Amongst our diverse campus community, there is a student group that made politicized gestures during this year’s International Week parade of flags ceremony.
This organization is known as the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a group that believes a complex multi-generational ethnic conflict can be solved if people stop eating certain types of hummus.
Regarding student organization rules, it is strange that they are allowed to exist. According to Mason’s guidelines for student clubs, a new club “cannot in any way directly duplicate an organization that already exists.”
SAIA was founded in 2012; the Students for Justice in Palestine of GMU (SJP) was founded years earlier and professes identical views and goals.
Then there is their Facebook group, where they state their support a one state solution.
It’s probably a typo, but if not, it makes one wonder who that one state would belong to.
Like SJP, Student’s Against Israeli Apartheid’s main objection is Israel’s foreign policy regarding the Palestinian territories.
Their answer to this longstanding conflict is to place all the blame on Israel and have a boycott- divestment-sanctions approach against Israel for its “apartheid” system.
As with countless ideological organizations before them, SAIA uses extremist rhetoric such as deeming Israel an “apartheid state.”
And, like most extremist terminology, it’s simplistic. South Africa’s Apartheid system involved the complete separation of races, namely the black and white populations.
Israel’s Jewish population, by contrast, is very much a multiracial mélange of Western Europeans, Slavs, Middle Easterners, Ethiopians, Afghans, and more.
Furthermore, there are over one million Israeli Arabs, who frequently are involved in the same institutions both socially and politically as their Jewish brethren.
Granted, SAIA has the occasional prominent person who agrees with them. Most convincing would be South African Archbishop Desmund Tutu. Tutu once wrote a column calling Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid.” Yet there are two important caveats to Tutu’s work. First, in that very same column Tutu praised Israel’s system. “In a region where repressive governments and unjust policies are the norm, Israel is certainly more democratic than its neighbors,” wrote Tutu.
Second, Tutu has used the term “apartheid” to describe many things he takes moral issue with.
For example, in 2004 Tutu declared that “homophobia equals apartheid.” Now it’s hard to find disagreement with the idea that homophobia is vile, but is it truly identical, point by point, mechanism by mechanism, with the intense racial segregation of South Africa?
Building off of Tutu’s point about Israel’s moral superiority, if SAIA really seeks to eliminate apartheid, they should look at their side.
Virtually every Western pro-Palestinian organization believes that peace can only come when Israel ends its occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories.
Yet, nearly every Western pro-Palestinian organization does not believe removing Israel military presence is sufficient.
What the SAIA, the SJP and the whole host of Palestine solidarity groups seek is the removal of every Jewish man, woman, and child from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, regardless of whether or not they belong to the Israeli Defense Forces.
They seek to create a singular ethnic nationalist state, purged of any Jewish communities. This is a vision only paralleled by the most fanatical Zionist ideologues.
For some reason, few if any of these Palestinian solidarity groups have voiced a concern as to whether or not this goal of racial segregation is the very thing they claim Israel to be.
SAIA wants “Equal rights, under the law” to come to Palestine, and yet they do not appear to believe that these “equal rights” will be hindered by the reactionary ideology of the Islamic Resistance Movement, known more commonly as Hamas. Since Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip women, homosexuals, political dissidents and Christians have had their rights curbed.
These severe attacks on human rights have neither been declared “apartheid” by the SAIA nor even as something antithetical to their call for equality.
Attempting to explain these and other points to the Students Against Israeli Apartheid would be more challenging than getting the United States to end its financial backing of Israel.
According to their Facebook group, SAIA members “do not engage in ‘dialogues’.”
A quintessential purpose of a college campus is to dialogue, to hear different ideas, to get critical feedback.
If one wants to blindly reecho partisan babble, then go across the Potomac where that type of divisive pointless activity is normal.
At least in its history, the SJP has been willing to talk and coordinate events with Mason’s Jewish student groups.
If SAIA really thinks they can solve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict by inflammatory language and closed-mindedness, then they should not be surprised when their efforts fail.