opportunity, economic development, women and gays’ rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation — Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.”

The co-authors proceed to try to vindicate themselves of applying a double standard to Israel by claiming that BDS also seeks to combat injustices in other countries like Iran, Syria, and Cuba, in which human rights abuses are rampant. In none of these countries can half-a-million citizens take to the streets in protest of government without being brutally repressed. In Israel, such political heterogeneity and expression is not only possible, but also has efficacy. While I would applaud the universality of BDS if it were true, precedent indicates that the thus-far unsuccessful movement has singled out Israel for condemnation amongst all the nations of the world. The first national BDS conference took place at Hampshire College in 2009. Its sole focus: to vilify and to ostracize the Jewish State. The defense that BDS is a universal movement to “advance human rights” across the spectrum is a feigned attempt at legitimacy.

Lastly, the conference organizers falsely conflate the allegation of the conference’s anti-Semitic nature with “a tactic to discredit legitimate criticism of Israel.” Columbia University professor Hamid Dashabi, who was initially scheduled to speak at the conference, wrote the following about Israeli Jews: “A half century of systematic maiming and murdering of another people has left its deep marks on the faces of these people, the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they handle objects, the way they greet each other, the way they look at the world.’ They have a ‘vulgarity of character that is bond-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture.” (Al-Ahram, September, 2004). Helena Cobban, another speaker, has claimed that Israelis are “incapable of empathy and compassion for other people.” (January 2009, Georgetown University).

Blanket statements such as these about seven million people cannot be tolerated on Penn’s campus. This type of inflammatory rhetoric, in addition to embodying racism and intolerance, polarizes discourse and personally offends Israeli students and others with strong ties to Israel. I myself am one of these students.

Israel, despite the attempts by BDS to turn our university into a battleground, will continue to seek peace, even if doing so means making the grandest of concessions, as it has done time and time again. Penn’s pro-Israel community will continue to seek productive dialogue surrounding Israel and its political conflicts.

We are ready. Are you?

Noah Feit is a College sophomore and President of Penn Friends of Israel

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