“So long as injustice prevails, you can expect me to be relentlessly outspoken”

19 January 2009

Contributed by Aharon, a former volunteer with PSP

As I sit here in my comfortable nook at my local independent coffee shop, sipping Nicaraguan blend, innocent men, women, and children are being systematically cleansed in a part of the world very dear to me. 1,200 Palestinians have been slaughtered by Israeli Destruction Forces since Israel’s offensive in Gaza began on 27 December, more than half of them civilians. More than half of them civilians. More than half of them civilians. 5,200 have been injured, and an estimated 90,000 have fled their homes. Yet, with Gaza being half the size of my beloved city of San Francisco, and having twice the population, an estimated 1.5 million, fleeing their homes merely means frantically running from one end of the territory to another. These people have little to no refuge, either, as Israel has deemed UN chartered schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, and even humanitarian convoys to be legitimate targets of its attacks. When I wake up tomorrow morning, the death toll in Gaza will be over 1300. My java tastes foul.

Israel claims its offensive to be a legitimate one, maintaining it is targeting Hamas militants responsible for launching rockets into its territory. Thirteen Israelis have died, including 10 soldiers. The three others were civilians struck by Hamas rockets. The world ecumenically condemns Hamas for its indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, all the while dismissing Israel’s responsibility in its campaign of ethnic cleansing in Gaza. After a long silence, our incoming president and Secretary of State have issued statements reinforcing Israel’s “right to defend itself.” So much for “Change We Can Believe In.”

I gave a telephone interview to one of the local publications here at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The first question I fielded asked if I thought Israel was justified in its strategic offensive on Hamas militants in Gaza. My first duty was to define the term “strategic.” Israel’s “strategic” campaign is either to punish the collective population of Gaza, slaughtering hundreds of innocent women and children in the process, or it is hardly “strategic” at all. Did Israel Destruction Forces strategically bomb two UN chartered schools? Did it strategically target a humanitarian convoy, resulting of the halting of humanitarian aid to the innocents of Gaza? For that matter, did Israel strategically lob missiles at an outpost housing three of its own soldiers, killing them as they have killed so many others in the past 19 days? If this is strategic on behalf of the State of Israel, then its campaign is not that of a legitimate army, but of a terrorist organization whose parallel the world has never seen. If the “strategic” tag is not accurate, then the Israeli Destruction Forces are none other than a band of ragtag, teenage hooligans terrorizing the entire population of Gaza. Strategic or not, terrorism is the result, and my tax dollar funded War on Terror should include the IDF as well.

Now is probably a good time to address my tactless approach of deliverance. I’ll never be qualified to be a politician, a diplomat, or recognized leader of any sort. I’m careless. When I see ethnic cleansing I have this defective trait which forces me to call it ethnic cleansing. If something appears to resemble a modern day Holocaust, well, I call it a Holocaust. I’m not alone in that, however (see Israeli deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai, 29 February 2008). This clumsy approach of mine has solicited much admonition. Sunday night University of California police officers pulled me out of my apartment. Police don’t regularly come to one’s home at 11pm without one being implicated in some criminal act. I was informed this was a “friendly” visit. Apparently I’ve ruffled some feathers in my time here at UCSB. Officer Genovese proceeded to explain that he’d been sent to “feel me out” as members of American Students for Israel “fear for their lives.” My rhetoric may be a bit abrasive—no, scratch that, my rhetoric is downright abrasive, however I have never expressed a desire to harm another, nor have I incited another towards this course of action. This is hardly the first time, however. The Dean of Students, Assistant Dean of Students, and Vice Chancellor of this accredited institution organized a mediation dinner in which cabinet members of Students for Justice in Palestine, American Students For Israel, Muslim Students Association, College Republicans, and Santa Barbara Hillel were supposed to come to the table, eat, and work out our differences. SJP and MSA had representatives present, myself included; not one member of the other organizations showed. Apparently those members elected to boycott the event because, again, they “feared for their lives.” After speaking to the rabbi days later I learned of a meeting in which members expressed their concerns of my possibly being a suicide bomber. Whether these students actually believe this nonsense remains to be seen. They have even gone as far as suggesting that I may have received some sort of clandestine terrorist training during my time in the West Bank.

As I told the officers present, my answer to the request that I “tone it down” is, emphatically, no.

Not yet at least. When Palestinians are treated like human beings as opposed to chattel I may see fit to tame my tongue; not one minute sooner. So long as injustice prevails, so long as my tax dollars are being used toward genocide, you can expect me to be relentlessly outspoken, and yes, abrasive. Come what may.

Bio: Aharon is a fifth year biology/black studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the president of Students for Justice in Palestine and vice-president of the Muslim Students’ Association at UCSB. Aharon spent approximately a month living amongst Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 2007 in which he volunteered for the Palestinian Solidarity Project, a non-violent organization which stands in opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestine.