8:00 pm Monroe Hall, Room 104
Presented by Nader Muhsin
The history of Israel and palestine is long and complex. I have therefore asked Gabe Walters to summarize his interpretation
of the issue.
A Brief Introduction to the Problems in Palestine
On April 20th, 2002, I marched with 75,000 of my brothers and sisters on Washington D.C. in the interest of Palestinian
solidarity. The interstates into the city were as crowded as the metro cars. Men and women all around me shouted slogans as
they marched down Independence Ave., propelled by anger and by pride and by dignity and by humanity. Blacks, whites, Arabs,
Pakistanis, Indians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists marched side by side. An Orthodox Jewish rabbi and a Palestinian
militant raised their hands clasped together in the air. In the other hand, this Palestinian held a life-size photo of a 12-year-old
girl, naked, lying on a bed with her head blown to a bloody mess by weapons fired at point blank range. The picture showed
that she had been raped.
This was the first time the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict entered my mind as something more than an abstraction. Of course
I had read about the conflict in my political science classes, and I heard almost every day of another suicide bombing in
Israeli shopping districts, or of another shanty-town in Palestine leveled by the Israeli Defense Forces. Still, I never knew
what oppression looked like or felt like; I had never tasted it the way that picture made me taste it. A simple human life,
degraded to a warm, headless body. The reality was more than this comfortable American college student could bear. The picture
froze me in place and time; all I could know at that moment was the brutality possible in man, and I could not look away.
It is not my intent to over dramatize this event. It is my intent to draw awareness to current conditions in Palestine,
for I believe many Americans are unaware of these heinous human rights violations. The cautious reader will note that I focus
primarily upon injustices against Palestinians in this essay. Human rights abuses against Jews and/or Israelis, or against
any people, are no less heinous whenever and wherever they occur, but are not my subject matter at this time.
The history of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict is long and complicated. I will provide a very brief outline here, but
I also encourage further reading on the subject. Palestine existed for millennia as a part of greater Arabia, and was well
documented on Western maps throughout history. During World War I, Palestine was part of the doomed Ottoman Empire. In the
Hussein-McMahon letters between the Sheriff of Mecca and the British High Commissioner of Egypt in the years 1915-1916, Great
Britain pledged the independence of the Arab Kingdom, which included Palestine, to the Arabs in exchange for their participation
in the war effort against the Turks and the Germans. The British Empire, of course, pledged Palestine as well to Jews in the
Zionist movement. Especially after the devastating Holocaust, international sympathy for Zionism was high, and the newly formed
United Nations, at Britain's request, partitioned Israel out of what was then still known as Palestine. After British troops
pulled out of the region between 1947 and 1948, Israel defended its nascent existence against the surrounding Arab nations
which did not recognize its right to exist as a state. It is important to note that although most Arabs at the time did not
recognize the state of Israel, Zionist immigrants had been living in Palestine for several decades before Israel's creation,
especially alongside Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem, a holy site for all three Abrahamic faiths.
What this means today is that two fairly distinct peoples each have claims to the same land. Depending upon one's background,
interpretations, or political persuasions, one can hold such claims to various degrees of legitimacy.
The current borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories Gaza Strip and the West Bank were more or less established
by the outcome of the 1967 Six Days War, in which Israel staggeringly defeated the Arabs while extending its own borders.
Between this expansion and the current state-subsidized Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, millions of Palestinians
have been exiled to constantly dwindling lands since 1947. Although the U.N. Charter establishes the right of return to all
exiled people, Israel constantly violates this right, in addition violating over 60 other U.N. Resolutions, including the
stoppage of all settlement activity. Add to this the construction of a wall separating Israel and the West Bank, and it is
clear that Israel is an apartheid state.
The reader, as with all texts, should further examine the points documented herein. I encourage and recommend a more
thorough reading of the subject than this very brief introduction can provide. I hope for a free and open dialogue on this
subject, as well as for a democratic dissemination of information. Only through engaging ourselves in open and honest debate
can we hope to avoid the senseless slaughter documented in the picture that broke my heart on April 20th, 2002.