As the dog days of summer are coming to an end, pro-Palestinian activist groups are gearing up for the fall semester to rally campuses in support of their cause. One upcoming event is the "US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation" national conference, set to take place at St. Louis University between September 21-23.
It will feature speakers such Hatem Bazian, an Arabic lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley who following the war in Iraq stated that "it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics in here." Also appearing will be Dalit Baum, who runs the anti-Israel site Who Profits from the Occupation, dedicated to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – which claims that BDS has already cost the Israeli economy in excess of 1.5 billion dollars.
This conference is a reminder that regardless of the reality of relations between Israelis and Palestinians – the alleged Israeli "occupation" remains the larger symbol of justification for the Palestinian cause. Since 2005, when Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, Israel has made the argument that the notion of occupation is a relic of the past.
At the time, the Israeli government believed that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would remove the language of occupation from the lexicon of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship. But it has proven to be an intractable element in the debate, notwithstanding the fact that Hamas runs Gaza and the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction over areas of the West Bank.
The Hamas leadership dismisses the idea of "occupation" in Gaza, but within Palestinian culture as a whole "occupation" remains the root cause of all problems. It also signals a core Palestinian cultural and political belief, namely rejection of Israel. The notion of the "occupation" has become the defining lens through which the Palestinians' self conception is explained and all actions and inactions justified.
This is also the myopic view taken by anti-Israel ideologues like Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe and even Peter Beinart who claims to be a lover of Zion – just one who is having a difficult time grappling with the "harsh" Israeli reality of being an occupier.
Palestinians cling to notions of being "stateless," "occupied" and forever refugees, allowing them to never take responsibility or be accountable as a functioning society and "state to be." Believing this is the truth produces Beinart's and other sympathizers' anguish. However, this is not the truth.
The resilience of Jewish-Israeli survival has been overshadowed by the false Arab-Palestinian notion of being "occupied" and "robbed" of their true destiny. Consequently, Israel is the "oppressor "and Palestinian nomenclature demands that the "occupation" remains the root cause of all problems, from social and economic woes to terrorism.
The claim that Israel is "occupying" Gaza is preposterous, but even the "occupation" of the West Bank now must be seen in a different light. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was presented of late with the report of the Commission to Examine the Status of Building in Judea and Samaria, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy.
This commission controversially argued that Israel's presence within the 1967 borders over the past 45 years is legitimate and that this presence, according to international law, should not be understood as "belligerent occupation."
Universities that are supposed to be bastions of critical thinking, and opposition to fallacies of argument have become fertile ground for myth, fantasy, and lies about history. The occupation and apartheid accusations waged against Israel are just one of many such fallacious rhetorical tropes used in the ongoing war of delegitimization that is being sponsored on campuses by those whose sole goal is to destroy Israel and its reputation for a generation of young Americans.
The concerted effort give the impression that ending specific Israeli policies, such as the "occupation" or "apartheid," would also end efforts to ostracize Israel, which is not in the interest of these groups and is hardly academic as well.
Finally, were there to be a real discussion about an occupation, why not talk about Syria's long occupation of Lebanon and face that fact that the "Israeli occupation" of Palestinians is more of a psychological than it is physical.
Asaf Romirowsky PhD, is the acting executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).