IfNotNow Denounces Texas Hillel’s Israel Block Party

Originally published by IfNotNow at UT Austin. Link to petition.

IFNOTNOW AT UT AUSTIN INVITES STUDENTS TO DENOUNCE ISRAEL BLOCK PARTY BECAUSE IT:

  1. IGNORES THE OCCUPATION
  2. IGNORES THE EXISTENCE OF PALESTINIANS
  3. GLORIFIES THE MILITARIZATION OF ISRAEL
  4. ENDORSES THE RACIST ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

On March 15th, we as IfNotNow at UT Austin communicated our concerns about Israel Block Party to Texas Hillel because it ignores the occupation and the existence of Palestinians, glorifies the militarization of Israel, and endorses the racist government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Texas Hillel chose to ignore our email, therefore we have no choice but to make it clear that Israel Block Party does not reflect our Jewish values of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), truth and justice. Now more than ever Texas Hillel needs to confront the crisis of the Occupation and present a more accurate portrayal of Israel that goes beyond camels and hummus. IfNotNow at UT Austin is calling on UT students to denounce Texas Hillel’s Israel Block Party.

The Occupation is a human rights crisis. It is a daily nightmare for those who live it and a moral disaster for those that support and administer it. Israel denies Palestinians freedom and dignity by depriving them of civil, political, and economic rights.

The Knesset recently passed the Nation State Law, which declared that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and only Jews have the right to exercise national self-determination. This law erases millions of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. This is even more concerning in light of the alliance between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Kahanist “Jewish Power” party. More recently, Netanyahu has promised to annex the West Bank. This is illegal under international law and would continue the systematic removal of Palestinian communities at a far faster rate.

In an effort to portray Israel in a positive light and ignore the Occupation at all costs, Israel Block Party presents a whitewashed, idealized version of Israel. While Jewish institutions like Texas Hillel claim to be apolitical, supporting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a military occupation is absolutely political. Last year, IDF soldiers engaged in intimidation tactics with UT students exercising their right to protest the event, and there was a table where attendees could meet IDF soldiers. This glorification of the IDF is disrespectful of Palestinian students at UT, and does not acknowledge their deep historical trauma.

We hope that students at UT will deeply consider this perspective before choosing to engage in IBP. We also invite Jewish students at UT to use their voice and sign our petition so Texas Hillel can no longer claim to be the sole representative of Jewish life at UT.

In this political moment, when white nationalism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia are on the rise, we know that Jewish liberation is directly linked to Palestinian freedom. If you are a student at UT Austin, and you agree that Israel Block Party is problematic, please sign this petition.

 

To: Texas Hillel
From: [Your Name]

As a student at UT, I am deeply troubled by the Israel Block Party.
For too long, we’ve seen how Israel Block Party ignores and glorifies the Occupation: from denying the existence of Palestinians and refusing and glorifying the militarization of Israel to refusing to denounce Netanyahu’s far-right government and so much more.

We know that Texas Hillel would never agree to cancel Israel Block Party, so we are letting them know how many UT students are disturbed by their event. UT—Austin students deserve better than an event that obscures and ignores injustice.
As UT students, we refuse to be silent any longer. Texas Hillel needs to know that both Jewish and non-Jewish students are deeply troubled by Israel Block Party’s blatant disregard for the Occupation, Palestinian dignity and human rights.


For context, we republish the original open letter sent to Texas Hillel. Originally published by IfNotNow Austin on March 15th

Today, IfNotNow at UT Austin emailed Texas Hillel their concerns about Israel Block Party, the “largest pro-Israel campus event on any US college campus.” See below for the full letter.

Israel Block Party Organizers,

Texas Hillel’s Israel Block Party has come at a watershed moment in the history of the American Jewish community. A rise of antisemitism has thrived under the Trump presidency, alongside an increasingly far-right Israeli government under Netanyahu. Simultaneously, Americans are increasingly willing to condemn the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Yet Jewish institutions like AIPAC, the ADL, and Birthright continue to avoid or deny the human rights crisis that is the Occupation. As Jewish leaders at UT, we can no longer sit idly by as Jewish institutions hide the truth about the Occupation.

We have 4 primary concerns in regards to the Israel Block Party: 1) it ignores the Occupation, 2) it ignores the existence of Palestinians, 3) it glorifies the militarization of Israel, and 4) it tacitly endorses the racist and corrupt Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party.

The Occupation is a human rights crisis. It is a daily nightmare for those who live it and a moral disaster for those that support and administer it. As of 2016, there were 96 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank, and over 70,000 Palestinians in the West Bank live in communities without running water. Israel currently controls the distribution of water in the West Bank, and provides unlimited water to Israeli settlers, while Palestinians are limited to daily quotas. Over 400 kilometers of West Bank roads are prohibited for Palestinian use and are exclusively for settlers. These are just a few examples of how Israel denies Palestinians freedom and dignity by depriving them of civil, political, and economic rights.

The Knesset recently passed the Nation State Law, which declared that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and only Jews have the right to exercise national self-determination. This law systematically erases millions of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. By using a map of Israel that lacks a Green Line, or any reference to the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, Texas Hillel events like the Israel Block Party contribute to this erasure of Palestinians and their culture. Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy drive the narrative that the Israeli-Palestinian is a conflict between Jews and Arabs. As a Jewish, anti-Occupation student group, we reject this framework.

Facebook Logo for Israel Block Party 2019 without designation of Green Line

While Jewish institutions like Texas Hillel claim to be apolitical, supporting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and by extension the Occupation, is absolutely political. The presence of military iconography at Israel Block Party is undeniable. Last year, IDF soldiers engaged in intimidation tactics with UT students exercising their right to protest the event, and there was a table where attendees could meet IDF soldiers. This glorification of the IDF is disrespectful of Palestinian students at UT, and does not acknowledge their deep historical trauma. It is an open reminder that the lived experiences of Palestinian communities and families are not recognized by Texas Hillel.

Meet an IDF soldier at Israel Block Party 2018 from Texas Hillel’s Facebook page

Finally, in an effort to portray Israel in a positive light and ignore the Occupation at all costs, Israel Block Party presents a whitewashed, idealized version of Israel. This is even more concerning in light of the recent alliance between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Kahanist “Jewish Power” party. The Kahanist party is an offshoot of Kach, a terrorist organization, that plans to forcibly remove the Arab population from Israel if elected. The party has been expelled from the Knesset before for racism and xenophobia, and their presence once more threatens the safety of Palestinian citizens in Israel. Now more than ever Texas Hillel needs to confront the crisis of the Occupation and present a more accurate portrayal of Israel that goes beyond camels and hummus.

Camel at Israel Block Party 2018 from Texas Hillel’s Facebook page

As student leaders at UT, we are compelled by our Jewish values to express our deep concerns about Israel Block Party to Texas Hillel and any other organizations supporting it. In this political moment, when white nationalism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia are on the rise, we know that Jewish liberation is directly linked to Palestinian freedom. Texas Hillel needs to decide- are they on the side of endless Occupation or freedom and dignity for all?

Sincerely,

IfNotNow at UT Austin


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