Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

IOA editor Moshe Neeman: Response to University of California President Yudof

15 May 2010

Dear President Yudof,

IOA - Israeli Occupation Archive -, the Nakba Day – “day of the catastrophe” – designated by Palestinians to commemorate the loss of their country, in 1948, to the newly-created State of Israel, I am replying to your mass email to the Berkeley Divestment protest (below).

I am an American Jew and a former Israeli who was born after the Holocaust and the creation of Israel.  Throughout my childhood, the most memorable question posed by my parents, my grandmother, and an entire generation whose relatives perished in the Holocaust was “What did other nations, including the US, do when our families were taken to ‘the Ovens?’”

For the past 43 years, Israel has been occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands conquered in 1967.  Since then, and especially in the past 20 years, a campaign of ethnic cleansing has been vigorously underway, one which at times borders on genocide.

Notwithstanding the sophisticated propaganda effort carried out by Israel and its international allies, a careful examination of actions taken daily by Israel (“facts on the ground”) and their consequences, which are clearly identifiable and readily measurable, shows that Israel is methodically replacing the Palestinian population of Palestine with a Jewish population.  This is not new.  Looking back in time, one sees a pattern, and direct connection between this and the 1948 period called the Nakba.

This is most clearly evident throughout the West Bank, where Jewish settlements and the settler population have increased dramatically.  Every day presents a new opportunity for Jewish settlers to encroach just a bit further into populated Palestinian areas, “a dunam here and a dunam there,” as the old (pre-1948) Zionist expression goes – referring to quarter-acre size parcels of land acquired by Jews bit by bit, by all sorts of ways.  At the same time, Palestinians are still pushed out of lands in the Negev and elsewhere within pre-1967 Israel, whenever “appropriate circumstances” present themselves – as has been the case since before 1948.

To advance this goal, Israel has sought every possible opportunity to remove Palestinians from lands owned and cultivated by them for centuries by applying numerous forms of pressure to “encourage” people to go elsewhere.  In addition to establishing and expanding settlements, tolerating unauthorized settlements and illegal acts of settlers (e.g., the uprooting of olive trees), other actions range from the sweeping prohibition on even the most elementary agricultural watering infrastructure improvements (e.g. the construction of a cistern or a local field-watering canal on a single property), replacement of public infrastructure (including projects previously destroyed by Israel), to the severe clampdown on personal movement – all designed to shut off the local economy and make life very difficult to the local population.  Add to this the routine closing of universities and other national institutions, deportations of West Bank residents to Gaza, denial of re-entry to students returning from foreign study, and much, much more.

On a separate level, but very much in parallel, Israel has been trying to crush all popular, entirely nonviolent, resistance to its occupation and domination: for several years now in Bil’in and Ni’lin and, more recently, in Sheikh Jarrah – Jerusalem, coupled with mid-night raids on the homes of resistance leaders, their arrest and jailing without a fair trial, and you get a sense of the nature the Israeli occupation.

Add to that the recent arrest of Palestinian leaders who are Israeli citizens, for “violations of contact with foreign agent and espionage,” and you get a glimpse at the complex relations between Israelis and Palestinians that are colored with domination and racism and act to support the same concept: We, Israelis, are here as of right; you, Palestinians, are here only if we tolerate your presence and permit it.

The trend is clear: reducing the Palestinian population by attrition, bit by bit, by a slew of measures that go into effect when circumstances are “favorable.”

Israel’s attack on Gaza (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009) was the peak of cruelty, where the most densely populated territory on earth was bombarded from the air and ground as though it were a war-front.  In reality, as has been made entirely known by now, no fire was returned from the other side.  Thus, the very victims of the 1948 Nakba, one and a half million Palestinians who are among the weakest and most neglected people on earth, imprisoned in the Gaza Strip for over six decades and now under Israeli-American-Egyptian siege, were punished yet again.  And for what exactly?  For having elected a government which the US and Israel disapproved of.

As established by numerous UN resolutions, by the Goldstone Report, and documented by international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, Israel’s own B’Tselem, and many Palestinian and other organizations, all these Israeli actions contravene international laws and conventions specifically designed to protect civilian populations.

Information on these wide ranging and on-going Israeli human rights violations is readily available on line, including on the Israeli Occupation Archive, a project in which I am involved, and was presented in the recent Divestment hearings at Berkeley.

