Pro-Peace, Anti-Apartheid: Clarifications about Smith Students for Justice in Palestine
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 17:11
An article recently published in The Sophian addressed the Smith Student Alliance for Middle East Peace's decision to change its name to Smith Students for Justice in Palestine. While the basic premise of the article was correct – we do wish to rename our organization, above all for the sake of clarity – I would like to take the opportunity to elucidate our goals.
The Smith Student Alliance for Middle East Peace is not espousing a new outlook on the conflict, nor is it in any way changing its commitment to promoting a just and lasting peace in Palestine [and] Israel. Historically, the Alliance has always focused its energies on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and has consistently taken a pro-Palestinian stance; the original founders of the group, fearing that Smith might hesitate to charter a pro-Palestinian group on a predominantly Zionist campus, elected to go with a less controversial name. The issue that the current group holds with this name is the nebulous term "Middle East," which we feel is inappropriately nonspecific and continues the problematic conflation of separate issues amongst distinct national and cultural groups in the region. More information on our relationship with the national umbrella group Students for Justice in Palestine can be found on our Web site, http://smithforpalestine.tumblr.com.
The organization remains a group of advocates for peace in the region, understanding that a genuine peace cannot and will not be reached without addressing the pressing concerns of the Palestinian people in their struggle not only for political sovereignty but for basic human rights. We do not formally endorse any one path to peace – members are free to support a one state solution, a two state solution, or any other road to political and cultural equality for Israelis and Palestinians that strikes them as just and feasible. We want peace, but we are also obligated to call attention to the fact that posturing about a diplomatic "peace process" is useless when Palestinians continue to face evictions, housing demolitions, unjust imprisonment, heavy restriction of movement, limitations on access to food and water, and myriad other injustices symptomatic of institutionalized racial discrimination.
In keeping with our interest in peace in the region, we also agree with Daniele Goldberg's assertion that both the Israel Alliance and our organization should be able to coexist peacefully and hold respectful dialogue with one another. I would caution against an understanding of the conflict that emphasizes a "hold hands and get along" approach, however, as such an assessment is simplistic and idealistic. On the contrary, I believe that respectful dissent, confrontation and conflict are not only healthy and natural but vital to the dialogue surrounding Palestine; this is a situation too urgent and too complex to be whitewashed with empty promises of compromise, even on a small campus like ours.
Finally, I wish to address a comment posted on the article on the Sophian's Web site that apparently seeks to link our organization with a phenomenon of on-campus anti-Semitism. This comment, posted anonymously by someone facetiously calling himself Arafat, is too appalling to ignore. It is a widely held misconception that organizations in support of Palestine are inherently anti-Jewish, when in fact they are simply critical of Israel's policies towards Palestinians regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation. I will not stand to see my organization reduced to such false and atrocious accusations; we are a secular organization that seeks to promote awareness of and activism against Israeli human rights violations as recognized by international law. We are not anti-Jewish, nor even anti-Israeli – we are anti-colonialism and anti-apartheid.