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This weekend there will be a gathering on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania by advocates of selective punishment of Israel for the absence of a comprehensive settlement of its conflict with Palestinian Arabs and the larger Arab world. The preliminary program lists 21 speakers, almost exclusively individuals not affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania.
While the conference planners obtained meeting space on the campus of one of America’s great universities, the venue selected should not confuse anyone that there is bona fide academic merit to this gathering. Most of the speakers are not faculty anywhere, and among those few that are faculty, some are in disciplines unrelated to the study of the complex nature of the search for peace and justice in the Middle East.
SPME, a virtual international community of scholars committed to peaceful resolution of all of the Middle East’s many conflicts, recognizes that the BDS movement is both intellectually flawed and contrary to the very real needs of the people of that region. We are committed to a genuine, just and enduring peace.
The BDS movement is mistaken in its focus on a single party, Israel, as the impediment to peace. Israel has repeatedly expressed its willingness to live peacefully alongside a Palestinian state. Since the rebirth of a Jewish state in 1948, Israel’s democratic governments from across the political spectrum have repeatedly demonstrated an intent to make painful compromises in the interest of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, including recognition of a Palestinian Arab homeland for those descended from Arabs displaced during prior conflicts.
Reciprocal recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jews has yet to occur. Many Jewish Israelis, like their Arab neighbors, are descended from families native to the Middle East, but displaced by conflict. Prior to Israel’s independence, the area’s Jews were often considered to be “Palestinians”.
BDS is contrary to the search for peace since it represents a form of misguided economic warfare. It is directly contrary to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and committed to a two state solution.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) lists well over a hundred border disputes between nations.Israel’s dispute with the Arabs over eventual boundaries is not unique, nor is this conflict the most violent. Focusing on Israel for punitive action is unjustified and counterproductive.
SPME urges those committed to peace and justice for the people of a region which has had too much war and violence to join with us in rejecting the politics of hatred that the BDS movement represents.
Academically affiliated readers are invited to contact SPME to learn how they can join us in the search for Middle East peace at https://spme.org/
John R. Cohn, M.D., is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, who is on the board of SPME and of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. He is a professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org