To the Editor:

Opponents have characterized the divestment campaign as an unfounded, vicious, anti-Semitic attack on the state of Israel and the Jewish people. However, this sentiment is found nowhere in the tenets of the divestment campaign. Divestment is not an attack on the Jewish people or their right to self-determination, but rather a call for an end to the system that provides preferential treatment to Jewish people at the expense of the Palestinians.

Israel is an apartheid state because it discriminates on the basis of religion. Any Jew in the world can become an Israeli citizen, whether or not he or she has ever been there. Palestinians, who were driven from their homes 54 years ago, have no such rights. They cannot return to Israel as equal citizens despite their long-standing ties to the land. To allow them to do so would upset the “Jewish character” of the state. So, Palestinians are denied their right to return to their homeland.

Unless the issue of the refugees is addressed, there can be no viable resolution to the conflict. That is why Students for Justice in Palestine calls for the establishment of a single state with equal rights for everyone and universal repatriation rights for all political refugees. Granting an international religious group special rights and privileges at the expense of an indigenous population is undeniably racist.

During Reconstruction, African-Americans formed a majority of South Carolina’s population. In order to preserve the white character of the state, Jim Crow laws were adopted, and African-Americans were systematically disenfranchised. The state of Israel is no different. An exclusionary democracy is not a democracy. It is an apartheid state.

Saqib Bhatti ’04

November 18, 2002

The writer is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.