Campus, News

SJP members protest presentation led by Israel Defense Force soldiers, BUSI

Students for Justice in Palestine protested the Israeli Soldiers Stories lecture on Tuesday. SARAH ANOLIK/DFP STAFF

Members of Boston University’s Students for Justice in Palestine staged a walkout at a forum with Israel Defense Force soldiers Tuesday night.

Lital Shemesh and Adam Avidan, two Israelis who served in the IDF, spoke to a group of about 50 students at Barrister Hall in the School of Law as part of a forum hosted by BU Students for Israel. The soldiers provided insight about what it was like to serve in the military and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What we are here for is basically to show the faces behind the headlines,” Shemesh said.

SJP members protested in Marsh Plaza at 6:45 p.m., carrying a banner that read “Students for Israel whitewashes colonialism.”  They attended the forum at 7:30 p.m., wearing shirts that read “IDF guilty of war crimes.”

Demonstrators put duct tape over their mouths and walked out in unison shortly after Avidan began speaking. About 30 students remained at the event after the walkout.

“We want the BU community to know that the IDF is not welcome here,” said Tyler Cullis, a LAW student and SJP member.

BUSI President Matt Goldberg said the event was intended to allow the BU community to ask questions to people of a similar age who have served in the Israeli military.

“It’s important for BU students to hear those stories from people of the same age,” the College of Arts and Sciences sophomore said.

Goldberg said it was important for students to understand the complexity of life in Israel.

“Ultimately, BU is a global university,” he said.

Israel requires its citizens to enlist in the army at age 18, Avidan said. Men must enlist for at least three years, while women must serve two.

Shemesh volunteered to serve as a border checkpoint guard, which Goldberg described as an unusual position for women. Avidan was drafted in 2002 and made a career for himself in the army, serving as coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian Territories before pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

“Unfortunately, we are still fighting our war of independence and, at the moment, I cannot apologize for defending my country, and I cannot apologize for my rights to live,” Shemesh said.

Joshua Niland, a CAS junior and SJP member, said bringing in IDF soldiers to speak was wrong.

“On average, with impunity, they kill at least one Palestinian every other day, oftentimes a child,” he said. “I don’t think it’s okay to have war criminals on this campus.”

However, Niland also said the protests were intended to be civil.

“[We want to] disrupt their event in as civil a manner as possible,” he said.

COM sophomore Rachel DuShey, BUSI’s outreach director, said the manner of the protest was strange.

“It was interesting that they wore tape on their mouths because they could have easily voiced their opinions and engaged in a dialogue,” she said. “Instead, they presented this image that did not really help anybody.”

Goldberg stressed the importance of people being educated on the issue.

“It’s important that the members of the pro-Israel community, members of the BU community, members of the US Armed Forces learn about these things,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the forum was an ideal arena for those with different opinions or questions about the actions that Israel has taken to engage in conversation.

DuShey said, “I think the only thing the protestors demonstrated tonight was an unwillingness to come to any peaceful solutions or understandings.”

14 Comments

  1. Why ask questions directly, when it is so much easier to protest something without bothering to find out the full facts. Cowards!

    • Those were not “facts” presented last night – those were talking points to legitimate a 45-year old illegal and inhumane military occupation. We have no reason to “dialogue” with ardent racists who refuse to admit the Palestinians as human beings with human dignity and human rights. No one would have expected the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. to sit down with white Afrikaneers and “dialogue” with them about how, in fact, the African National Congress and Mandela were terroristic. That would have been patently absurd, and we all know why. The same is true, here – there is no reason to “dialogue” with people who refuse to look on Palestinians as anything other than suspect terrorists. You don’t talk to racists – you isolate them!

      • There is plenty of blame for both sides, including reasons to suspect “racism.” BU SJP members should consider the racist, hateful depictions of Israelis and Jews that are rampant in Palestinian media–even in cartoons aimed at pre-schoolers–and encouraged by the Abbas government. Is Arab racism any less abhorent?

