Branding occupation as security

WashU Students for Justice in Palestine

We at WashU Students for Justice in Palestine would like to draw the student body’s attention to an annual event that is scheduled to take place this Sunday, Feb. 14. Co-sponsored by Washington University Students for Israel (WSI) and StandWithUs, a pro-Israel propagandist organization, the event “Israeli Soldiers’ Stories” will feature Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers telling their stories “from the front lines that you won’t hear in the headlines.” WSI explicitly stated that “security will be present at the event.” It is deeply distressing to us that StandWithUs, a group that propagates false narratives and silences critical voices, is annually invited to our campus to host a police-protected event. We feel that the event itself and the police presence are part of a concerted propaganda strategy to brand military and police as “security” and occlude the roles of occupier and occupied.

The IDF has the 11th highest Global Fire Power (GFP) index in the world and dominates regional competition by orders of magnitude. This is the force that carries out the violence necessary to maintain the Occupation: extrajudicial arrests, housing demolitions, bombing campaigns, protecting illegal settlements, manning checkpoints, etc. The frequent use of the term “security” by supporters of the Israeli state to describe these practices is very revealing. The word implies a clear-cut dynamic: “security” is a concern for a defending body. It is a response to the real or potential hostility of outside forces. Framing the Israeli-Palestinian “Conflict” (Occupation) in these terms produces a narrative in which the IDF is strictly a reactionary force whose measures are always necessary and proportionate and whose size and power are commensurate with the “barbarism” of the Palestinians. In other words, the logic of “security” provides a perfect moralization and justification of the Occupation, and thus it is the central agenda of Israeli propaganda to promote this narrative.

WSI’s upcoming event falls perfectly in line with these goals. Firstly, it portrays the IDF as a humane force defending Israel against inhumane attackers. The event description contains information about the soldiers’ families, education, hobbies and personalities and purports to put “a human face to the IDF uniform.” This language deliberately invites us to empathize and identify with IDF soldiers, to see them as good, ordinary people that may not even have chosen to be soldiers if Israel’s “security concerns” were not so dire. Secondly, the police presence itself reinforces the “security” narrative in a visceral way by suggesting that, even here on Wash. U.’s campus, pro-Israel students require state protection (the police) from pro-Palestinian students, just as Israelis require state protection (the military) from Palestinians. This is entirely consistent with what our organization has experienced since our recent establishment: the dynamics of the conflict are once again being transplanted onto this campus.

To be clear, “good” and “ordinary” do not exclude or negate an individual’s role in a system of power, and pro-Palestinian students are not violent threats that warrant a police presence. We as Wash. U. students must not only recognize this particular event as propaganda, but also challenge the hegemony of pro-Israel perspectives on this campus and reckon with our complicity in the occupation itself. We do not live in a vacuum—our choices and actions on this campus can have real effects on the lives of oppressed peoples, not only in Palestine, but throughout the world.

  • Clearly this is an Israeli effort to counter the movement by other IDF vets who denounce the occupation. I am disappointed, sadden even, that my alma mater would assist the IDF in this campaign.

  • Arafat

    Actually I think we need to recognize Islam’s role in this tragedy.

    Israel is nothing more than one of a dozen countries on the front line of Islamic jihad.

    In the 1990s it was Sudan who suffered at the hands of Muslim jihadists who killed hundreds of thousands and forced 3 million to flee. Now Sudan is occupied by Islamists. Now Muslims are the occupying power, but we never hear Muslims protesting this reality.

    In the 1970s Muslim jihadists killed 2.4 million Hindus in the Muslim jihad of Bangladesh, and now Muslims occupy that area. Why no outrage from Muslims concerning this genocide?

    In Nigeria today thousands of Christians have been killed. Thousands of children have been kidnapped, or burnt alive, or forced into slavery, or forced into becoming child soldiers.

    In Syria Muslim jihadists have killed hundreds of thousands and once again forced millions upon millions into refugee status. And in the 1990s during the seven year long Iran/Iraq War one million Muslims were killed by fellow Muslims.

    In the past half dozen years Muslims have killed something like 6,000 Buddhists in southern Thailand. Where is the Muslim voice condemning this?

    In southern Russia Muslim jihadists have done much the same as described above. The most frightening example being the Beslan school siege in which several dozen Muslim jihadists captured the school and held 1,100 hostages ultimately leading to the death of almost 800 people. Of course two years earlier Muslim jihadists detonated deadly chemicals in a Moscow theater killing almost 200 people.

    And then there is NW China an area where Muslim jihadists are waging a lethal slow jihad against that region. And then there is Kashmir, Kenya, Chechnya and more countries then I care to mention. But be sure it is never Muslims who are at fault; it is always the other guys who are to blame with Israel being at the top of the list.

  • Arafat

    Here’s a slightly more balanced description of the IDF:

  • Arafat

    “… commensurate with the “barbarism” of the Palestinians.”

    Ok…I get it. When Palestinians stab pregnant women to death it is not barbarism. Thanks for helping me understand this.

  • Arafat

    The “occupation”?

    If Israel is as powerful as you describe, and if Israel is so interested in occupying land by force than why did Israel hand over the Sinai, southern Lebanon and Gaza to Islamists like Hezbollah and Hamas?

  • Arafat

    Now why in the world would there be security?