The Daily Targum published a letter, "Sympathize with Israel in conflict with Palestine," on Friday in which a respected University professor was the subject of a shameful ad hominem attack. The author apparently found issue with University Professor of Middle Eastern studies Hamid Abdeljaber's remarks at the Palestinian cultural festival held last Sunday by the University chapter of Palestine Children's Relief Fund. The author's charge that Abdeljaber fails to present both sides is ludicrous and false — something the author should know if he actually attended the event or Abdeljaber's lecture.
If the author had attended the lecture on life in Gaza, he would have heard Abdeljaber address issues of Israeli suffering. Contrary to the author's imagined lecture, Abdeljaber did talk about the rockets Hamas indiscriminately fired towards Sderot and Ashkelon. He did speak about captured Israeli Defense Force soldier Gilad Shalit and the international efforts to release Shalit. The author would even have witnessed a member of the audience criticize Abdeljaber as being too objective with regards to the disproportionate assault that was the Gaza War and he would have heard Abdeljaber defend the importance of academic objectivity in response.
If the author were in attendance at the lecture, he would have learned the context of the Gaza War. Hamas and Israel reached a ceasefire on June 19, 2008, through Egyptian mediation. Both sides upheld this agreement until Nov. 4, when the Israeli Defense Force launched a raid that brought ground forces 250 meters into Gaza while air strikes targeted Hamas positions. Six Palestinians were killed, and the cross-border violence eventually escalated into Operation Cast Lead, or Gaza War, which began on Dec. 27, 2008. When Israel unilaterally declared a ceasefire on Jan. 18, 2009, more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis had been killed. Furthermore, the author neglects the telling fact that Israel broke the ceasefire on a day when the world's media was focused on the historic election of President Barack Obama and stopped fighting the day before Obama's inauguration.
The author clearly lives in a world of his own invention. He ignores the documentary record to reiterate often-heard apologetics for Israel's actions. The United Nations does not call for East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital; they recognize it as occupied territory. Since the 1967 War, the United Nations has repeatedly declared "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." The only territories acquired in the war were the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights — all by Israel. Every year since 1967, the U.N. General Assembly votes on a "Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine" resolution. It reiterates the inadmissibility of acquiring land by force, the illegality of the settlements in occupied territories (Judea and Samaria) including East Jerusalem, stresses the need for an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and the realization of inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to both self-determination and an independent state. There have been no more than seven votes opposed to this resolution, while there have been no less than 131 votes in favor of the resolution since 1997.
This semester concludes my third consecutive semester taking classes with Professor Abdeljaber. I can speak of Abdeljaber from personal experience. With regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he has always presented both sides. When he takes his classes to the United Nations, he invites the Palestinian and the Israeli delegations to speak. In his four years at the University, Professor Abdeljaber has never been accused of bias or subjectivity.
Friday's letter demonstrates tactics often used by people of similarly narrow-minded opinions: shaming and diversion. In smearing the professor, the author tries to detract from the fact that the ratio of death tolls in the Gaza War was more than 100 Palestinians to 1 Israeli. The author utilizes the "delegitimization" tactic, in which anything short of positive excuses showered upon Israel is portrayed as an attempt to delegitimize the state. This tactic attempts to turn any criticism of the political entity into a normative statement through these attempts to obscure the facts — like the documented record of human rights abuses in the world's longest occupation — by emphasizing tangential topics, such as Israel's contribution to America's security, foreign policy goals or economic gains at home and abroad.
Michael Dunican is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in Middle Eastern studies with minors in religion and political science.