A lot has been said about the ASUC’s initiative to divest from two companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian land.
The problem with the divestment bill, though, is not what we think about it, but how. What has disturbed me the most as a visiting student from Palestine are not the ludicrous falsehoods that have been spread, but rather the narratives I have heard from some of those who oppose the bill.
Think, for a moment, about Zinad Samouni, a 35-year-old Palestinian mother of eight. During Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009, she lost 48 of her family members — including her four-year-old son Ahmed.
“The soldiers,” she says, “came early on the morning of Sunday January 4th. [My husband] Atiyeh went to the door with his hands raised holding his ID but they shot him and he fell forward”.
In Hebrew, her nephew Faraj shouted “children, children,” but the soldiers shot anyway . After the massacre, Israeli soldiers left messages for the Samouni family on the walls of a neighbor’s house. The graffiti read: “Arabs need 2 die,” “Arabs are pieces of shit,” and “1 is DOWN 999,999 TO GO.”
Imagine this person was an American citizen. Imagine this happened in some other place that has nothing to do with Israel. How many people, then, would call into question whether or not this was a war crime? I am shocked to hear people call the army perpetrating these acts a “moral army” – because that is the extent to which the pro-Israel lobby has been able to shape the judgment of otherwise conscientious observers in the United States.
I think UC Berkeley students can do better. They have and continue to fight for human rights around the world. To escape the flawed discourse that “blames both sides,” you don’t have to listen to me or other Palestinians. Listen to Israeli civil society organizations documenting illegal settlement construction on stolen Palestinian Land and the demolition of 25,000  Palestinian homes.
Listen to the International Court of Justice’s decision that the apartheid wall illegally steals hundreds of kilometers of land and houses.
Listen to the testimony of Israeli Soldiers from “Breaking the Silence” speaking out against what they witnessed in the West Bank and Gaza.
Listen to Amnesty International’s reports about Palestinians being denied access to water.
Listen to Human Right Watch’s report about Israel’s use of white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza.
Listen to the UN Human Rights Committee’s Goldstone Report about the massacres and war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli military in the last war against Gaza.
Yet despite these credible sources, recognized around the world, some respond with amusing justifications like: “what is international law, really?” Or, “the UN only exists to criticize Israel.” All this, as if Zinad Samouni does not exist, as if Palestinians and the lives they have been forced to live by Israel’s colonial enterprise are simply fictitious – as if Palestine is not actually occupied, as if 1400 Palestinians did not die in Gaza last year.
It is time for a different rhetoric. It is time to recognize Palestinians as equal human beings. It is time to stand against what is wrong, and to act for what is right. The Palestinian people have been fighting for their land against a dehumanizing and illegal Israeli occupation, and we must stand by their side.
On Wednesday, the ASUC Senate must make sure that it is on the side of freedom, not occupation; of justice, not power; of peace, not apartheid.
On Wednesday, the ASUC Senate must remember that Zinad Samouni is a real person. That her family was once 48 people larger — and that those were real people, with a right to live.
Ibrahim Shikaki is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley fom the Ramallah, Occupied Palestine