In our opinion: University campuses have taken a one-sided view on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Deseret News editorial

Published: Tue, Aug. 12, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 July 20, 2014- Protestors gather in front of the White House in Washington during a demonstration against Israel's military attacks in the Gaza Strip.

July 20, 2014- Protestors gather in front of the White House in Washington during a demonstration against Israel's military attacks in the Gaza Strip.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press)

America’s universities have long been hotbeds of anti-war activism. Among student bodies and faculties at colleges across the country, demonstrations and boycotts have been conducted to call national attention to violence throughout the world. Unfortunately, the outrage over wartime atrocities tends to be extremely selective, especially when it comes to the state of Israel.

More than 1,000 university professors have endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. According to the campaign’s website, they are doing so in an attempt to “take a public, principled stance in support of equality, self-determination, human rights (including the right to education), and true democracy.”

It’s impossible to deny the essential nature of those principles in creating good government. But it’s also impossible to overlook the glaring double standard in when judging Israel by these ideals.

Israel is the only functional representative democracy in the Middle East, and its commitment to equality, education and basic human rights vastly exceeds that of any of its neighbors. Consider the 2013 report from Freedom House, an independent think tank that grades nations on their human rights records. With 1 as its highest score and 7 its lowest, Freedom House rated Israel a 1.5 in overall freedom, a 2 in civil liberties, and a 1 in political liberties. That’s in stark contrast to Hamas, which received in 6 in each of those categories.

As for self-determination, those currently attacking Israel deny its right to exist. In contrast, Israel would welcome the creation of a Palestinian state, yet Hamas has no interest in seeking a peace that would allow Israel to remain standing.

In the current conflict, on campuses across the country, though, it is Israel, — and Israel alone, — that is being called to account.

Five student governments in the UC system in California have passed formal Israel divestment resolutions, as has Loyola University in Chicago. At UC Berkeley, one of the sponsors of the divestment bills insisted that he didn’t want any more student money to go to the “destruction of homes” at Israel’s hands. That sentiment might have carried more credibility had it also included some criticism of Hamas’ unrelenting campaign of violence against Israeli civilians.

Granted, this is a complex situation, and we understand and appreciate the concern over Israeli responses to Palestinian attacks, especially when it comes to civilian casualties. At the same time, it has to be noted that aggressors in this latest conflict are the Palestinians, who as of this writing have rejected the ceasefire to which Israel has agreed.

To ignore any Palestinian culpability for this conflict, as so many of these universities have done, is to willfully defy reality. Universities are supposed to be where students learn diverse points of view. But when it comes to Israel, the lessons are remarkably one-sided.

1. marxist
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

Nothing quite comes up to the Middle East in demonstrating the destructive side of religion. The establishment of the state of Israel was due in large part to fulfill religious prophecy (the Jewish population of Europe should have been compensated by giving them half of Germany instead). So we get a one-religion Jewish state plunked down in the middle of generally degenerate Islam - an explosion which keeps on giving. It could well be the spark of the next world war.

Religion does some good things for people, but this is an example of how bad it can be.

And yes, campuses are short-sighted in attacking just Israel, but this is only a tiny part of a generally very sick scene.

2. Howard Beal
Provo, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

I guess they are opposite of Fox News and probably the truth is in the middle...

3. MurrayGuy
Murray, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

While the civilian casualties are sad to see, the fact is Hamas is a terrorist group and I am left scratching my head why people at home support them?

4. ordinaryfolks
seattle, WA,
Aug. 12, 2014

It is shocking that many, college students/faculty included, don't bother to delve into the entire history of the conflicts in this region. Perhaps, if they did, there might be more sympathy for the Israelis. This is not to say that the current Israeli government is blameless. I don't think the current Israeli conservative/religious ruling parties truly reflect the consensus in the country. However, unless you deny the right of Israelis to live in a free country, one must generally give their support to Israel. We don't understand what it is like to be surrounded by bitterly hostile neighbors.

What bothers me the most in this debate is the resultant anti-Semitism that arises in Western minds. The Muslims hate Jews, that is a given. However, there is a nasty undercurrent of religious intolerance which is beginning to seep into the media. Jews in this country are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli government than Catholics are responsible for the actions of the Italian government. Most American Jews support Israel ardently, but do not approve of the current Israeli government and many of its actions.

5. Hamath
Omaha, NE,
Aug. 12, 2014

I feel terrible for the families of the Palestinians who have died. But... they don't police their own. Almost every ceasefire seems to have come from the Palestinian side. The start of this came from the Palestinian side.

Point #1 Palestinians apparently killed three Israeli (one american) young men.
Point #2 Israeli youth attacked and killed a Palestinian in return illegally.
Point #3 Israel has arrested some in the case.
Point #4 Why hasn't Palestine done likewise? They just don't.... You never hear of it.
Then there are the tunnels which I heard in an interview with NPR a spokesman from Hamas admit were used to transport weapons.
Point #5, they openly state they want the destruction of Israel....

I'm not saying Israel is not guilty of things too. I'm saying to not talk about Palestinian aggression in the face of this disaster and to frame it as all one sided Israeli aggression is wrong.