The ironically-termed “Israel Peace Week” will return to campus this week in a further attempt by Boston University Students for Israel (BUSI) to whitewash the continued and brutal occupation of Palestine. This systematic campaign is conceptualized, pre-packaged, and dispersed to pro-Israel groups on campus annually by propaganda outlets such as Stand With Us and Hasbara Fellowships, an affiliate of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While cloaking their language in peace and love, these pro-Israel advocates grotesquely distort the human rights violations committed by Israel daily.
Up first on the propaganda agenda this year is the event “The Ethiopian-Israeli Experience,” which is sure to be an attempt to whitewash the barrage of criticism Israel has received over its treatment of African immigrants and minorities. BUSI will host speaker Danielle Desta of the group Israel at Heart, which, according to its website, sends out delegations of Ethiopian Israelis to “present the multicultural aspect of Israeli society not known to outside communities.”
Upon examining the real multicultural experience of Ethiopian Israelis and other African immigrants in the region, there are some devastating facts that should be brought to the forefront by Ms. Desta — though it is likely she will leave them out:
For example, in an article on Jan. 27, Haaretz, a prominent Israeli newspaper reported that Israeli Ministry of Health officials finally admitted to the practice of administering the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera to women of Ethiopian origin. Some of these women were aware of the fact that they were being administered birth control (though were threatened with deportation if they refused), while others were simply told they were receiving routine inoculations. Clearly stemming from racism, this story speaks to the fear of some Israelis that both Arabs and African immigrants represent a “demographic threat” to Israeli society.
This fear is also physically displayed in Israel’s construction of what will be the world’s largest detention center for asylum seekers and migrants on the land of the Ktzi’ot prison in the Negev desert. As quoted in an April 17, 2012 Guardian article, Israeli spokesmen Mark Regev asserted, “We are currently the only first-world economy and the only democracy in the region. But for people coming from countries like Somalia and Sudan, we cannot be the solution.”
However, these stories merely illuminate a fraction of the larger problem of systemic racism in Israel and Palestine. Racism not only against Arabs and African immigrants, but also within the Jewish community, is a hallmark of the superstructure upon which Israel has built its apartheid state. But will Ms. Desta of Israel at Heart bring to the fore the experience of the forced sterilization of Ethiopian women? Will she convey the intense racism experienced by minorities throughout Israel? Judging from my experience with the Israeli propaganda machine, I think not.
It is high time BUSI revokes its unwavering support for the apartheid state of Israel and bends toward justice by advocating equal rights for all citizens in the land between the river and the sea.
BU Students for Justice in Palestine