Thank you for passionately displaying the effort and pride that you did. I am proud of the fact that students recognize their freedom to protest, and exercise that right when they feel necessary. While the effort was bold and strong-willed, the message was highly inaccurate.
First, we can start with the statement, “We’re protesting it [Israel Fest] because this is not a Jewish festival. This is explicitly called an Israeli festival, and it is wrong to carry out a festival in the name of a country that is responsible for [the occupation of Palestinian people],” one protester said. We can start off by taking a look at the word ‘occupation.’ Let’s examine one of the territories with the utmost tension surrounding it, the West Bank. For occupation to exist, there needs to be illegal control of land that belongs to someone else. There has never been a recognized Palestinian state in the West Bank. In 1947, the Palestinians rejected the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine.
This plan would have created separate states for Jews and Palestinians. After declining this plan, the Palestinians launched the first of several attempts to destroy Israel and initiate a second Jewish genocide. The 1949 armistice didn’t create a Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza. Egypt took control of Gaza, and Jordan took control of the West Bank. Consequently, when Israel defeated the Arab world’s second major Jewish genocide attempt in 1967, it took Gaza and the West Bank not from the Palestinians, but from Egypt and Jordan. The claim that Israel is occupying this land is baseless since the land has not definitively belonged to any state since the conclusion of the colonial era.
In terms of international law, it is important to note that prior to 1967, there was no other recognized power in these territories. Israel’s capture of Judea-Samaria-Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 did not constitute an “illegal occupation” of someone else’s land, because prior to 1967, there was no legal or recognized sovereign power there. The Jordanian occupation of Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem between 1949 and 1967 was illegal, having been carried out in defiance of the United Nations Security Council.
Let’s now examine other claims made by the protest leaders. “We want to show that we are not against the Jewish people, but we are pro-equality and humanitarian acts for everyone,” protestor Soltanmohammadi said. “They’re celebrating something that is so deeply intrinsic with racism and apartheid, and we have to show that this is the other ugly side of the happy life they built for themselves.”
Another protester added that “I will never be able to see my family. I will never be able to go to where I’m from. No, you don’t understand.”
There are plenty of places we could start with these excerpts, but let’s first take a look at the latter. While stating that she will never be able to see her family, it only serves as a reminder to the unfortunate circumstances that took place in Israel in 2001. Former Maryland Hillel Director, Seth Mandell, moved to Israel in 1996 after ending his time as director at Maryland. One day, his then 13-year old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran were playing, as kids do, in the valley near their home. One of your fellow protesters came upon these boys and beat them to death so severely that dental records were required to confirm their identities. So while it is unfortunate that you may not be able to return to your homeland after starting, and losing, five wars, there have been plenty of Palestinians that have been able to return home despite this. Thus, your claim would benefit from being looked into a bit further.
The other excerpt mentioned, stating that the protests are on behalf of humanitarianism and peace, is also baseless. To claim that Israel is not in favor of peace represents a significant lack of knowledge on the subject matter. After Israel won the Six Day War, which they did not start, they returned 85 percent of the land that they won. Israel also returned 100 percent of the Gaza Strip to Hamas, who returned the favor by digging tunnels under Israeli homes, firing thousands of rockets, and kidnapping teenage Israeli soldiers. In addition to the regular stabbing, car ramming, and shooting of innocent civilians, children included. In Israel, there are currently Palestinians serving in Israeli Knesset offices, Palestinians can vote, and they can also own land. While in so-called “Palestine,” Jews there are beheaded. Do you notice the difference?
These lands have been Jewish since thousands of years ago, and the Jewish people have significant ties to the land. These lands have been ruled by King David, King Solomon, has there ever been a King Palestine? No. All of the most important Jewish religious sites are situated in those territories. The very name “Judea,” a term which was commonly used by the international community throughout all the centuries until the Jordanian occupation in 1949, is derived from the same root as the word “Jew,” establishing the deep Jewish connection to the land. The reason Jews are called “Jews” is because they come from Judea. This religious right was the basis for the League of Nations decision, in 1922, to endorse the Jewish people’s right to all of the Holy Land, on both sides of the Jordan River.
Furthermore, Israel took over Judea-Samaria-Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem in self-defense, in response to aggression by Jordan and Egypt in June 1967. Had Jordan not invaded Israel, ignoring pleas by Israel to stay out of the war, Israel would not control Judea and Samaria today.
That being said, if you still want to carry out a protest, then by all means do so. However next time, I recommend doing so in a more coherent manner. One of the protesters claimed that the protest was formed because it was irresponsible of the Jewish Student Union to inflate a bouncy castle on McKeldin Mall, because it inconveniences students walking to class. While I am no philosopher, I would like to examine the logic behind this. Putting an attraction in the middle of a grass field is inconveniencing people, despite nobody ever walking on the grass? So a rational way to protest this is by laying down in the middle of the busiest sidewalk on campus? There seems to be a bit of disconnect there.
Hopefully your organization does not plan on hosting a campus wide event any time soon, because you might just see a coherent protest that is backed by legitimate claims.
Aron Kaufman is a freshman marketing major.