        I support a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as an international city. A new idea? Hardly. An international Jerusalem was in the UN partition plan in 1947. That plan gave Arabs far more land than they will ever realize today. Israel accepted. The Arabs attacked, seeking to control all the land. Why is it that the 1947 UN partition map is never shown in Palestinian textbooks? What would a 13 year old Palestinian think if he or she knew that 64 years ago, a Palestinian state could have been created just by saying “yes” ? No wonder the 1947 partition plan is unknown among the vast majority of Palestinians.

        • Is Arab racism being brought to campus? I apologize, but I fail to understand the point. The IDF soldiers who spoke did not once utter a single word about the humanity of Palestinians, but rather described them all as simply suspect terrorists. That is racism, and that racism was brought to campus by BUSI.

          Further, as to the Jerusalem issue, it’d be good to check out the official stance of the Israeli Gov’t (or, for that matter, the position of the Obama administration): both Govt’s call for an undivided Jerusalem. The PA and PLO, on the other hand, call for a divided Jerusalem with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

          Then, for the 1947 problem, you’ve removed the context, so let me clarify it for you: Imagine I come into your two-story house and decide one day to declare that I own the downstairs. Would you respect that claim? After all, you’ve lived downstairs for quite some time. The answer’s obvious. No, you wouldn’t respect that claim. Then why is it so difficult to understand why Palestinians, living in what is now Israel (and there were lots of them), would be upset over the fact that one day they wake up to find out that the land they’ve lived in is now reserved to the Jewish State of Israel? If it is not ok for me to storm into your house and claim the downstairs, then how is it sensible to expect a non-reaction on the part of the Palestinians when Israel (or the British) does something similar? People should not be expected to leave the homes they’ve lived in for generations just because the colonial powers decide to grant to the Jewish people the right to a state.

  2. These protesters are either severely misinformed or antisemites. They were cheering “Long Live the Intifada” which is tantamount to promoting terrorist violence against Jews.

    If they are not, in fact, antisemites, then they are detracting from their message of support for Palestinian Arabs by employing antisemitic rhetoric.

    • Intifada signifies resistance. The First Intifada was, as observers admit, largely nonviolent (other than stone-throwing at IDF soldiers). Chanting ‘Long Live the Intifada’ simply signals support for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Occupation. If people do not support resistance to an illegal and inhumane military occupation, then people have lined themselves up on the wrong side of history. It’s as simple as that.

      But the greater irony is this, if calling for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation (a fundamental right) is wrong, then why doesn’t Matt speak out against the IDF’s invitation to campus? No matter how BUSI and the IDF try to cover it up, the human rights record of the IDF is downright atrocious – I ask people to take a look at Amnesty, HRW, and UN reports on the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to see for themselves how the IDF operates.

      Moreover, unlike Matt, I will not chalk it up to being misinformed. BUSI kids (and Matt) are Islamophobes. Listening to the IDF soldiers speak last night was evidence of that – there was no mention of the Palestinians as human beings, but rather just as suspect terrorists. Bringing that kind of discourse to our campus is unacceptable, and we made known last night that BUSI kids will feel isolated every time they try to stage an event like this in the future.

      • Tyler, you are blatantly one-sided. People like you, anti-semites, never mentioning the rights of the Jewish people who have every right to claim and live in the land of milk and honey, the G-d given Holy-Land of Israel. You, Tyler, are just another intelectual nut job. You, like your brained-washed Palestinians, try to re-write history, twist the facts and continue to minipulate the truth by perpetuating the BIG LIE. You and your evil friends are nothing more than liers and frauds. You persist in dismissing the basic facts that the land of Israel is designated by the Old Testament, which for your information, preceeded the Koran by just a few thousand years, to be the land of the Jewish people and Jerusalem was always their holy capital. Now, to simply ingnore these facts only prove your ignorance and hatered towards the Jewish people. There are 22 Arab nations throughout the world, yet they want a 23rd Arab state named Palestine which, if you recall, was named by the Romans in an attempt to purge the Jews from their homeland. It is a bunch of nonesense you are spewing on this board. As is, the Arabs ended up with all the oil and the Jews ended up with non-stop violence by so called Palestinians that are originally from Jordan that no Arab nation wanted to absorb. So, Mr. know-it-all, check your facts and don’t say anything if you don’t know what the Hell your talking about.