Thus, in a carefully calculated manner, the Israeli actions mentioned above serve to assure that no independent Palestinian entity, let alone an “independent Palestinian State, alongside Israel,” to cite current and past official US government positions, can or will come into existence.

Yet, for decades now, all these actions have taken place with full US government support and financing – official US policy declarations and propaganda notwithstanding – and with the participation of numerous US companies that supply material and technologies to this “enterprise,” and profit greatly from it.  These include Caterpillar whose equipment is used by Israel to destroy Palestinian homes; Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the most sophisticated implements of destruction, such as Israel’s F-16 and future F-35 attack jets; Intel and numerous other developers of computerized control systems, and others still.  All this is subsidized by US tax payers, like you and me, whose money the United States government – Democratic and Republican administrations alike – has been transferring to these and similar corporations for decades now.

President Yudof, in case you didn’t quite get it by now, Israel is intent on removing as much of the Palestinian population and weakening those remaining to the point of nothingness:  “Politicide,” to cite the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, which falls short of an outright genocide – not always by much, as demonstrated so very clearly in Gaza.

Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation need not equate to the Holocaust.  However, no genocide starts at six million, nor does it happen overnight.  For decades now, Israel has been slowly eliminating the Palestinians, nationally, politically and, at times, physically.

Divestment is the most non-violent response to the horrific violence that is the Israeli occupation, and that results directly from it.  Yet, remarkably, you find Divestment, rather than the Occupation, to be unacceptable and against which you advise “caution.”

Back to my late Jewish grandmother, whose entire family perished in Europe.  She simply could not understand how the rest of the world did not act to stop the Holocaust, while it was happening, before it was too late.

You and your esteemed University of California leaders should go back to your oak-paneled conference rooms and ponder the following question:  Would you have also rejected Divestment from, say, US companies manufacturing the Zyklon-B gas used by the Nazis to exterminate our relatives?  I’m sure you know the correct answer to this question.

The next question is How much more suffering do you require the Palestinians to bear under Israeli occupation before you consider theirs a just and worthy cause for a Divestment action?  Just how much more should Israel be allowed to inflict upon the Palestinians before American university presidents will decide that a moral line has been crossed, one that warrants a mild and measured reaction?

Moshe Neeman
Israeli Occupation Archive

Original email from Mark Yudof, President, University of California

On Mon, May 10, 2010 at 8:31 PM, President’s Office <> wrote:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the recent bills regarding divestment by the University from companies doing business in Israel put forward by the student governments on several UC campuses.  I appreciate your taking the time to write and express your views.  I have received close to 10,000 messages regarding this issue, so I hope you will understand the necessity of my sending this same response to all.  Attached for your information is a statement the Chairman and Vice Chair of the University of California’s Board of Regents and I have issued regarding the question of divestment.

With best wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours,

Mark G. Yudof
University of California

University of California

Statement on Divestment

Russell Gould, Chairman, Board of Regents

Sherry L. Lansing, Vice Chair, Board of Regents

Mark G. Yudof, President of the University

Recently, there have been two bills put forward for a vote before student organizations within the University of California that call on the University to divest from companies doing business with Israel.  Understandably, these bills have received considerable attention from the public and the media.

The overarching question of the University of California divesting from any company is a complex one and any action considered must conform to State and federal laws, as well as to the University’s fiduciary responsibilities as a public entity to protect the security of its pension and endowment funds.  In 2005, the Regents stated that a policy of divestment from a foreign government shall be adopted by the University only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.  It was also noted at the time that divestment is a serious decision that should be rarely pursued.

We share The Regents’ belief that divestment needs to be undertaken with caution.  We firmly believe that if there is to be any discussion of divestment from a business or country, it must be robust and fair-minded.  We must take great care that no one organization or country is held to a different standard than any other.  In the current resolutions voted on by the UC student organizations, the State of Israel and companies doing business with Israel have been the sole focus.  This isolation of  Israel among all countries of the world greatly disturbs us and is of grave concern to members of the Jewish community.

We fully support the Board of Regents in its policy to divest from a foreign government or companies doing business with a foreign government only when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.  The U.S. has not made any declaration regarding the State of Israel and, therefore, we will not bring a recommendation before the Board to divest from companies doing business with the State of Israel.

May 2010

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