TEDx: Equating the Colonizer and Colonized

Besieged Gaza,
29 August, 2010

Palestinians Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine

It has come to our knowledge that TED, a non-profit organization carrying the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” has started a program called the “TEDxHolyLand.” This is supposed to be an experience which seeks to “bring together the people of Palestine and Israel who do not ordinarily meet to share a half day together hearing and discussing TED talks on a wide range of topics of common interest.”[1] The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic boycott of Israel and University Teachers’ Association in Palestine consider this an act of normalization that violates the boycott guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)[2]. TED seems to be unaware of the fact that the reason why “the people of Palestine and Israel” cannot get together is because the former are colonized and the latter are settler colonists. It also ignores the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, as former American president Jimmy Carter and anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate Desmund Tutu called it; a state that discriminates against more than 1.2 million Palestinians living in it as second class citizens.

The Israeli partner in this program is Liat Aaronson who is the executive director of an entrepreneurship program at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) at Herzliya University. The program describes the Palestinian and Israeli organizers as coming from a background “that defines them as enemies” and seeks to allow them to “challenge each other, understand each other, and empower each other.” Before we get carried away by the seemingly false utopian aura of the program and its poetic tinge, we ought to ask if the Israeli participant will be willing to admit to her Palestinian counterpart that the creation of the state of Israel was responsible for the (continuing) ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people since 1948? That it illegally occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and racially discriminates against the 1948 Palestinians in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after South African Apartheid fell, “of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”? A state responsible for ongoing house demolitions, illegal settlement expansions and the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall—not to mention the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who are subjugated to a brutal, medieval siege entering its fourth year?

We wonder how Aaronson will remember the 413 children killed by Israel in the last genocidal war against the Palestinians of Gaza. Will that also be squeezed into the falsely beautified and ambiguous slogan of “let’s stop the violence?” Unless this is a reference to the violence of the colonizer; the fourth largest army in the world with hundreds of nuclear heads?

Where are the “two sides” of this “conflict?” This is an issue of injustice around continuous dispossession and subjugation of one people by another people. Do we understand from the organizers of TED that there was a “conflict” between the native Blacks of South Africa and the White supremacists of the apartheid regime?

If “challenging” the Palestinian partner in the program means that Aaronson will admit to these atrocities committed by her own state, as a group of courageous Israeli activists from Boycott From Within and BOYCOTT!! have done, then perhaps we can reconsider our position.

This initiative is one more arrogant attempt to equate between; colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed ;victim and executioner. The mere fact that TED’s Palestinian partner is unable to confront Aaronson with the reality of her displaced people is proof enough of the inequality and bias this program is based upon.

Once again, we would like to call on the Israeli partner, who is in a privileged position, to consider joining hands with the conscientious Israeli Boycott from Within anti-apartheid activists. Then, perhaps the “vision” of the TED experience and the “Ideas Worth Spreading” would involve spreading the voices of the marginalized, suppressed, and silenced Palestinians in the impoverished and crowded refugee camps, in the Gaza concentration camp, and in the Bantustanized West Bank, promoting their right to self-determination and the right of return of all those displaced and forcefully removed throughout Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in accordance with International Law.

We, therefore, consider this project a continuation of a campaign of normalization that aims at whitewashing Israel’s tarnished image and does nothing but falsely creates the facade that there are actually two equal sides to “the conflict.”

Besieged Gaza,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
pscabi[at]gmail.com

University Teachers’ Association

[1] http://www.tedxholyland.com/?page_id=228
[2] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

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