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The hidden conditions of the criticism of the Statement For Palestine

Sarah Maesen and Gil Vanbergen react to a critical reader letter about the ‘Statement For Palestine’. ‘A simple assessment of sources and arguments undermines the pretence of neutrality’.


Archives from The Voice

The Voice is the student newspaper run by internationals at KU Leuven. Between 2018 and 2022, The Voice published articles on the Veto website under the The Voice section, combined with translations of Dutch Veto articles. After 2022, the section was renamed to Veto English. Since then, the section has been operated by Veto English staff only.

Saturday, Veto published a reader's letter in response to the 'Statement For Palestine', an appeal by students and professors at the KU Leuven to condemn Israel's occupation.

It is a classic strategy to blame your opponent for being one-sided and to present yourself as neutral. In the reader's letter, the anonymous author precisely used this strategy to discredit the 'Statement For Palestine'. The author makes clear that he does not want to take sides in the conflict; however, the statement is one-sided according to them.

A simple assessment of the sources and arguments undermines the pretence of neutrality.

Sources used

Let us take a closer look at the three sources the author mentions. Firstly, there is the Yahoo article that is supposed to refute a claim by the ‘Statement For Palestine’ about the indiscriminate Israeli bombings. According to the readers' letter, the bombings by Israel were not arbitrary. The Yahoo article does indeed state that the bombings were intended for military targets, but the same article states that this was never proven.

The Yahoo article also states that Israel bombed the building of media organisations Al Jazeera and AP. The source is therefore not a refutation and is even more of a confirmation of the ‘Statement For Palestine’'s claim.

The way the author selects and presents sources is not 'neutral' or neutered

In fact, several civilian targets have been hit during the bombardments. Doctors Without Borderes, for example, reported that the roads to hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure are destroyed. In the Dutch article the words of the ‘Statement For Palestine’ are distorted by writing that the statement states that Israel is indiscriminately bombing everything. Isn’t that also a one-sided exaggeration of the original, which writes that '230 people have already been killed by indiscriminate Israeli bombing'?

The second source is correctly represented, but the author, who was a member of the Israeli army himself, seems to reduce the Palestinian resistance mainly to Hamas. It should be made clear that the ‘Statement For Palestine’ does not mention Hamas. The fact is that resistance to Israel cannot be equated with Hamas. For instance, there was a general strike against Israeli policy towards the Palestinians throughout Palestine and Israel. Demonstrators from all over the world took to the streets - in London it was said to be more than 100,000. In the Tuscan city of Livorno dock workers refused to load weapons onto a ship destined for Israel.

Thirdly, the author refers to a video of an alleged lynching by Palestinian citizens. The video mainly shows that the situation was chaotic and unclear. An Israeli driver drives into a group of Palestinians, whether intentionally or not, then bystanders attack the driver and his car.

Now KU Leuven can take a lead by supporting the Statement For Palestine and the call for sanctions and boycott

The following footage shows how a police officer protects the driver, but also has to restrain him. That the journalist in the video says nothing about this is hardly surprising, since i24news is an international-Israeli news channel. The CEO of the company, Frank Melloul, always tweets in favour of the Israeli state.

No conflict or dialogue

It is important to stress that there is no dialogue between Palestine and Israel. Omar Barghoutti, one of the founders of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) stated this clearly three years ago in a Veto interview: 'Any so-called dialogue between a master and a slave is not really a dialogue.' Failure to condemn and boycott such oppression is a disregard for the unequal power relationship or passive support for Israel.

On the 'Statement For Palestine's support for the BDS movement', the author says the following: 'They want to exclude the next generation of an entire nation, because seemingly pushing people away will lead to better understanding and dialogue'. The author describes the call for sanctions as 'oil on the fire'.

However, the BDS movement does not target a 'nation', but rather an apartheid regime that creates A and B critizens. Various organisations around the world, including Human Rights Watch, call this policy apartheid without hesitation. After all, we will not be saying that the boycott of the former apartheid state of South Africa was an exclusion of an entire 'nation'?

The way the author selects and presents sources is therefore not 'neutral' or neutered, but a conscious choice to discredit the ‘Statement For Palestine’. The author states that universities must be objective, but until four years ago KU Leuven also cooperated with the Israeli police on interrogation techniques

The university made the right choice, although under pressure, to end this cooperation. Today, KU Leuven can take on a pioneering role by supporting the ‘Statement For Palestine’ and the call for sanctions and boycott. Therefore, the ‘Statement For Palestine’ deserves all support and it would be good if KU Leuven and other institutions took sides.

Sarah Maesen is a medical student, Gil Vanbergen is a history student. Both are members of Comac Leuven

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