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How To Talk About Palestine in a Professional Setting: 5 Facts

Mentioning Israel as a culprit or Palestinians suffering can be qualified as “anti-Semitism” because people can accuse you of generalizing and talking about all the Jewish people or Judaism itself – however, you can protect yourself by being specific.

If you can’t avoid it, or if you need to talk about it, protect yourself. As an academic often having to speak in public and write in media, I have a duty to speak the truth.

It’s hard because speaking the truth always bears consequences. I’m especially thinking of my fellow brothers and sisters in academia and in the media who are self-censoring themselves because they fear for their career.

It is possible to speak the truth while protecting ourselves, however, by being factual and precise. These 5 facts are powerful counterarguments from international and Israeli institutions for anyone who thinks it is a “two-sided” situation.

1. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Numerous United Nations resolutions (446, 452, 465, 471, and 476) affirm unambiguously that Israel’s occupation is illegal.

Resolution 446 adopted on the 22nd of March 1979 has confirmed that the settlements there have no legal validity and pose a serious obstacle to peace.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 of 2016 states that Israel’s settlement activities constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity” and is an infringement of the Geneva Convention.

In 2004, an advisory opinion by the primary judicial organ of the UN, the International Court of Justice, also found the settlements to be illegal under international law.

2. Israeli settlements are illegal under Israeli law (yes you read that right).

On the 9th of June 2020, the Supreme Court of Israel voided 8-to-1 an attempt by the Knesset to legalize occupation settlements built on unauthorized and privately owned land in the West Bank (case HCJ 1308/17 Seluad vs the Knesset).

The petitioners alleged that the Knesset was not authorized to adopt the law because it contained “arrangements” that were unconstitutional and inconsistent with international law (para.22).

3. Israeli policies have been recognized as a form of apartheid.

In a 2007 report, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine John Dugard stated: “elements of the Israeli occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid”.

In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa reported that Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories correlate almost entirely with the definition of apartheid as established in Article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

4. The Israeli government panders to the far-right and condones racist policies.

The current Israeli Prime Minister has or had friendly relations with far-right leaders such as Orban, Kaczynski, and Trump. The French party National Rally’s officials regularly hold meetings in Israel. Just like with Trump in the US, the Israeli government has enabled the amplification of racist attitudes.

Numerous news outlets mention discriminatory practices towards Black Jews settled for decades in Israel, for example, an innocent Black Jew was shot in 2009 by an off-duty police officer. This spurred massive protests from Ethiopian Jewish Israelis across the country.

In 2021, 46 Black Jewish families faced deportation despite the “right to return” law granting Jewish people automatic citizenship.

There are also numerous statistics regarding anti-Black and anti-Arab racism in Israeli society.

5. The IDF itself recognizes that its soldiers commit crimes.

Several times, especially in 2013, 2017, 2019, and 2021, IDF soldiers were convicted and jailed for killing Palestinians, stealing from Palestinian shops, or aggravated assault on Palestinians.

The IDF is also notorious for its internal discipline problems: in 2018, 1 in 15 IDF soldiers were jailed (around 10,000).

Stand for the truth and protect yourself.

Sadly, lots of people are not receptive to facts about civilians and children being killed and tortured, and the demolition of family houses and farmlands – arguing that this is a “two-way conflict” and that “it’s more complex”.

Mentioning Israel as a culprit or Palestinians suffering can be qualified as “anti-Semitism” because people can accuse you of generalizing and talking about all the Jewish people or Judaism itself – however, you can protect yourself by being specific.

If you were to speak publically, be precise and mention the “Israeli government”, “Israeli policies”, “the IDF”, or “parts of the Israeli society” and make sure to back your arguments by facts, and make sure to keep links to official legal decisions and media outlets mentioning these (do your research).

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