succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Things up with which I've been meaning to catch...

Nearly a year ago I had the good fortune to hear two guest lectures from Neve Gordon, a professor at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. The first was specifically about the human rights violations of the wall around the occupied territories, delivered to my human rights class. The second was a more general history of the Israel-Palestine conflict and was open to the public. A few good points:
  • how do you reconcile the fact that today Israelis kill Palestinians and it isn't considered a crime with the fact that in the 60s and 70s the Israeli government immunized the Palestinian people (and even their cattle!)?
  • Golda Meir's security chief once said to her, with regard to the "Palestinian problem" "You want the dowry but not the wife!"
And the one that I'll never forget, the part that broke my heart. The audience was...somewhat less than sympathetic. And during the question and answer period someone asked Gordon how he justified standing next to a mass murderer (referencing some photograph of Gordon standing next to a Palestinian leader). Gordon smiled and sighed and said it's only in America that he is ever considered not Jewish enough. When teaching in front of a classroom of Israeli students at Ben-Gurion he can be much more critical of the Jewish state. Gordon is part of a group of what he calls second-tier peace negotiators. Academics and artists who keep trying to maintain communication with their Palestinian counterparts, keep trying to provide examples of the two groups getting along. And as part of that, he found himself standing next to this particular leader, with whom he certainly did not agree. But you see, he said, I was in the air force. Every Israeli serves in the military and I was in the air force. And there we were taught that if your group is advancing, and there is a fence in the way, covered in barbed wire, it is your job as a soldier to lie down on that fence, so that your fellow soldiers can use your body to climb safely over. So, he says, what was I doing standing next to that man? I was lying on the fence.

I was going to transition this into my notes from a lecture two months ago by Ken Stein, the man who resigned as Middle East Fellow at the Carter Center over his disagreements with Carter regarding Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. For most people the initial problem with the book is the title - but since I first heard the current Israel-Palestine situation described as apartheid by Gordon, I didn't have quite the same guttural reaction as others. (and really, if we're going to be picky about word choice, it's hard to claim inaccuracy - apartheid: 2.any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.) Stein's lecture was really interesting - boiling the problem down to a disagreement over the interpretation of UN Resolution 242. A very complicated disagreement to be sure, and one over which I believe scholars can really gain traction and one that is worth discussion. But it's a disagreement that provides the media with a much less sexy tagline than simply, Carter hates the Jews (something I vehemently believe to be Not True).

So I was going to delve into that. But my notes are long and the problem is complicated and I'm lazy. So discuss among yourselves. I'm going back to dissertating.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi megan, thought you might be interested in our newly launched online campaign against the wall in the west bank


7:41 AM  

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