At around 2 a.m. on May 21, a truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect after 11 days of fighting. The death toll was stark: at least 242 people were killed in Gaza and 13 people in Israel. This latest episode of violence erupted as a result of recent events and long-term trends, which were compounded by incompetent leadership.
If you’re an Oberlin student wondering how to affect some semblance of change on this issue, I understand you. The first part of the process depends on education. It is difficult to know which books to read, which news to follow, and more generally what to believe when the sources espouse completely different accounts. For example, last March the news reported a story about how Israel was the world leader in vaccinations. Countless press articles praised the state for its public health achievements, while few acknowledged that Palestinians in the West Bank had limited access to COVID-19 vaccines and care. When it is difficult to identify trustworthy sources of information, it is important to reach out to professors, campus religious leaders, and other students who know the issue. The worst thing we can do is do nothing at all.
Oberlin’s student activism on Israel-Palestine has at times seemed misguided. It is frustrating to see the low participation in the events organized by Students for a Free Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Oberlin branch of J Street U when there are countless infographics shared within Oberlin circles on social media. Instagram posts tend to be reductionist, sensational, and encourage slacktivism. An article defining terms like Zionism and the Occupation may be instructive, but an article on the 1967 war will fail to understand the nuance of the historical event.
It is also important that we place our own activism in the context of the national conversation. The Biden administration’s disappointing response to this recent crisis is a clear sign that we shouldn’t expect the US government to play a constructive role in the peace process at this point. No one expected the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be a high priority for the Biden administration, but few expected him to turn his back on his campaign pledge to promote a rights-centered foreign policy of man. Instead of condemning the humanitarian violations occurring in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, President Biden stepped up his support for Israel’s right to self-defense and only called for a ceasefire afterwards. being rejected by members of his own party.
If the Biden administration were serious about protecting human rights in Israel-Palestine, it would be honest that time is running out for a two-state solution – if time remains. In order to save the possibility of a two-state solution, the annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank must end. The US government has a stake of $ 3.8 billion in this issue, as US tax money is used to demolish Palestinian homes, making room for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements.
One of the ways the United States can exert pressure on Israel is through the use of restrictive or conditional aid. The United States should refuse to fund specific actions that violate human rights; like the detention of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes as a form of collective punishment, and the blockade of Gaza for anything unrelated to terrorism. The United States may also threaten to cut back on offshore purchases, which are part of the US military aid that Israel can use to boost its own economy and buy its own weapons. By threatening to reduce or completely eliminate these purchases, the United States can send a strong signal that extending the occupation is no longer a viable option for Israel if it is to continue to receive state aid. -United.
Unfortunately, while campaigning for the presidency Biden publicly stated that restricting US aid to Israel would be “absolutely scandalous”. Many Democrats in Congress agree with the president, despite a majority of Democratic voters disagreeing – a recent Gallup poll showed 53% of Democrats support increased pressure on Israel to move the peace process forward. I believe this disconnect exists due to a lack of well-funded left advocacy, in addition to widespread apathy towards the issue. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be complicated, but the violation of human rights is not. Every taxpayer in this country has an interest in this issue and should be heard by Congress.
As students, the best thing we can do on this issue is to make noise, legitimize conversations about political consequences such as restrictions on the use of aid, and keep learning. If you’re interested, Oberlin’s J Street U chapter will be having a meeting next week to debrief what happened last month and what we can do about it. Check Facebook for more details or by email [email protected]