        • How’s the froth? Seriously, is that the argument – the Jews were given the land of Israel in the Old Testament and thus have rights to it? For those who treat this as it is, an absurdity on par with some of the more messianic statements coming from the mouths of Iran’s clerical class, are we all anti-Semites? Wouldn’t that mean, after all, all of us who are not Jewish and do not recognize the Old Testament as a book of historical fact are anti-Semites?

          Ironic enough, some of those who do believe that the Old Testament is a book of fact and do believe that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews are Christian Zionists (most of which are evangelicals). Want to know what their idea is and why they support the state of Israel? Because, after all, when the Day of Rapture comes, all the Jews (except for a very select few) will be exterminated. Those are some nice friends Jewish Zionists have made to rally support for their favored nation-state.

          As for what I actually believe, I think if Jews want to have a homeland in the land of Israel, then they are given the right to do so in the same measure as anybody else. No more, no less. Just because I do not believe in special rights for Jews (based on Biblical texts) does not make for an anti-Semite. Please do us all a favor and stop demeaning the very serious word.

          • I didn’t know about the IDF soldiers speaking, and I have better things to do anyway. You shouldn’t assume that IDF soldiers are necessarily going to say bad things. In Israel the debate is much more lively and open than here in America. There is a lot of dissent against Netanyahu and his racist advisers.

            What I did hear was a bunch of BU kids chanting antisemtic slogans about the Intifada. There is no good way to interpret that.

            This kind of chanting makes it very difficult for moderates like me to work with my family and friends. I want a peaceful solution to the problems in the Middle East which permit Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, and Jews to live in peace. Whether that is one-state, two-state, etc. But when one side comes out and starts chanting antisemitic slogans in support of the Intifada, I cannot work with them. Israelis and Jews hear that and think “they do not want peace, they just want to kill us. How can we work together?”

            As Jon Stewart would say: You’re not helping.

  3. Intifada means shaking off. It was a general uprising against occupation that happened in 1987 which began with massive protests and strikes. That was until the Israeli army killed a whole lot of protesters. I suggest rather than listening to hasbara matt, you should read for yourself about it. There are plenty of books detailing exactly what went on. The more knowledgeable people are, the more they will realize how oppressive the Israelis are with our tax dollars

  4. Dialogue can only happen among free people. There can be no dialogue between oppressor and oppressed.

    The IDF has SILENCED 27 people in the Gaza strip (the world’s largest open-air prison in the world) in the last two weeks (including children). It has SILENCED more than 1400 civilians in what was called “Operation Cast Lead.” There can be no peace without justice, no dialogue as long as one people are oppressing the other. Israel-Palestine is not a two-sided conflict, it is a clear situation of oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and colonized. What needs to be done is a dismantling of the apartheid structure – dialogue will get us nowhere.

  5. When the students in SJP care more about the people of Palestine and the suffering they endure under their government (which is, by the way, corrupt and COMPLETELY independent of Israel) than they do about the destruction of a democratic state, they will finally achieve their goal of justice for these people.

  6. Next time BUSI kids go down to the AIPAC meeting, I suggest calling on AIPAC to change its position on U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. Right now, AIPAC supports U.S. aid to the PA, and we all know why: the PA is a colonial Gov’t working for the U.S. and Israel and not for its own people. That’s why the PA security forces defend the occupation (and criminalize Palestinian resistance) (which is the sole reason the U.S. trains and funds them). That’s also why the Palestinians voted out Fatah in the 2006 elections.

    We all know who the PA leadership works for now, you can’t deny it any longer. The Palestine Papers were released, and as documented in them, the PA leadership often times gave assistance to Israel in carrying out extra-judicial killings of its own people. That’s not terribly unique in the annals of colonialism, but nonetheless that’s what it is. So I’m a bit surprised to hear a BUSI kid talk about the PA leadership as if it were a bad thing. The PA does a fine job of securing Israel’s occupation. I’d expect BUSI to be satisfied with them.

  7. These sjp folks need to look up the definition of colonialism… Doesnt seem too difficult considering all the books available