On Thursday a scheduled talk at the prestigious University College London by an IDF officer deteriorated into a near riot as pro Palestinian students forced their way into the meeting room and then barricaded students in an alternative venue. The Jewish students who attended the talk were escorted away from the venue by police and campus security for their own safety.
By ruining this event, students in Palestine societies didn’t just deprive their fellow Jewish students the opportunity to hear about the occupation first hand but deprived themselves the opportunity to challenge an Israeli officer and gain an insight into the “other”. He could give them an insight into what it is Israeli soldiers are thinking and what motivates them to do what they do. It was an opportunity to get past the two dimensional leaflets distributed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and come face to face with the real thing. An opportunity rejected out of hand.
Just as with Ami Ayalon last year, an officer in the IDF could not be allowed to speak on campus regardless of what he had to say. The fact that Lieutenant Hen Mazzig (reserve) served in the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit meant that he had been a non combat officer was irrelevant. The fact that as an officer in COGAT, Mazzig was likely the man Palestinians called when they needed help was neither here nor there. Hen Mazzig had served in the IDF therefore Han Mazzig couldn’t be allowed to speak.
Because the reality of life in Palestine doesn’t really matter. What matters is that a “baby killer” came to campus and 100 students gave him and everyone who came to hear him a tough time. No Palestinians were helped. Israel didn’t suffer some kind of humiliation. Nothing that has anything to do with the Middle East happened on the UCL campus. What happened was that kids living a world away from Palestine were deprived the opportunity to learn about it from someone who really knows. That this opportunity for learning was so violently disrupted on a university campus adds more than a touch of irony to an all too familiar situation.
In the United Nations the site of the first and second Temples was denied its Jewish character by UNESCO. Another move that did nothing for Palestinians on the ground and nothing to increase the chances of a peace between two peoples.
Representatives from Israeli NGOs reported to the UN Security Council on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Without a trace of irony despite the dubious human rights records of the countries convening the session: Venzuela, Egypt, Senegal and Malaysia. I don’t doubt the facts presented in that forum by the NGOs, simply the sincerity of the countries who called the session. This was not an opportunity to end the occupation. It was an opportunity to do at the UN to Israel what was done to Hen Mazzig at UCL.
And all the while Palestine itself is left behind. Palestinians still live their lives under Israeli occupation, Israelis still have no doubt their futures would be endangered by a withdrawal.
Anyone genuinely interested in the lives of Palestinians might wonder why it is that so many utterly ineffectual things are able to take the place of a genuine framework to move the situation forward to a more positive place for everyone. They might also wonder why so many so-called friends of Palestine are so busy attacking Israel and so rarely helping Palestine.