Home » Opinion » Letter to the editor: Support dialogue, not divestment on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Letter to the editor: Support dialogue, not divestment on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Letter to the editor:


Though I once had a narrow view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after exposure to a fellow student’s Palestinian heritage, my eyes were opened to the Palestinian narrative. This led me to spend a summer at the Arava Institute in Israel, which focuses on environmental cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. At the Institute, I worked on a water desalination project to improve water quality in the Gaza Strip, and I lived in a community of Israelis and Palestinians and forged meaningful relationships with my supposed “enemies.”

I am Jewish and an outright supporter of Israel, yet I fully acknowledge the current situation between Israelis and the Palestinians is not sustainable. I advocate for the advancement of peace and cooperation for all people of the region, both Israelis and Palestinians.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aims to delegitimize the entire State of Israel through boycotts in the international arena. This has manifested itself in boycotts of any products and companies that have associations with Israel, as well as the American Studies Association’s motion to boycott all Israeli academic institutions. Though the Ohio State administration rightfully rejected this boycott, the BDS movement is slowly creeping onto the OSU campus.

I applaud the OSU administration’s impressive display of leadership and oppose any new university policy advocated by the BDS movement for two reasons: It is not practical for OSU, and it will not bring peace to the Middle East.

OSU forms partnerships and purchases goods that service its best interest, not because of its political associations. To alter OSU’s policy because of these associations would be extremely costly. Until the supporters of BDS are ready for OSU to abandon our $32 million deal with Coke (sold in all Middle Eastern countries, including Israel), cut ties with the State of Ohio (bought $42 million of Israeli bonds), and delete their personal Facebook pages (Facebook recently purchased an Israeli tech company for $200 million), they leave me with no other option than to expose their undeniable hypocrisy.

BDS approaches this issue from a divisive stance, which makes a just solution harder to obtain. In an attempt to target inequitable water use, the BDS movement initiated a push to boycott Merkorot, the Israeli water utility company. And yet, the status quo of water resources in the region is unchanged.

Meanwhile, organizations and academic institutions like the Arava Institute are actively cooperating with Palestinian organizations to enhance environmental conditions to bring immediate, positive change for Israelis and Palestinians alike. While BDS continues to focus its attention elsewhere on efforts to tirelessly bash Israeli institutions, the real change-makers from both sides are actively engaging to bring real solutions to the people that need them most.

I have much respect for Palestinian supporters who use constructive means to advocate on their behalf. I have no respect for BDS and tactics employed by either side that further the rift between the two viewpoints.

To those who are not personally invested in this issue, I urge you to support dialogue and oppose BDS to demonstrate what being a true Buckeye is all about.

To those who are personally invested in this issue, I urge you support dialogue and oppose BDS, and instead embrace interaction with the opposing viewpoint. It’s time for the many voices of moderation to take charge, and to engage in purposeful discussion based in mutual respect.


Matthew Frankel
Third-year in environmental engineering


  1. Okay, Matthew. Let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya while we witness more Palestinian homes be demolished, villages get wiped off the map, and more innocent lives taken away.

  2. Chris, riddle me ths…

    Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any Muslims or any liberals?

    But if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims and Liberals and their ilk will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be
    given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated. And, of course liberals simply cannot think rationally.

    For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

    Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to the Buddhists?

    Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical.

    And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to Islam.

    And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern section of that country to Muslims since Islam deserves all lands.

    Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan
    all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess.

    And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years – something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it? Muslim logic, I guess.

    And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam too. Did you know that? It’s true. Just ask a Muslim or a liberal if you prefer. Even though it’s no bigger than a small pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their

    Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it does. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

  3. None of us who support BDS think dialogue and debate are bad things. We welcome them. But frankly, there’s been dialogue on this issue since before 1948. We can’t end systematic oppression just through conversation. We need movement and struggle. Let’s use an example from our own history. If someone who lived during the time of slavery said to enslaved Africans, “Why are you rebelling? You should engage in dialogue with plantation owners,” or if someone said that white segregationists and Civil Rights activists were “both part of the problem,” we would all condemn it without giving it a second thought. Palestinians are an oppressed people. The BDS movement is one way of pressuring Israel to cease its violence. The movement is open to everyone who is committed to the ideals of justice and human rights, and there is plenty of room for debate and discussion within it.

  4. Also, the racism and Islamophobia expressed in Arafat’s post is disgusting.

  5. Tim, I take great pride when conventional people like you accuse me of Islamophobia knowing that I am in the best of company.

