SFP Stands with Khattab, Odeh on Israel Apartheid Week

Content Warning: This letter contains references to torture and sexual assault.

To the Editors:

Lina Khattab is not much different from an Oberlin student. She is 18 years old, studies media at university, dances and is politically active on campus in protesting the Israeli occupation.

On Dec. 13, 2014, Khattab was protesting against Israel’s holding of Palestinian political prisoners. She was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Israeli soldiers. During her detainment, soldiers frequently woke her in the middle of the night to keep her sleep-deprived before appearing in Israeli military court. They placed her in a freezing cold room with the air conditioner blasting in the middle of a freezing winter. Khattab was denied her right to a trial of her peers at the court where she was tried. Many of the hearings were closed to the public. She was charged with “throwing stones” and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration,” with only the testimony of three Israeli policemen as evidence.

Though the details of Khattab’s case highlight a gross injustice, it is nothing new; Israeli military courts boast a conviction rate of 99.74 percent. She was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $1,500.

Lina’s story is disturbingly similar to that of Rasmea Odeh. In 1969, at the age of 21, Odeh was stolen from her home, then raped and tortured by Israeli soldiers until she confessed to false charges. After 10 years in Israeli prison, she was released in a prisoner exchange. She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Since 1995, she has been living in the U.S. and organizing Palestinian solidarity work in Chicago. In 2014, she was convicted of immigration fraud by a court in Detroit. Now, prosecutors are attempting to use the evidence obtained from her torture by Israeli soldiers to increase her sentence. The dual experiences of Odeh and Khattab highlight Israel’s perpetual and deliberate targeting of Palestinians (and especially young women) who challenge its apartheid policies.

The use of the word ‘apartheid’ — defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as an “institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” — to describe Israel’s illegal treatment of the Palestinian people goes beyond rhetoric. Officials, scholars and activists all over the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestine John Dugard and Noam Chomsky, have all referred to the systematic domination of Palestinians with this word. As with the occupation, the wall and the continued settlement building, the crime of apartheid is illegal under international law.

March 12 will mark the end of the 11th annual Israeli Apartheid Week, in which people around the world work in solidarity with Palestine to end the occupation and promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Though IAW is critical in drawing attention to the injustices faced by Palestinians, the struggle for peace goes far beyond one week of action: It is interminable. As we continue to struggle to promote Oberlin’s full economic divestment from corporations that profit from the occupation — amid our administration’s perpetual silence and lack of transparency — we also recognize that the issue of racial and economic injustice is not confined to the issue of Palestinian liberation. As this past week marked the two-year anniversary of March 4, a traumatic and transforming day within the Oberlin community, we do not have to look far to witness racism, hatred and exploitation.

Divestment from malicious corporations represents one tangible step that can be taken towards economic justice at Oberlin and around the world. We invite the Oberlin community to act in solidarity with all oppressed people, from Ferguson to Palestine. Where people are occupied, resistance is justified.

–Students for a Free Palestine