To the Editors:
On Tuesday, Oberlin Students for Israel sponsored a talk by Sergeant Benjamin Anthony. Although the organization framed it as an opportunity for “dialogue,” Sergeant Anthony’s strategy is not one of discussion. In The Jerusalem Post, he states, “the diplomatic war is every bit as essential as the military one, and one cannot get more grassroots than the campuses of the U.S.” Here he admits that he uses his platform at schools to further the agenda of the Israeli occupation (though he dismisses the existence of an occupation in blatant disregard for international law). As a means to promote and gain support for a violent occupation, his lecture here was an act of violence.
Despite the disclaimer that he does not officially represent the Israeli Defense Forces, he is an explicit advocate for an institution that: – has killed 6,380 people in the last decade, including over 1,300 children, according to Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, – illegally incarcerates thousands, including 221 children as of this year (B’tselem), – expels Palestinians from their homes and demolishes their houses, including 24,813 documented cases in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, – seizes Palestinian resources such as water for the use of the occupying country, – has illegally used white phosphorus (which Anthony called “a testament to Israel’s humanity”) against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza strip who are victims of illegal collective punishment, – illegally acquires Palestinian-owned land through the construction of an illegal wall, – systematically employs practices that aim to deter people from resisting these actions, – systematically kills and wounds nonviolent protesters (For example, American student Rachel Corrie and resident of Bil’in Bassem Abu Rahmah. This is not an anecdotal claim; many have died.) – denies Palestinians the legal permission to peacefully protest (see Israeli military order #101), – severely inhibits and denies the movement of all Palestinian people thereby silencing the voices of Palestinians around the world.
Despite Oberlin Students for Israel’s advertisement of this event as an opportunity for “freedom of expression,” nothing could be further from the truth. Sergeant Anthony brought three private security guards, and two Safety and Security officers accompanied them. During the event, they were stationed at both doors, which were shut. They made everyone put their belongings against the wall. They prohibited me from taking notes on a computer. They refused to allow the audience to record audio. They refused to allow us to film. They refused to allow us to take pictures. These strategies eliminated the transparency and accountability that an academic setting requires.
After prohibiting the audience from documenting the event in any meaningful form, the private security forces proceeded to film us in an intimidating manner. The presence of such “security” here at Oberlin reflected strategies of intimidation used against the Palestinians in an effort to deter them from resisting the occupation. I am still shaken by the invasive management of this event.
As someone who is outraged and deeply offended by this event, you may expect me to attend the Oberlin Students for Israel’s OCDC-facilitated follow-up event “to react to Sgt. Anthony’s talk.” However, I will not attend. Why?
Speaking about the feelings involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only narcissistic but also distorting. It promotes the idea that the conflict is one of equal proportions of power and responsibility. This is a brutal misrepresentation of reality and inflicts insult to grievous injury on those who continue to live under Israeli occupation.