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Panel examines U.S. policy in Israel

A panel of Boston University, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors agreed that the majority of today’s Americans think the U.S. should sympathize with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict equally, but historical ties, lobbying and a variety of other factors make it impossible for the U.S. to intervene and completely cut ties with Israel.

‘Israeli policies are clear and explicit, and don’t go with U.S. political ideology of democracy and freedom,’ foreign policy analyst, MIT professor and linguistics expert Noam Chomsky told about 300 attendees at the BU Law Auditorium Tuesday night.

However, the U.S. government still supports Israel, Chomsky said.

‘Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is so sharply at odds with America’s value of democracy,’ Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor Stephen Walt said. ‘Israel still today receives large-scale military and economic aid from the U.S., which began in the late 60s. The U.S. gives them unconditional support.’

Walt said this is because pro-Israel lobbyists heavily influenced the views of American politicians.

‘Lobbyists have put their fingerprints on the American stand on Gaza,’ Walt said.

BU political science professor Irene Gendzier said initial U.S.-Israeli relations were marked by the U.S. insisting that Israel treat Palestinians fairly, but as the Cold War began, the U.S. had a stronger stake in keeping Israel as a close ally. She said when the U.S. realized what an asset Israel could be, it dropped the Palestinian issue.

‘U.S. policies regarding Israel in 1947 to 1949 shaped today’s relationship,’ Gendzier said.

Chomsky said during a question-and-answer session that he does not think there are appropriate forms of American resistance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a statement that drew applause from several members of the audience.

‘American democracy is not so futile,’ he said. ‘I think, in the future, it is possible that one day America will confront Israel.’

When speakers ended their analysis of the conflict, the aisles filled with attendees hoping to ask questions or comment on the issues.

BU alumnus Walid Masoud, a Palestinian who was born the year the state of Israel was created, asked one of the first questions. He asked members of the panel how they saw the Palestinian national movement in the future after the recent events in Gaza.

‘Violence is clearly effective, and if Palestinians are not given what they are asking for, I am sure it will continue,’ Chomsky said.

As Chomsky answered, he was interrupted by protest from the audience.

‘I am not in favor of violence, but was merely showing its results,’ Chomsky said. ‘Peaceful solutions exist, but, once more, I repeat, Israel will not use them.’

StandWithUs Emerson Fellow Lana Osher said she thinks the panelists were one-sided and did not address the entire scope of the issue. StandWithUs is a pro-Israeli activist group.

‘How come you did not mention the rejection of Jewish refugees into other Arab countries and only focused on the rejection of Palestinian refugees?’ she asked the panelists.

Chomsky said there were examples Iraqi Jews not wanting to leave Iraq, but being forced to go to Israel. He said Palestinians are unfairly associated with Arab countries that are hostile to Israel.

Osher said Chomsky did not answer her question, but had to give the microphone to the next audience member.

CAS religion professor Paula Kabalo, a visiting professor from Israel, said her students often agree that there is a need for a two-state solution. She said a diverse group of people can agree that a two-state agreement must be made, but they cannot agree on the specific borders.

‘We want to go back to our land,’ Kabalo said, referring to the territory the Jews first lived in thousands of years ago.

‘We want to go back to our land too,’ College of Engineering sophomore Hiba Younis said, in this case referring to the house her father had 60 years ago that is in Israel’s territory today.

Kabalo said despite the tense atmosphere of the panel discussion, she is hopeful of the future.

‘I feel like my son’s generation will be less offensive than the past generation,’ Kabalo said.

The panel was organized by the BU Muslim Law School Association, the Human Rights Law Society and the National Security Law Society.

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