In last week’s issue of the Thresher, Gary Dreyer wrote an op-ed titled “Don’t just tell a story; tell the full story” attacking a guest lecture on Palestinian revolutionaries delivered by University of Houston professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti. In this piece, Dreyer recycles many Zionist arguments and stereotypes. He objects to telling the stories of Palestinian activists “in the most vivid and human terms,” he labels Palestinians as terrorists and he equates Takriti’s historical research with Nazism and anti-Semitism. Most egregiously, he complains of the omission of the “forced expulsion and/or ethnic cleansing” committed by Palestinians. Perhaps Dreyer should take his own advice and tell the “full story,” which includes not only the 1972 Munich Massacre but also the 1948 Deir Yassin Massacre, and Israel’s campaign of organized violence designed to drive Palestinians from their homes and subjugate the remainder under martial law.
Despite its argumentative flaws, Dreyer’s article serves as a powerful reminder of the need for more dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Rice. Aside from a handful of Baker Institute events attended mostly by septuagenarians, this issue rarely comes up on our campus. Part of this is due to an academic lacuna. Outside of a handful of courses in the history department, Rice students have shockingly few opportunities to study Israel, Palestine or the wider context in which the conflict takes place. The Jewish studies department offers few, if any, courses on contemporary Israeli society or politics, and the Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication has struggled to offer even introductory Arabic classes. It is hard for us to debate the finer points of the issue if we do not share any common knowledge. The university should devote more resources to teaching about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially considering the number of excellent scholars of the Middle East already working at Rice.
More importantly, it falls on all of us to educate ourselves and expand the debate. Everyone at Rice should feel free to express their opinions without being accused of anti-Semitism. This label is often hurled at proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which targets companies complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Students at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley have already voted to divest from companies like Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard that provide bulldozers and surveillance technology to the Israeli military. While both resolutions were ultimately defeated by trustees, they sparked continuing debate and encouraged all involved to learn more. As Rice considers the responsible investment of its huge endowment, BDS is a conversation we must have. Only through respectful debate will the full story emerge.