    Here are my proud and wise fellow travelers:

    Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria on Islam

    “I am afraid that God has sent these men to lay waste the world”.


    Gregory Palamus of Thessalonica on Islam

    “For these impious people, hated by God and infamous, boast of having got the better of the Romans by their love of God…they live by the bow, the sword and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil and not only do they commit these crimes, but even – what an aberration – they believe that God approves of them. This is what I think of them, now that I know precisely about their way of life.”

  6. Vidar Thorsteinsson

    Dear Matthew,

    this was an interesting piece to read, and your courage to reconsider your opinions and to speak out in support of Palestinians’ rights is praiseworthy.

    That said, I think there a few points in your article that need to be addressed critically. Firstly, the demands put forth by Palestinians are not a “narrative”. They are based on facts, facts which are throughly documented and known to be in breach of international law and human rights. The expulsion of 700.000 Palestinians from their lands in 1947-49 is not a “narrative” but a fact. It was a horrendous case of unlawful ethnic cleansing and has been recognized as such by the United Nations. In the same vein, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 is not merely a “narrative” but a fact. It is a glaring violation of the UN Charter and international law, as was immediately recognized and condemned by the UN Security Council, and this has been reiterated countless times by the UN General Assembly and other bodies.

    Secondly, it is unclear what is meant by your claim that the BDS campaign “aims to delegitimize the entire State of Israel”. Of course, the human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians have no legitimacy. That fact will not change until these violations cease. The aim of the BDS campaign is to bring an end to those violations, by pressuring the entity which is responsible for them, the State of Israel. For Israel to comply with international law and to respect the human rights of Palestinians does not diminish the country’s “legitimacy”. In fact, one might as well argue that ending illegitimate, unlawful, and disgraceful activities would strengthen Israel’s legitimacy.

    Thirdly, your emphasis on “dialogue”, “discussion”, “mutual respect” and so forth appears very much out of place, even though these are desirable in many contexts. Of course every person has their own opinions, but I do not consider fundamental human rights to be up for discussion in situations where they are actually being violated. When a state or group of people acts to violate another group’s human rights through violence, the oppressed group should not have to respect or tolerate that. To demand that oppressed people engage in “dialogue” with those who deprive them of their fundamental rights is neither reasonable or fair. I wholeheartedly agree with Tim’s comment above.

    Even though you appear to have taken important steps to educate yourself and expand your horizons, I fear that the picture you have gotten from bodies such as the Arava Institute is misleading, however well-intentioned. The forms of collaboration promoted by the Arava Institute are not about challenging the unacceptable oppression of Palestinians, they are rather about normalizing and lending an acceptable façade to it. If you are interested in participating in meaningful partnerships of Jews and Israelis with Palestinians to end the occupation and other abuses, I highly recommend you seek out international organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace or Israeli groups such as The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (this is just to mention a couple, there are many more).

    Vidar Thorsteinsson

  7. Tim, were Churchill and Adams simple Islamophobes like me?


    Winston Churchill On Islam

    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”
    John Quincy Adams on Islam

    “The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.”

  8. I am proud to be in the same fan club as the following men:

    John Wesley on Islam

    “Ever since the religion of Islam appeared in the world, the espousers of it…have been as wolves and tigers to all other nations, rending and tearing all that fell into their merciless paws, and grinding them with their iron teeth; that numberless cities are raised from the foundation, and only their name remaining; that many countries, which were once as the garden of God, are now a desolate wilderness; and that so many once numerous and powerful nations are vanished from the earth! Such was, and is at this day, the rage, the fury, the revenge, of these destroyers of human kind.”
    William Eaton on Islam

    “Considered as a nation, they are deplorably wretched, because they have no property in the soil to inspire an ambition to cultivate it. They are abject slaves to the despotism of their government, and they are humiliated by tyranny, the worst of all tyrannies, the despotism of priestcraft. They live in more solemn fear of the frowns of a bigot who has been dead and rotten above a thousand years, than of the living despot whose frown would cost them their lives. The ignorance, superstitious tradition and civil and religious tyranny, which depress the human mind here, exclude improvement of every kind.”

  9. Matthew Frankel

    Vidar, while I appreciate your comments, you have grossly misinterpreted my piece. Please send me an email so we can find a time to meet and discuss.

