Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
What does it mean to be Jewish? As a child, I learned in the story of Pesach how we overcame Egyptian slavery. I learned in the story of Hanukkah how we overcame persecution again to reclaim the Second Temple. The Jewish calendar is replete with holidays commemorating our struggle against oppressive regimes that tried to subjugate and control us.
In Hebrew School, I learned about heroes of history who stood up against oppression. Moses stood up to the Egyptians and spearheaded our escape from slavery. South African activist Denis Goldberg was sent to prison for resisting the apartheid regime. Today, Bernie Sanders fights every day as the face of a political revolution against President Trump and Washington insiders who have turned their backs on the American people.
Many members of the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claim their country is a “Jewish State.” But in stark contrast to Jewish icons of our past and present, Israel stands not with the oppressed but as the oppressor of the Palestinian people. To its west, Israel holds the entire population of Gaza captive in a tiny 141-square mile strip of land. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported in 2012 that Israel had counted the food Gazans consumed to the calorie. And as if starving a captive population wasn’t enough, Israel has subjected the people of Gaza to continuous military campaigns from the Israeli Defense Forces bearing Orwellian names such as “Operation Rainbow,” “Operation Summer Rains” and “Operation Protective Edge.”
During Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009, Israel killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 750 civilians, according to nonprofit organization B’Tselem. After the operation concluded, foreign minister Tzipi Livni boasted that the IDF conducted itself with “real hooliganism” — a fitting term given that it dropped white phosphorus, a gaseous chemical weapon that can burn its victims to death, over Gazan cities and civilian centers.
Our campus community must not embrace the country responsible for the destruction across Gaza. We cannot hold an afternoon of merriment and camel-riding in honor of Israeli culture while Palestinians within Gaza are subject to ongoing siege at the hands of the Israeli military. We cannot give broader Israeli society a pass while the country maintains its decades-long occupation with no sign of end. As a Jewish student, I feel that it is my moral obligation to speak out for my Palestinian friends and show the world the obscene conditions they live in. As a Jewish student, I believe the Jewish community worldwide has been taken hostage by the brutal Israeli war machine that commits atrocities in our name.
As conscientious students and citizens, we should show solidarity with Palestinians by advocating for the Palestinian-led academic, economic and cultural boycott movement against Israeli apartheid initiated in 2005. Our international boycott and divestment campaign is aimed to force Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, recognize the rights of its own Arab citizens to full equality under the law and recognize the rights of refugees who have been dispossessed to return or receive due reparations for their losses. The holiest day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Until we can look inside ourselves and recognize our own humanity, we will have failed in our duty to fight for justice and peace.
Nathan Feldman is a senior mathematics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.