“All we want is to talk. All we want is dialogue.”
Everywhere one turns today this is the cant of the powerful. Gaddafi wants to talk to the rebels, to negotiate a ceasefire that allows him to continue to rule Libya uncontested. The Tea Party wants to dialogue with the Democrats so they can negotiate how many elderly people will be forced into poverty and denied health care, how many poor people will no longer have access to Food Stamps, how many unemployed people will have no unemployment insurance and how many young people will have no access to public education.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict these calls for dialogue are nothing new. Israeli politicians and Palestinian politicians have been flying to the United States to negotiate peace since the 1970s. As everyone knows 40 years of negotiation has not brought peace.
What has it brought? In Gaza it has brought, most recently, a siege, one which cuts off access to basic medical supplies and even food. It also brought a war in which around 1400 people were killed, at least 400 of them children. In the West Bank it brought the construction of large networks of settlements, connected by Jewish only roads that cut off Palestinians’ access from their community. It also brought the Wall, dubbed a separation fence. This is a mainly concrete wall 26 feet high that, according to the World Bank, will de facto annex 38.8 percent of the land in the West Bank.
All this has occurred at the same time as dialogue.
With a history like this, one can understand being resistant to dialogue.
The headlines recently are filled with great stories of people around the Middle East rebelling against dictatorships, and with horrifying stories of the continuing aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. It is only toward the back of the newspaper where one will read that 18 Palestinians in Gaza, 9 of whom are confirmed civilians, have been killed by Israeli bombs recently.
This was the immediate cause of the protest of Akiva Tor’s visit to UC Davis. But this was not the only cause. Tor is a professional shill for Israel – that is the job of a Consul General. He is a propagandist. He is not a scholar, a policy analyst or even someone interested in a good debate. His job, pure and simple, is to propagandize for Israel. To have a debate with him would have been dishonest. We made our position clear on fact sheets handed out both before and after the event. We are more than willing to talk with anyone who wishes to engage with us as equals and to have an honest conversation. We have no wish, however, to be condescended to by propagandists.
The past 40 years of failed negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – a time in which the Palestinians have made tremendous sacrifices in the failed hope of co-existence, as made apparent due to recently leaked diplomatic documents – shows that, in pursuing peace, a new tactic is necessary. For this reason I, and many of my friends and colleagues in the movement toward a just solution for Israel-Palestine, have signed on to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.pacbi.org), whose mission is to copy the same tactics that helped bring about a solution to Apartheid in South Africa.
Only together can we pursue a just peace for all, but we can only truly work together when we stop letting propaganda stand in for facts, and when we stop believing that people in power speaking down to students constitutes a dialogue.
– Geoffrey Wildanger
Graduate student, art history