  10. Great article and very well thought out and articulated Matt!

    To all those responding with facts and “facts”, congratulations you started an argument on the internet.

  11. Vidar Thorsteinsson

    Dear Matthew, how have I grossly misenterpreted your article? I mean no offense to your kind offer to meet personally, but I would rather you supported your claims, and responded to mine, publicly. This is a public debate, not a domestic row.

  12. Vidar your understanding of the facts is flawed by your hatred of Jews.
    “Proponents of fairness and equity who have advocated against some of Israel’s most pernicious detractors have often advanced several well-reasoned arguments against further Israeli West Bank withdrawals and Palestinian statehood. Key among those arguments are that the Palestinian leadership is rejectionist, duplicitous, incites violence, is non-democratic and, in general, is not committed to a two-state solution recognizing Israel’s rights to exist within safe and secure boundaries. While all of these positions are accurate and by themselves would constitute sound reasoning to reject additional Israeli territorial concessions, there exits one reason above all others that favors the Israeli viewpoint; simply that Israel’s legal claims to the West Bank are far superior to those of the Palestinians’ under international law.

    International laws are generally created by nations when entering into treaties with one another or more informally, through international custom. General Assembly resolutions have no binding legal authority. In fact, the United Nations charter which spells out the powers of the General Assembly does not convey rule-making powers to that body.

    Israel’s legal claims to the West Bank are rooted in the San Remo Conference of 1920, an international meeting of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council. On July 24, 1922 the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations and a body which, under its charter had the authority to enact international laws, confirmed decisions hammered out at San Remo and resolved to establish the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.

    The League’s preamble, adopting the principles enumerated in the Balfour Declaration, recognized the Jewish “historical connection” to the Land of Israel and resolved to help facilitate the establishment of a Jewish nation there. At the time, Palestine consisted of land east and west of the Jordan River, encompassing all of modern Israel, Judea & Samaria, Gaza and what is referred to today as Jordan. The League entrusted Britain with being the mandatory authority whose aim would be to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine and to act as trustee until an orderly transition could be made to full Jewish sovereignty.

    Article 5 of the Mandate prohibited Britain from ceding or leasing any part of the mandate territory to a foreign power. However, in 1923, Britain acting in contravention of Article 5 did precisely that and despite Jewish protest, gifted Eastern Palestine to Emir Abdullah thus creating a new Arab entity called Emirate of Transjordan. In so doing, Britain ceded 76% of Palestine to Arab rule leaving a paltry 24% for a Jewish homeland.

    In February 1947 Britain announced that it would unilaterally terminate its mandate thus setting the stage for UN intervention. Following Britain’s announcement, the UN sent a team of international observers, known as UNSCOP, to Palestine to investigate and suggest a blueprint for the future of the territory and its inhabitants. After completing its investigation, UNSCOP formulated a plan, based on demographic patterns that involved the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states on roughly a 50-50 basis. Jerusalem and its environs were to be designated international zones.

    In November 1947, the UN adopted UNSCOP’s findings and voted in favor of the partition. The UN General Assembly’s partition plan was merely a suggestion and had no legal binding authority. The Jews accepted the partition plan and the Arabs flatly rejected it, setting the stage for the first Arab-Israeli War and an Arab invasion…”

  13. Part 2.

    “Had the Arab’s accepted the partition, international boundaries between Jewish and Arab states would have been established and the matter settled. In the absence of such a settlement, the only legal, binding authority was the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which designated the whole of Palestine, including the West Bank, as the future Jewish homeland.

    The first Arab-Israel War ended in 1949 and resulted in an Israeli victory and strategic defeat for the Arabs. Israel and Jordan negotiated a ceasefire agreement that was formalized into an armistice agreement. Neither side recognized armistice demarcation line as an official border. The agreement left Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory that it illegally seized during its land grab. Shortly thereafter, Jordan annexed these territories, an annexation not recognized internationally save for Britain (only with respect to the West Bank) and Pakistan.

    The Jordanian occupation of the West Bank lasted for 19 years. During that time, there was not a single UN resolution condemning Jordan’s illegal occupation. While this fact alone does not buttress Israel’s legal position, it does lend credence to the notion that the General Assembly can hardly be considered an impartial body.

    On May 22, 1967, Egypt, in violation of international maritime law, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The act was accompanied by aggressive Egyptian military deployments, violations of Israeli airspace and genocidal rhetoric. On June 5, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, destroying the bulk of Egypt’s air force in under 3 hours.

