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My experiences within the Jewish community at Penn have almost exclusively pertained to politics and religion. While touchy topics have been discussed, dialogue has occurred in a contained setting with a homogeneous composition. I’ve found that when it comes to Israel-Palestine, students claim to want dialogue, “substantive” facts and a non-propagandized setting. However, most students want anything but that. In a recent op-ed, Jeremy Jick referred to certain realities as “noise.” Jeremy used a recent PIPAC leadership statement as an opportunity to unsubstantially attack a campus memorial and installation, which occurred last year. In my mind, a memorial and campus criticism of Israeli policy are not existential threats to the US-Israel relationship, so I cannot understand the relationship between the PIPAC statement and aforementioned events. Unsupported and unoriginal, the argumentation employs deceptive distractions and is dependent upon an attempt to discredit pain and suffering, instead of providing insightful analysis.

I think that for many students, the presentation of facts regarding oppression and state-sponsored violence can be hard to swallow. In turn, such information will be disregarded or discredited. However, I find it disturbing for anyone to call the death of thousands of civilians just “noise.” In what world should the loss of innocent lives be discounted or considered propaganda? The summer of 2014 was the most fatal escalation of violence since 1967. The excessive military actions were a continuation of previous methods. In the past, Avi Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet, has called similar measures overkill. The Gatekeepers, an award-winning documentary that features former heads of the Shin Bet, provides clear insight in this regard.

Moreover, an apartheid wall on Locust Walk does not equate to just “noise.” It’s simply a term that is uncomfortable for individuals like Jeremy. For Palestinians living in the West Bank, life under the occupation consists of frequent unlawful arrests, the separation of families, restrictions on mobility and illegal seizure of Palestinian land. Jeremy’s article implies that Palestinians have limited mobility because of terror threats. However, the Likud governments of the 1980s began imposing unlawful treatment before the rise of Hamas and suicide attacks. As William Cleveland and Martin Bunton explain in A History of The Modern Middle East, “In addition to constructing new settlements, the Likud-dominant governments of the 1980s adopted measures designed to isolate and subjugate the Palestinian inhabitants. The Israeli state stepped up its practice of confiscating plots of Arab land, and the Israeli security services deported an increasing number of suspected political activists. Administrative detention, a practice that permitted Palestinians to be arrested without a warrant and held for up to six months without being charged, was employed with greater frequency. The occupation intruded on the daily lives of Palestinians in countless ways: They were required to carry identity cards and pay special taxes; they had to overcome a maze of bureaucratic obstacles and security checks to obtain the most basic licenses and business permits; and they were arrested, imprisoned, and sometimes tortured by the Israeli authorities at the slightest suspicion of political activism.”

The United Nations General Assembly defined apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” It is therefore understandable that individuals have classified the treatment of Palestinians as apartheid. However, should disagreement over terminology equate to noise? Terminology aside, everything on the apartheid wall in reference was supported with research and data from B’Tselem, a well respected Israeli human rights organization. My suggestion to Jeremy and other students would be to critically analyze new information that may not align with their own ideologies, instead of dismissing material as “superficial and devoid of context.” Just because information does not originate from the power player does not make it irrelevant.

Like the United States, Israel has its own flourishing society that creates meaningful innovations, but it is not simply a place where different cultures and faiths “work together.” Like the United States, Israel struggles with institutionalized racism. Non-Ashkenazi Jews, Arabs, Eritreans and Sudanese are discriminated in the workforce, education system and housing. To oversimplify Israeli society as a society in which Muslims, Christians and Jews interact is an injustice for multiple reasons. It’s an injustice to the Israeli Black Panthers, to the Eritreans and Sudanese living in refugee camps and to the Arabs who have no rights to their ancestral land. Most of all, it’s an injustice to the occupation and conflict. In the same way that unsubstantiated criticism of a memorial and installation should not be used in conjunction with a leadership statement, Israeli society should not be used as a defense against human rights violations. Rather, let’s use relevant information that pertains to the conflict, not information relating to computer technology.

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