We are not satisfied with neutrality

Kira Walker /Senior Staff

I can see why people still believe that Israel wants peace. Recent news coverage concerning the attacks on Gaza frequently echoes Israel’s right to self-defense and emphasizes the state of Israel’s humanity in warning Palestinian civilians of imminent assault. I can see why, depending on what news you hear, you might not know that a cessation in violence was in place prior to its being broken by Israeli forces near the border of Gaza, where indiscriminate shooting resulted in the Nov. 8 death of a 13-year-old boy playing football. I can see why, depending on what news you hear, you might believe that Israel’s aggression on Gaza really began with the legitimate targeting of an operative of Hamas and that the damage done was merely the necessary outcome of justified attacks.

But what mainstream media outlets will not tell you is that the Hamas operative targeted by Israeli leaders was in the process of negotiating a long-term truce with Israel. Nor will they tell you that this man’s extrajudicial killing on Nov. 14 in a known civilian area came after what is claimed to be a draft proposal of a truce between Israel and Hamas to hold their fire.

Mainstream media outlets are not, furthermore, likely to discuss the constant buzzing of surveillance drones, the relentless thunder of missiles and bombs from air and sea on a people without an equivalent military or state of their own. It was not a war in Gaza. It was not a conflict between two equal sides, but an assault by one power on an oppressed people as a form of collective punishment. Moreover, it was an assault resulting in the injuries of nearly 1,000 and the deaths of 160 Palestinians from just eight days of air strikes between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. It was an assault through which an estimated 105 fatalities were civilian, including the deaths of an estimated 34 children, according to a blog named PalestineFromMyEyes, documenting the names and ages of people killed during the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Yes, these Palestinian civilians may have received warnings to avoid targeted areas. But these civilians of Gaza were in reality prevented from going virtually anywhere due to Israeli control over airspace and borders and a naval blockade deemed illegal by international humanitarian law. Though Israel no longer has a physical presence in Gaza after supposedly withdrawing from the area in 2005, Gaza is still under unofficial Israeli control.

As it stands, an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians are still confined to the 140 square miles constituting the Gaza Strip. Though the terms of the recent Nov. 21 ceasefire finally call for an ease of movement between Gaza and surrounding areas — a ceasefire which, coincidentally, the Israel Defense Forces violated two days later in Gaza by shooting at Palestinian farmers — it remains to be seen whether those in power will formulate more explicit guidelines for actually pursuing this goal, or for ending the forced diet of Palestinians in Gaza, or for ceasing the prevention of these civilians’ access to clean water.
Okay, but why should we care about their circumstances? Why should we care about the relationship between Palestinians and Israeli policy, especially when the ongoing occupation of the former is painted by government and media propaganda as a genuine form of self-defense?

In light of the recent conflict in Gaza, I’ve been bombarded with sentiments from my peers proclaiming neutrality to the issue, insisting, if not on the legitimacy of the action of Israeli officials, on impartiality in a messy contention between what some might believe to be two equally terrible sides.

The fact of the matter, however, is that we are not neutral in the ongoing conflict. As UC students and as members of the U.S., we comprise two substantial bodies that do not dissociate from both parties involved, but who actively support one side.
As a statewide system, the university currently has an investment of an estimated $2 million in Hewlett Packard as of December 2011, which is suspected to provide occupation technology that facilitates Israeli control over checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza. Though this system is purported as a means of security for Israelis, most checkpoints are based inside the West Bank, with at least 62 effectively isolating Palestinian communities.

The university also supports a $4 million investment in Caterpillar Inc., whose machinery operates in the demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied territories and in the construction of the separation wall and Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

As a nation, the U.S. supplies the state of Israel with $3.1 billion in annual foreign aid, much of which provides advanced military technology that then ends up being used against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Though the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits assistance to any country in consistent violation of human rights, funds from American taxpayers end up contributing to the illegal occupation of and apartheid discrimination against Palestinians.

If we really favor neutrality, shouldn’t we dispute such an obvious investment in one side? It would appear that a stance of true impartiality requires the discontinuation of contributions to the power of a single faction.

I wonder, however, whether we really ought to be satisfied with neutrality. As students of a campus renowned for progressive activism, and as members of a nation that insists on itself as a proponent of such principles as liberty and justice, are we not obligated to actively oppose clear instances of injustice and the absence of freedom? Should we not advocate for the equal rights of others, regardless of such criteria as the basis of race? Perhaps if we examine the true complicity of neutrality in systematic acts of wrongdoing, we may realize that only by actively working toward peace can we oppose and eventually defeat systems of oppression, wherever they may exist.

Ley Cerezo is a sophomore at UC Berkeley.

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