Students trying to pass through Porter Gate between noon and 1 p.m Monday found themselves faced with group of individuals clad in army fatigues and carrying cardboard machine guns. Several of the passersby were so outraged by the Students for Justice in Palestine demonstration that they immediately began to protest. They opposed the fact that the students undertaking the mock checkpoint were requesting passing students to first show IDs to prove that they were authorized (i.e., members of chosen colleges).
These counter-demonstrators were outraged. At one point I witnessed one of them ask a “soldier” at the checkpoint to instigate violence so that he could retaliate. Someone called the police, others stood in the middle of the checkpoint trying to distract the mock control unit, while another kicked over some of the so-called “Yale Defense Force’s” props and barged forcefully through the crowd. The frustration and anger on the part of the protesters and many of the passersby should serve as a small lesson in understanding.
Many found it impossible to imagine themselves in a situation in which they would have to submit to body searches, interrogation and capricious delays in order to pass from one area on campus to another; we Yalies are far from grasping the daily lives of Palestinians (read non-Jews) inside the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In addition to the checkpoints between the villages of the occupied territories, the entire population of 3.5 million Palestinians is often subjected to sweeping curfews. Recently the situation has become so unbearable that few are able to hold a steady job and farmers are forbidden from performing the most basic of tasks: harvesting their crops. All the while, the inhabitants of the illegal Israeli settlements inside the West Bank are free to move as they please.
The official stance of Israel is that the occupation is essential to win their (thus far never-ending) war against terrorism. They believe that if their checkpoints and occupation were to dissolve and freedom be returned to the people of Palestine, their neighbors would use this freedom to obliterate all of Israel. This view is not only racist — it is ignorant and dangerous. It amounts to the idea that the only way to end resistance to oppression is with violence and more oppression.
Throughout the nearly 55-year history of the modern state of Israel, the principal victims of violence have been the Christian and Muslim Palestinians. More Palestinian women and children have been massacred, and when Palestinians have had to flee from the Israeli Army, Jewish settlers have quickly moved into and claimed the empty homes. Although the United Nations has reprimanded Israel several times for systematically violating the human rights of Palestinians and for violating the sovereignty of the Arab nations surrounding Israel, little has ever been done by the international community.
This issue boils down to racism. An entire indigenous population is being denied their human rights by a colonial state that is based on religion and ethnicity. What we ask for is nothing more and nothing less than democracy. Neither Israeli-style democracy nor apartheid South African democracy, but a democracy based on the universally recognized principle of one person, one vote. I conclude by calling upon supporters of Israel to demand blind justice from their government and join Students for Justice in Palestine in demanding the cessation of the United States’ and Yale’s subsidization of Israeli apartheid through divestment from the Israeli economy and military machine.
Julian Perez is a senior in Davenport College. He is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.