Zachary Evans Letter Neglects Palestinians

In his letter to the Review last week, Zachary Evans not only presented a multitude of factual inaccuracies and misleading, uncontextualized generalizations regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the “peace process”, but also completely ignored the underlying causes of the conflict: the systematic, oppressive realities that are imposed on Palestinian civilians every single day in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Evans says that the Occupation is “fundamentally not an attempt at oppression, apartheid or any other insidious governmental policy. It is about security, which the current Palestinian leadership cannot provide.” Security is certainly a legitimate concern for any state, but concerns about security do not justify Israel’s illegal military occupation of the Palestinian people or the human rights abuses of Palestinians. Concerns about security do not justify checkpoints, indefinite administrative detention, home demolitions, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli monopolization of natural resources in the region, or the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Security measures must always fit within acceptable standards of justice and human rights, and justifying any possible measure for the sake of Israeli security, no matter the cost to Palestinian rights and, indeed, Palestinian lives, places a higher value on Israeli lives than on the lives of Palestinians.

While Evans’s letter thoroughly and graphically describes isolated incidents of Palestinian violence against Israelis, it does not include any analysis of the systematic violent realities that are imposed on Palestinians, which underly the acts of violence to which Evans refers. Any argument that attempts to discuss the oppression of the Palestinian people while ignoring the aforementioned elements of Palestinian daily life does not provide sufficient context for understanding the imbalance of power between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.

Evans’s argument also asserts that the Palestinians are at fault for the failure of the peace process. However, he completely overlooks the devastating ramifications that the Oslo Accords have had on Palestinians. Oslo gave Israel control over civilian matters and security in 70% of the West Bank, which has had devastating effects on Palestinian efforts to build an economy or infrastructure. This system was intended to be temporary, with greater control gradually given back to Palestinians. However, the opposite has occurred: Israel has tightened its military control of the West Bank while expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements, creating a reality on the ground in which Palestinians have very little freedom of movement or ability to govern themselves. This pattern of Palestinian concessions paired with Israel’s broken promises has continued throughout all other peace process attempts. The peace process has not failed because Palestinians do not want peace. Rather, it has failed because it has required consistent concessions from Palestinians without holding Israel accountable for the promises it has failed to keep.

In summary, Evans’s piece does nothing more than reinforce the inaccurate and offensive narrative that Palestinian people are terrorists who are responsible for their own oppression. His inaccurate and totalizing rhetoric is also very dangerous, as it has been used both historically and presently to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. His letter denies the reality of the oppression of Palestinians and rhetorically strips them of their ability to work toward their own liberation by branding them as nothing more than a security threat to Israel. Generalizing and stereotyping Palestinians does nothing to further productive discourse. A just peace in the region will only materialize once the rights of Palestinians are respected. If you would like to discuss these issues further, please feel free to contact us at [email protected].

– On behalf of Students for a Free Palestine