The March 4 letters on proposed Princeton divestment from Israel (On the Campus, Jan. 7) point to other nations with terrible human-rights records, distinguishing them from Israel’s “democracy.” Problem is, only two others are supported – lavishly – by us: Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Israel can’t fairly be called a democracy.
When I was 5 or 6, my mother – good-heartedly, if illogically – urged me always to clean my plate and think of the hungry DP children in Europe. “DPs” were “displaced persons,” war refugees. At the same time, a million more DPs – Palestinians – were being driven out of Palestine, exiled into refugee camps by Israel’s forces: more than 400,000 by the end of 1947 alone. Europe’s refugees were being resettled, but almost 70 years later, most Palestinians are still in the diaspora, refugees, under military occupation, or without identity in a “Jewish state.” With 80 percent of Palestinians gone, 475 of their villages were blown up, bulldozed, literally wiped off the map. Those who fled are barred from return, their land deeds and even house keys notwithstanding.
This is the root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel defines “Jewish” as having a Jewish grandmother, and bars virtually all so-defined non-Jews from immigrating, while its purposeful merger of religion and nationalism attracts support from Jews abroad while inciting hatred of both from its victims. Imagine being bombed by (U.S.-made) fighters with Stars of David on their wings.
Most Palestinians now cannot vote, being exiled or under occupation. Elections? Compare a board meeting with four-fifths of the members locked out of the boardroom.
It’s possible that significant divestment could force Israel to become a secular democratic bi-national state; the status quo can’t be maintained indefinitely. Brute force will always be required to keep the indigenous Palestinians subjugated; ongoing, pervasive human-rights violations are structural, part of the exclusionary nature of the state.
In 1938 the wisest Princetonian, Albert Einstein, wrote with enormous prescience: “My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state ... I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state.”