Like you, we think that Israeli occupation of the West Bank must end immediately, and that Palestinians have a natural right to self determination and political freedom. Our problem lies with the subtext of Israel Apartheid Week, which assigns those rights exclusively to Palestinians - but not to their Jewish neighbours. This is wrong: Jews, like Palestinians, have a right to a national home in the country with which they have strong historical, religious and cultural ties.
We're Israeli students here at the University of Oxford who believe in peace, liberty, and equal rights for all. Back home we struggle to stop settlements and the occupation. While many Israelis support this opinion, the policy of our current government is far from this. We are writing this letter because in the past few weeks Oxford has been hit by a wave of hatred and intolerance, with both Jewish and Arab nationalists attacking each other. In light of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is yet another example of this negative atmosphere, we believe that it is important to make our moderate voice heard.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict contains two camps: moderates and extremists. There are both Jews and Palestinians in each camp. Moderates think that rights should be equal to Jews and to Palestinians; equal to Israel and to Palestine. The extremists are those who think that one group deserves more rights than the other. Who are these extremists? Some of them are Jews who think Israel can keep on oppressing three million Palestinians, and that it can continue to expand settlements and exploit its neighbours. Their partners in extremism are Arabs who think that Jews have no right to a state of their own and that Israel is an "illegal racist project" in its very core. They don’t concede the same rights to the Jewish people as to the Palestinian people. In short, extreme Arabs and Jews do not accept a basic principle of symmetry in their moral views.
Organisers of IAW support the creation of a Palestinian nation state, but do not recognise a similar right of Jews for a nation state. Why? What is the basis for such a discriminatory attitude? By labelling Israel (and not specifying the West Bank occupation) as a fundamentally “racist” system, they intend to convince others that Jews have no right to a national homeland. Read the texts they disseminate: their focus is not the occupation of the West Bank. Instead, they aim for something much more radical: that the State of the Jews should not exist on the map. Just like their extremist Jewish partners, the organisers of IAW imagine a world where one kind of people enjoy more rights than the other. For them, the other is inferior. We do not see any difference between extreme Jews who do not recognise the Palestinian right for their own state, and extreme people, like the organisers behind IAW, who do not recognise the Jewish right for their own state.
The moderate voice from the Middle East must be heard: for occupation to end, for the land to be divided between two states, for the Palestinians to finally have an independant nation state alongside Israel, and for peace and justice to prevail. We would like to hear many more Palestinians and many more Israelis support this simple and moral perspective.
So who do you support? the moderates or the extremists? When you go to Israel Apartheid Week events, we suggest you ask the presenters one simple question: do you support a Jewish nation state alongside a Palestinian nation state? That is how you will be able to tell to which camp the person in front of you belongs.