Opinion: Peace, Not Apartheid week

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Matthew DeMaio, co-president of Students for Justice in Palestine, on behalf of the aforementioned group. The piece only reflects the opinion of the writer and the Students for Justice in Palestine student group. Gavel Media neither supports nor opposes the mission of the Students for Justice in Palestine.

If you walked past the campus green today, March 18,  in front of Stoke Hall you might have noticed an 8-foot-tall wall adorned with beautiful art and poignant pictures on one side and “Peace, Not Apartheid” written in big block letters on the other.  That wall was constructed by Boston College Students for Justice in Palestine. It is the first event of our Peace, Not Apartheid week of activities.

Students for Justice in Palestine is a registered student organization at BC that is committed to bringing a fuller understanding of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  We exist because we want to correct the one-sided portrayal of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that dominates the national conversation in the United States. By doing so, we want the Boston College community to have a complete perspective on the situation in Palestine and the role in U.S. tax dollars in the conflict.

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Palestinian land loss over time, specifically from 1946 to 2000. The amount of land that Palestinians control has only decreased since then. Land owned by Palestinians is colored in green.

“Peace, Not Apartheid” is the title of former President Jimmy Carter’s 2006 book on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  In the book, Carter argues that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East."  This “control and colonization” of the Palestinian territories has taken the form of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem built on Palestinian land that house more than 500,000 settlers and the system of military government practiced on the Palestinian, but not Israeli, residents of the territory.

The most visible aspect of the Israeli control and colonization of the Palestinian territories is the wall we have attempted to replicate in the campus green.  Replication, however, is impossible.  While our wall stands at 8 feet in height, the real thing is 26 feet of concrete.  Our wall is 12 feet long and the real thing is 440 miles long.  A full 85 percent of the wall is built on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, the internationally recognized boundary between Israel and the West Bank.  It cuts through Palestinian villages, separating the villagers from their land, their livelihood.  It divides cities and prevents Palestinians of the territories from accessing Jerusalem.  Anything that is in the path of the wall is expropriated, demolished and built over, with no regard for the rights of the Palestinians.

There are 11.4 million people who live in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the land of historic Palestine.  All 11.4 million people in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip live under Israeli sovereignty as Israel has control over the borders, movement, law, and most importantly, the power to determine who lives and dies. Only about half of the people who live under Israeli control, the 6 million Jewish Israeli citizens, have a full right to citizenship.  They have the right to vote, to buy land and build wherever they choose and the right to move freely throughout the entire territory.

The other nearly five and a half million, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the 20 percent of Israel’s population that are Palestinian, lack either some or all of these rights.  The Palestinian citizens of Israel live in a “Jewish state;” a state that is by definition not for them.  Unlike Jewish Israelis, they are not considered “nationals,” so although they have the right to vote, they face significant discrimination and are unable to purchase land or build in areas that are for Jewish use only.

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The Qalandiya Checkpoint, which more than 20,000 Palestinians cross on a daily basis to move between cities and villages in the West Bank.

The Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, who are just as much under Israeli control, are not allowed to vote for the government that controls them.  They do not have the freedom of movement to travel throughout the land of historic Palestine.  They cannot visit the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem without special permission. In the West Bank, they are confined to 40 percent of the land as the other 60 percent is under complete Israeli civil and military control and is only open for Israeli construction. There are roads that are for Israeli use only and hundreds of checkpoints that prevent Palestinians from moving freely in the land that is supposed to be theirs.

We see a place, therefore, where people live in unequal circumstances with unequal rights.  And what is most troubling to us at BC SJP is that this military occupation is being almost entirely funded by United States tax-payer money.  A portion of the money that you and I pay to the federal government each year contributes to the 3 to 4 billion dollars of yearly aid to Israel.  It is this U.S. money that maintains all of what is described above.

As co-President of BC Students for Justice in Palestine, I encourage you to come to one (or all) of our events and stop by to visit us on Stokes lawn at our wall and ask us some questions.  It is our hope that after this week, you will see a side of the conflict that is absent from public discourse in the United States.

The feature photo is a section of The Wall on the Palestinian side. All photos are courtesy of BC Students for Justice in Palestine.

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