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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

'Israel Inspires' some pretty weird feedback

Rutgers sophomore Maziar Shirazi rendered her opinion in yesterday's Daily Targum, calling the 'Israel Inspires' event a "campaign to promote political ignorance," accusing the Israeli army and orthodox Jews (along with jihad fighters) of "willfully" killing innocent people, and declaring that "in a Jewish state, non-Jews are second-class citizens" - yet she proclaims to take "no side in the conflict."

Shirazi majors in Spanish, not history or logic.

Herewith, her full rant, published in the Rutgers Daily Targum, under the twisted title,

Questioning justifications for democracy:
The article "Sixty profs. protest Israeli speakers" (The Daily Targum, Oct. 9), said professors expressed "grave concern" at "the role Hillel has recently come to play in the promotion of the extreme right on campus." Half of the article was actually about the statement; the other half was Hillel's opinion about it. In the same issue, there were more than five pages dedicated to advertising the "Israel Inspires" event and right-wing Zionist beliefs. That's about 14 percent of the whole newspaper. Part of the bigger problem the professors talked about is the less-than-respectable degree of fairness with which the Targum printed opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The "Israel Inspires" event is a campaign to promote political ignorance thinly veiled behind mindless, fast-food patriotism, and the free press is taking sides.

Is the "Israel Inspires" event about peace and democracy? Let's take a closer look. It unequivocally supports the Israeli government, its prime minister and the right of Israel to "exist within secure borders." I fail to see how this supports peace: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is considered a war criminal by most of the world, including thousands of Jews, and is hated by Palestinians. Among other things that he has done, he was found responsible for the 1982 Lebanese refugee camp massacres in which officially over 800 innocent people, mostly women and children, were killed. An Israeli investigation of the massacres led to his stepping down as minister of defense. Somehow his rise to power again has coincided with the gruesome downward spiral of the peace process.

Within the last week, Israel dropped bombs into Syrian territory, by definition an illegal declaration of war. The United States has pointedly refused to condemn this. Furthermore, illegal Jewish settlements such as Ariel - built inside internationally recognized Palestinian territory - has Israel building another Berlin Wall that includes land stolen from Palestine. Apparently, Israel has not inspired much peace as of late. The "Israel Inspires" campaign says Israel has a right to exist within secure borders. Why are Palestinian homes being demolished for new Jewish settlements?

How does Israel inspire democracy? Racism and sexism are quasi-institutional in Israel. The Falashmura, or Ethiopian Jews, have to be "reconverted" and re-married in order to be considered Jewish citizens in Israel because they are not considered Jewish in the European sense. Asian and African Jews are underrepresented in the Knesset (Jewish parliament) and are by far the poorest Jewish demographic in Israel. Rich, white, Jewish men control Israel's government and economy.

I also learned women in Israel not only do not have the same rights of worship as men, but they cannot divorce their husbands without permission. The Equal Rights for Women Law, enacted in 2000, leaves family life to religious jurisdiction - a key factor in women's rights. An Israeli women's network, Mevoi Satum, estimates 97 percent of women denied divorce by their husbands are physically abused. Furthermore, non-Jews must possess cards identifying their religion at all times in Israel.

It is de facto that in a Jewish state, non-Jews are second-class citizens - so are Jewish women and ethnic minorities. Israel is far from being a democracy.

What really makes me angry, however, besides the fact that this ongoing campaign is deceiving students into thinking that there is only one right perspective about Israel, is that the "Israel Inspires" campaign is tremendously insensitive to the enormous toll that extremism has exacted from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More than 3,000 people have died since widespread violence began a few years ago; suicide bombers, jihad fighters, orthodox Jews and the Israeli army have all willfully killed innocent people.

I have no side in the conflict but that of those who realize how bad extremism is to the welfare of everyday people, Jew or Arab. This obnoxious and insensitive advertising campaign is hoping to convince everyone that everything will be OK if we all just scream "Israel!" If Hillel and other parties involved in "Israel Inspires" truly cared about the Jews and Arabs who have died in vain, they would not be so quick to give their fundamentalist buddies a Hyatt Regency-style pat on the back. Since not everyone has $3,000 to spend on advertising, not everyone's voice will be heard as loudly. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't listen.
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