    Contrary to the realities taking place on the ground, Egypt’s Nasser convinced King Hussein of Jordan that Israel was reeling. Hussein, lulled into believing these false claims, ordered his army to attack Israel. Jordanian Hunter jets bombed Kfar Saba and Netanya while Jordanian artillery shelled Israeli population centers in West Jerusalem. Jordanian infantry then began to take up positions in the demilitarized zones. In response to Jordanian aggression, Israel counter-attacked, taking over East Jerusalem and the West Bank in a matter of days.

    While the UN considers war and conquests therefrom to be illegal, Article 52 of the UN Charter provides an exception to the illegality of war in cases involving self-defense. Israel acquired the West Bank (territory illegally seized by Jordan in 1948) through defensive conquest. Since Israel had the legal right to defend itself against aggression, its territorial conquest resulting from a defensive war is legal and binding. There is not a single case in history where a nation was forced to relinquish territory it had acquired through defensive conquest.

    Following the war, a Soviet sponsored resolution requiring Israel to withdraw from all the territories acquired during the war was rejected by the United Nations Security Council. Several additional drafts were submitted and rejected. The UNSC finally settled on Resolution 242 with a language formulation that deliberately omitted the word “all” and merely required Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The omission of the word “all” was extremely significant in that it provided implicit recognition to at least some of Israel’s territorial gains.

    Israel has fully complied with Resolution 242 by virtue of its withdrawal from Sinai, Gaza, Kuneitra (in the Golan Heights) and some 40% of the West Bank. Thus Israel maintains a strong legal claim to the West Bank, superior to all other claims, based on the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, Resolution 242 and basic principles of International law.

    Notwithstanding Israel’s valid legal claims, Israel has been widely condemned in various quarters for its “settlement” activity in the “occupied” territories. The strongest condemnations emerge from the EU and the Muslim world though the United States position has been more equivocal and has varied from administration to administration. The United States has in the past opposed settlement activity as a matter of policy but with some very minor exceptions, has refused to term such activity “illegal.”

    President Ronald Reagan explicitly stated that settlements were “not illegal” a position reinforced by President George W. Bush who provided implicit recognition of the legitimacy of settlements when he noted that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…”

    Those who condemn settlement activity rely on Article 49, Clause 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that, “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

    As previously noted, the claim that Israel is an “Occupying Power” as defined in Article 49 is dubious at best. Israel maintains a valid, legal claim to the West Bank, far superior to those of the Palestinians or any other entity. But even if Israel was to be given the designation of “Occupying Power,” Article 49 would still be inapplicable.

    Israel has not transferred or deported any part of its population into the West Bank. Individual Jews, with varied motivations, voluntarily moved into these territories. Moreover, many Israelis were born in the West Bank thus further highlighting the inapplicability of Article 49. Article 49 does not impose on Israel any duty to prevent its citizens from developing or moving into the West Bank.

    Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremburg Tribunal who was intimately involved with the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcefully noted that Article 49(6) “was not designed to cover situations like Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, but rather the forcible transfer, deportation or resettlement of large numbers of people.” Other acclaimed and notable scholars such as Eugene V. Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School and former US Assistant Secretary of State, Stephen M. Schwebel, President of the International Court of Justice, Nicholas Rostow, university counsel and vice chancellor for legal affairs of the State University of New York, David M. Phillips, professor at Northeastern University School of Law and Fulbright Scholar and Professor Julius Stone, international lawyer and prolific author have voiced similar positions and have highlighted the absurdity of applying Article 49(6) in the context of Israeli settlements.

    On July 9, 2012 a committee, headed by the respected former Israeli Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, concluded that Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not an “occupation” within the meaning of Article 49 and that the settlements were not illegal. Recently, 1,000 jurists of various nationalities signed a petition supporting the findings and conclusions of the Levy Report and submitted it to the EU’s foreign policy chief and one of Israel’s shrillest critics, Catherine Ashton.

    It is unlikely that Ashton was moved by the petition but it is demonstrative of the wellspring of support that Israel maintains internationally and that in at least some circles, sanity still prevails. The settlement enterprise, inspired by the original Zionist ethos of building and developing the land will continue to be a source of controversy but from the perspective of international law, it is on rock-solid footing.

  14. I am impressed by your article and of the courteous dialog and solid factual information provided by Arafat. Thank you for helping to educate all of us. Here is to wishing everyone reads all of these responses with an open mind and heart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.