"There is no legal basis for the state of Israel. Israel is a colonial project and no colonial project has a legal basis for existence," said University of Hawai'i at Manoa ethnic studies Professor Ibrahim Aoude at a "Crisis in Palestine" panel discussion on June 14.
"I am interested in the Palestinian movement because I am Palestinian myself," said Aoude as he introduced the panel of guest speakers at the event, which drew more than 80 people.
The discussion included firsthand accounts of the war on the West Bank. Speakers included Robert Lipton from Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Solidarity Movement, and Rajani Adhikary of the Hawai'i Committee for a Free Palestine.
Aoude said he left Palestine with his parents in 1948, when the conflicts over the Israeli occupation began to intensify.
"The Israelis talk about the legal basis being the declaration of 1917 by the foreign ministry of Great Britain, who in 1917 promised something they didn't have. So a colonial project was perpetrated on the Palestinian people by giving the Zionist movement the 'permission' to have (a) Jewish home in Palestine," he said.
When his family left Palestine, no one asked them if they wanted to stay, there was no choice in the matter, he said. Palestinians decades later face the same problem of having no voice in their future, he added.
Lipton, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke of his recent experiences in the West Bank. Lipton said he went to the West Bank in March and April as a member of the International Solidarity Movement and Jewish Voice for Peace and to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience.
"I just want to say that I, as well as all the members of the Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Solidarity Movement, condemn violence in all its forms," Lipton said.
"Whether it's suicide bombing or Israel military against the Palestinian in the West Bank, we think the source of this violence is the occupation, and we are working to end that."
Lipton showed photos, which he had taken while in the West Bank, of blown-up buildings, tanks and machinery, and school buildings with scores of bullet holes.
"We were going to organize around March 28th to meet in Bethlehem. Unfortunately on March 27th, the Passover bombing occurred. Literally we were passing over Israel and that's what we were flying into," he said.
Lipton described the military occupation: "The Bethlehem region and the Ramallah region were on lockdown, as well as other areas (on the) northwest border of the West Bank, so we had to change our plans. We certainly couldn't practice civil disobedience when we weren't even allowed to go out. We couldn't do the typical things that we were planning on doing like rebuilding demolished houses."
Aoude said: "Contrary to claims, Israel is not fighting for its survival. Israel is being supplied by the United States and other Western powers with military force and they are facing six, seven, eight suicide bombers.
"If that is the case, they (Israel) should not be putting money into nuclear arms, they should be countering the suicide bombers."
"Israel is practicing physical, cultural, national genocide against the Palestinian people," Aoude said.
One of the pictures Lipton showed was of a wall inside a home that was completely blown out by an Israeli soldier, leaving a hole about eight square feet. The room belonged to a 92-year-old woman.
Lipton said a soldier told him this type of attack "is safer than street fighting."
"The occupation ... it's so heinous, it's so palpably wrong, even if there weren't suicide bombings, just the Israel occupation alone day-to-day is a war crime."
Aoude said the root problems of the conflict need to be resolved, which means, "Getting rid of the exclusivity of Israel, allow Palestinians to return to their homes if they so choose, and dismantle the settlements."
The end of the evening was an open discussion with the audience - a flurry of questions lasting another hour.
One audience member said, "Palestinians would get more sympathy if they didn't celebrate after the trade center was bombed."
In response, Aoude said that he did not celebrate and he was a Palestinian. He said he did not condone terrorism in any form by anyone.
And in response to Auode, an employee of Revolution Books stood up and waved her fist in the air while shouting, "Who are we to say anything, how can you sit there and tell me that we have the right to say anything when U.S. forces came back from killing people in Vietnam, in Korea and the Gulf War celebrating?
"In these cases we weren't repressed but they were and you're telling me that they don't have the right to rise up to their oppressors?"