Love Under Occupation

Contributing Writer

“Celebrations,” is, by far, one of my favorite memories of my first year at Smith College. Everything I love most about Smith was manifested in front of me: I was at an event with the purpose of honoring love beyond boundaries and in a sea of people asserting the fundamental humanity and equality of every individual. I am constantly reminded of my luck and privilege to be in an environment that prides itself on embodying such values.

In the context of such a community and in honor of Valentines Day, Smith Students for Justice in Palestine has placed cards in dining halls around campus with information relating to relationships and the Israeli occupation. These cards contain specific laws and anecdotes depicting but a few ways the occupation has interfered with one of the most basic of human experiences. We believe these facts and stories show how Israel’s policies blatantly violate the values we as Smithies hold dear.

Take marriage, for example. Israel’s esoteric regulations of how one can become legally married are entirely dependent on race and background. If an Israeli citizen wishes to marry a non-Israeli citizen, the chances of their spouse being able to obtain Israeli citizenship change if their spouse is a Jew, a non-Jew, or a Palestinian citizen. Marrying a Jew is easiest, as Jews are guaranteed Israeli citizenship under the Right of Return law. The process becomes convoluted for non-Jews; citizenship is often denied. If the spouse is from the Palestinian Territories, the Citizenship Law bluntly states that they can’t. (Exceptions are given, though to only 0.01% of couples who apply.) Not to mention that if an Israeli citizen wishes to marry another Israeli, their specific Jewish backgrounds determine how and if their marriage is recognized. (See the website www.loveunderapartheid.com for more stories and information.)

Outside of marriage, take familial and platonic love. The occupation makes the logistics of seeing loved ones convoluted as well. Israel’s system of checkpoints, ID cards and Jewish-only roads allow them to almost completely control Palestinian movement, and, in some cases, render it impossible for Palestinians to move even from one village in the West Bank to another. Not to mention that Palestinians can’t enter Israel or Jerusalem without proper permits, which are abstruse and time-consuming to obtain. On account of these factors, countless families are prevented from being able to visit and see each other.

For me, the most pressing example is my uncle. He was born and raised in Palestine, and most of his family lives there. He lost his citizenship as he was abroad during the 1967 war; he now lives in Jordan. Over 45 years later, he still doesn’t have Palestinian citizenship, and still has to undergo an arduous process each time he wants to gain entry into the West Bank to visit his family. This reality is very different for Jews. Under the Right to Return law a Jew who has never even stepped foot in Israel has a “right” to live there, and is easily given entry into the country. Yet people like my uncle, who grew up there and knew no other home, does not.

For a school community that celebrates recognizing the equal and inherent worth of every human, how can we tolerate such differentiation “simply based” on race? How can we allow realities who’s equivalence we would refuse to accept in the United States? Under what logic do these racist policies make sense!?

When the Citizenship Law was passed, Otneil Schneller expressed support for it as the law “articulates the rationale of separation between the [two] peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the [Jewish] character of the state.” In simpler terms, Schneller is saying that you can’t have a Jewish state with a bunch of non-Jews. Logically, having a state defined as a Jewish democracy requires controlling racial demographics such that the majority is Jewish. Therefore, laws that differentiate based on race and prevent non-Jewish immigration, like the Citizenship Law and Right of Return law, are crucial to Israel’s existence. As Ze’Ev Elkin from Israel’s Likud party said as he supported the law, “I’m glad the majority of the High Court… stood by the claim that human rights cannot jeopardize the state.”

What does love look like under occupation? In my opinion, considering the racial basis for legal and logistical matters, it looks like a violation of the beliefs of equal human rights and worth that so wonderfully characterize the student body at Smith.

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