On the very day that political cartoonists in France were murdered by Islamic radicals simply for exercising their right to freedom of speech, Students for Justice in Palestine member Amanda Nelson wrote an opinion piece urging the boycott of the only free country, according to Freedom House’s rankings, in the Middle East: Israel. Aside from her absolute lack of empirical evidence for any of the allegations she hurls at Israel, she provides no proof whatsoever that boycotting companies such as Elbit Systems or Caterpillar will have any sort of tangible, positive effect on even one Palestinian-Arab.
On the contrary, boycotting companies such as SodaStream will lead to and has led to hundreds of Palestinians losing their only opportunity to an honest, well-paid living working for Israeli companies. While extremism and war spread throughout the Middle East like wildfire, SJP would have UF boycott the only country in the region with academic institutions where Jews and Arabs peacefully live and study together in coexistence.
Nelson’s column last week made specific mention of the plight of Palestinian refugees — many of whom have resettled in the West. Of those who haven’t, many are kept in festering refugee camps by other Arab governments. SJP would have you believe that there is, in essence, no conflict, just a one-sided struggle in which Israel bears all fault. Mention of the Palestinian terrorist groups that repeatedly blew up innocent civilians across Israel is entirely absent. Checkpoints and walls seem unnecessary when the ruthless attacks against Israeli civilians that left thousands dead are conveniently brushed aside.
Nelson shows no understanding of Israel’s unique situation as the only democratic nation surrounded on all sides by the likes of the Islamic State group, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (a nasty, Sinai-based terror cell) and the list goes on. No mention was made of the fact that the Palestinian refugee problem is a direct consequence of the Arab rejection of a two-state partition peace plan in 1947 and the Arab state’s refusal to incorporate Palestinians into their host countries as equal citizens.
Additionally, the column made no mention of the almost 1 million Jewish refugees, including members of my own family, who were robbed and exiled from Arab countries simply for being Jews after 1948. According to the author, “the plight of the Palestinians is one of the greatest human rights tragedies in modern history.” With all respect to the hardships of the Palestinians, the United Nations 2014 Human Development Report ranks Palestine number 107 out of 187 countries in human development. Palestine is ranked above countries such as Egypt, South Africa and India, and it is considered above the average for Arab states in the Middle East. However, we have yet to see any articles from SJP addressing these human rights concerns.
When will we see them mention the 9 million and counting Syrian refugees and displaced families fleeing the civil war? Or the Yazidis and Kurds facing genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group? What about the occupation of territory by Russia, China and Turkey? As tends to always be the case with SJP, the narrow focus on a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an injustice to the millions of victims of tyranny across the globe.
With the Middle East in shambles, it is clear where the future of the region lies: becoming more like Israel, not less. This university should continue to work alongside Israel to further the technological and scientific advancements that will make our world better.
UF mechanical engineering senior
[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 1/14/2015]