For too long in this country, people supporting human rights and international law in relation to the Palestinian/Israeli issue have been reluctant to speak out. Many university faculty members didn't want to get involved in an issue that they believed might cost them their jobs. Politicians were afraid of the power of the Israeli lobby and toed its line.
Others were afraid of being smeared with the anti-Semitic charge. Jews respecting Palestinian rights were concerned about being ostracized in their community and of being labeled as self-hating. Even the media was intimidated by the potential loss of ad revenue if they objectively reported the news.
If a person couldn't be smeared, there were other ways of dealing with them. For example, in 1997, Nelson Mandela said it was important for South Africans "to add our own voice to the universal call for Palestinian self-determination and statehood" because "we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians ...." Note how the mainstream media omitted his support for the Palestinian people in writing about him.
Today more people are becoming informed on this issue. Israel's horrific bombing attacks on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza in 2008-2009 and again in 2012 shocked people worldwide. Israel's attacks on unarmed and peaceful flotillas bringing aid to Gaza also brought home Israeli brutality.
Many church groups have also gone to Palestine and seen firsthand the harshness of the Israeli occupation. In addition, some Israelis who are ashamed of the treatment of the Palestinians are speaking up. Thus it is harder for the Israeli lobby to control the story today although it still tries.
In the March/April issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Allan Brownfeld wrote on the Jewish campus group Hillel and its attempt to stifle debate. Brownfeld quoted from a letter by Michele Sachar, whose grandfather originally built Hillel: "Our willingness to engage dissenters rested on logic and morality. I fear that the trend to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel comes from a collective fear: that the occupation of the West Bank has forced Israel and those who unquestionably support it to cede the moral high ground."
Please come to hear Israeli activists Maya Wind and Eran Efrati, who will broaden the discussion, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Boulder Friends Meetinghouse, 1825 Upland Ave.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.