Robert Fishman: Unmask extremism

Last week, I forwarded a private e-mail asking students to voice their opposition to a divestment event sponsored by the group Students for Justice in Palestine. Regrettably, that correspondence included an unfortunate characterization of one of the lead activists, Fadi Kiblawi, and has overshadowed the issue. As Kiblawi pointed out, the issue at hand should not be one of personality, but one of substance.

As Americans and Jews, Hillel members are proud to support Israel, the one thriving democracy in the Middle East. It is an economic engine and a place of scientific and technological discovery. We are also proud that Israel and America enjoy a strategic alliance that is rooted in shared values and a strong commitment to democracy.

Israel is a land that yearns for peace and stability in a region that has suffered at the hands of extremists for decades. While Israel has achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have yet to secure a lasting accord that will bring independence, mutual respect, prosperity and peace. Unfortunately, extremist positions such as those supporting divestment and a one-state solution will not bring us closer to that time.

Divestment has been discredited repeatedly, on campus and elsewhere, as a thinly veiled attempt to delegitimize the existence of the state of Israel. It ignores the complexities and nuances of the Middle East, placing the burden of the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israel alone and absolving all other parties – including nations and individuals – in that region from responsibility. Few conflicts, particularly ones in which the peoples and lands are so entangled, can be resolved by removing resources from the region. In fact, this conflict demands that additional resources be invested in infrastructure development, education, incubation of new businesses and more.

Those who call for divestment from Israel and a one-state solution propound an insidious message that, in effect and intent, denies Israel the right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state. It also does little to bring Palestinians closer to achieving their dream of statehood; nor does it place them on solid economic and educational footing. Rather, it serves the lone purpose of driving wedges between people, and places those people squarely on the side of groups that call for Israel’s destruction – such as Hamas, Hezbollah and others.

Everybody has the right to advocate a position that they believe, but we have clearly seen where proponents of divestment stand when it comes to Israel and the Middle East – there is no room for the Jewish state.

GW has prided itself on providing students with the tools to engage in a sophisticated analysis of important local, national and international issues. In that same spirit, the campus community deserves a responsible and nuanced dialogue about the future of the Middle East, one that reflects the complexities of that region and rejects extremist positions. I pledge Hillel’s commitment to playing a constructive role in that conversation and ensuring that GW continues to be a safe and open space for respectful dialogue.

-The writer is the executive director of Hillel at GW.

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