During the first week of March this year, students stood on the stairs of Columbia University’s Low Plaza with eight-foot panels calling Israel an apartheid state. In front of Butler Library was a table with the words “Boycott Israel.” On the pathway between the two were panels covered with Israel’s flag. The activists thrust flyers and words at passersby, hoping to win the rhetoric war on Israel and Palestine. This was Israel Apartheid Week (IAW).
I wasn’t surprised that IAW takes place on over 150 university campuses worldwide. I was surprised, however, that many of the protestors were Jewish, and one of the co-organizers of the week was Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization of Jewish students. I wondered why so many Jewish students were turning anti-Zionists and protesting against Israel, and how the greater Jewish community has responded.
The Palestinian who almost killed me in the fall of 2006 was a sixteen-year-old boy named Whalid.
In November that year, I infiltrated Gaza for the last time. I was twenty-three years old and had served in the Israeli Naval Commando for four years. My crew and I were on foot, and despite the heavy equipment I carried, I was relieved not to be in an armored personnel vehicle. One of my greatest fears, always, was burning alive in that tank-like carrier. During our previous mission in Gaza, we left in one of those vehicles and an Israeli tank accidentally shot at us but missed. If I was going to die, even by friendly fire, I’d rather it be in the open air.
When Miss. USA, Nia Sanchez, said women should learn self defense to avoid sexual assault, she was accused of victim blaming, receiving numerous tweets to the tune of “how about instead of woman learning to protect themselves, men learn to not rape women?” When Police in Sussex, UK hung posters in female bathrooms at nightclubs, urging women to remain in groups to prevent sexual attacks, a representative of the national charity Rape Crisis said police should instead use their resources to target young men with messages about consent. When journalist Emily Yoffe wrote in Slate that binge drinking “presented a particular danger for young women because it made them more vulnerable to sexual assault,” she was disinvited to speak at a West Coast college for fear her presence would make student victims “feel unsafe,” and Alexander Abad-Santos, a writer for Vox and The Atlantic, responded by asking, “What about teaching men not to rape?”
Yet we don’t find this sentiment with any other crime. We lock our homes at night and put alarm systems in our cars; we move our wallets from our back to front pockets on the subway; we look both ways before we cross the street. And even though there is not a history of blaming theft victims like there is of rape victims, we still use preventive behavior every day without ever considering it victim blaming.
A warrior of the Hamas Naval Commando drowned during a training exercise in northern Gaza on September 2015. In an Israeli online newspaper’s report on the story, they opened the article with the sentence, “He didn’t excel in his role.” They showed a picture of him which they titled “the schlemiel.” They wrote, “to strengthen the absurdity [of him drowning], his name means ‘ocean.’” They called him an “unskilled fighter.”
As an Israeli and a five-year veteran of an elite combat unit in the IDF, I don’t care about this man; it’s good he’s dead. He was training to infiltrate my country via the sea and kill Israelis. His death is beneficial to Israel’s national security.
But we don’t have to mock him in a newspaper report of his death.
The blood on Akimos Annan Ampiah’s hands wasn’t his own; it belonged to a boy who foolishly told him he couldn’t walk down the street. The boy punched Ampiah in the face. Ampiah responded with a left jab, followed by a quick right cross and left hook that sent him to the ground. Ampiah stopped; he can’t fight blood, he says, it makes him feel bad.
Two years ago, on that day, a spectator saw potential in the 18-year-old Ampiah, took him to a boxing gym in Accra, and paid for Ampiah to train there. Within a year, Ampiah was on the national team. Currently, he is training for the All African Games and the 2016 Olympics.
Out of the 4,500 rockets Hamas fired from Gaza into Israel over the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge (OPE), the western media did not capture a single launch on film.
“You can miss one, miss 100, even 200,” said Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UN. “But if you’re sitting inside Gaza and you weren’t able to show one missile being launched, that’s very strange.”
That summer, the world saw many images, mostly those of the tragic destruction in Gaza caused by Israel; ruined schools and hospitals, dead women and children. Yet there was a “lack of proportion between representing Israel as causing all this destruction, and no footage of [Hamas] firing from within mosques, hospitals, and schools,” Ambassador Prosor said. “And the amazing thing is that no one asks the question, ‘How come we don’t see these images?’”
Much has been said recently as to whether or not the Islamic State is Islamic. President Obama explicitly said in September that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” The White House referred to ISIS as “violent extremists” rather than “Islamic extremists”. One hundred and twenty Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing ISIS of misinterpreting Islamic law in order to justify horrific acts of violence, and arguing that not only does ISIS not represent Muslims, but that it isn’t at all Islamic (Ortega). Dar al-Ifta, a leading Islamic authority in Egypt, has even requested a change of name from ISIS to QSIS — “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” in order to reject the “stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups” (Taylor).
On February 16, 2015, Graeme Wood said in no uncertain terms that the “reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” In his 10,000-word cover story in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Wood claims that the “religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam,” and while nearly all Muslims can and do reject ISIS, “pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it” (81). Wood’s article created a ripple in the media and inspired a flurry of response pieces, many taking issue with his claim of ISIS being Islamic.