Image by the author

A Palestinian’s response to Koby Michaels’ Op-ed

Dear Koby Michaels,

I’m writing this open letter to inform you and those who have read your article that your intentions behind writing it was not that of genuine fear, but of an ideological impetus to preserve your privilege.

You benefit as a colonizer of unceded Coast Salish territory, and also Palestinian land if you make use of Israel’s Law of Return, which allows for automatic citizenship for Jews. Your qualms about your safety on walking around campus during a fair democratic BDS referendum is unfounded, and frankly, offensive to those who genuinely feel unsafe.

The article you’ve presented is a strawman argument, made to paint BDS in an anti-Semitic, hateful light to the benefit of the colonially charged ideology embodied by the “No” campaign. It seems you did not bother to even go through the BDS website, or you willfully ignored it. Either way, I’ll go through what BDS aims to achieve through peaceful boycott and financial pressures.

First, “ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”. I fail to see how that makes you – a Jewish Canadian – feel unsafe on campus. Aggressive Israeli expansion into sovereign Palestinian lands, as per the Oslo accords, is a direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which underlines the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security.”. It should concern you that people’s rights are being infringed upon, rather than the boycott of companies who explicitly profit from said people’s suffering.

Second, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”. Again, I fail to see how that makes you – a Jewish Canadian – feel unsafe on campus. There are over fifty discriminatory laws in Israel between Arab and Jewish citizens. That is a fact. The fact that fighting inequality is seen as a threat upon your safety on a multicultural liberal campus speaks loudly to your privilege.

Third, “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194”. 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their indigenous homeland and made refugees by colonial forces in 1948, the year Israel was established as a state. That number has now risen to over 7 million, including both refugees and internally displaced people. Generations have been born into and have seen nothing but refugee camps. They have no place to call home, with their ancestral land denied to them. They are treated as human fodder. It is simply unethical to deny these people the right of return, the right to the homes that were forcibly taken from them. Again, to see this as a threat to your safety speaks volumes.

I write this to you as a Palestinian student attending UBC. I have submitted this anonymously in fear of my safety. As to not be turned away at the borders of my ancestral home land when visiting family for my online activism as has occurred to numerous Palestinian activists. I fear for my safety to support my people’s struggle for equal rights. BDS is our way of doing that in a peaceful manner. To deem that threatening to your safety on campus is to spit in the face of not only Palestinians, but all oppressed minorities seeking peaceful self determination.

Your grievances have no factual basis. I have no sympathy for your crocodile tears.

A Palestinian at UBC.  

I would like to thank the Talon for publishing my article. I would like to note that this article was originally intended for The Ubyssey as it was a response to an article on there, however The Ubyssey did not deem my request for anonymity as “urgent” enough to grant it. I hope free speech will prevail and all opinions can be expressed freely without fear for personal safety.