Editorial: ‘Israel Discovery Trip’ whitewashes human rights abuses 

16
670
Hillel building on N Eagleville Rd where students gather to celebrate Jewish culture and introduce others to the culture through services and gatherings. File Photo.

This winter, the University of Connecticut students will be able to participate in a 10-day “Israel Discovery Trip” hosted by UConn Hillel, according to The Daily Campus. The trip comes with an out-of-pocket cost of just $200. 

The flyer publicizing the trip claims that participants in the trip will get to “explore the country and hear from a variety of speakers on various topics in Palestinian and Israeli society,” with notable subjects including history, human rights and politics. The trip is billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students in leadership positions,” joined by welcoming Canva clipart of hearts and a smiling community on its advertising materials. The publicity around the program makes no mention of whether students will have the opportunity to “discover” the human rights violations committed against Palestinians, whether they will “hear from” refugees displaced by the systematic and illegal settlement of Palestinian lands nor if they will get to “explore” the Israeli military’s blockade and imprisonment of Gaza. This discovery trip is poised to be little more than a whitewashed tour of a state actively involved in settler-colonialism and apartheid — and UConn is complicit. 

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, in a campaign of mass displacement and settlement known as “Al-Nakba,” wherein approximately 750,000 Palestinians were ousted from 78% of their historic lands by Israeli paramilitary groups. Israel has maintained a program of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and settler-colonialism of Palestinians. To this day, Israel illegally occupies 60% of the West Bank, one of two territories granted to the Palestinian Authority by the 1994 Oslo Accords. The Gaza Strip is commonly referred to as an “open-air prison,” because it is subject to an illegal blockade by the Israeli military; this contributes to a resource crisis from which 96% of water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption, according to UNICEF, and half of the Gazan population suffers from food insecurity. The widespread containment and starvation of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and constitutes a violation of human rights.  

In more recent months, the Israeli military has been conducting near-nightly raids on cities in the West Bank through drone bombings and conventional warfare, which have killed over 120 Palestinians this year. Combined with the systematic evictions of Palestinians from their homes; attacks by extremist settlers backed by the Israeli state; and an unequal, discriminatory system of apartheid enforced across Israeli-occupied territories which denies Palestinians their full rights to suffrage and property, Israel is unequivocally continuing to erase Palestinians from their historic lands. As UConn Students for Justice in Palestine and the Editorial Board have previously amplified, major UConn Dodd Center for Human Rights partner Amnesty International has even recognized Israel as an apartheid regime.  

Palestinian Balata Battalion’s gunmen wait for the funeral of their comrade Mahdi Hashash, 15, in the West Bank refugee camp of Balata, near Nablus, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Hashash was killed early Wednesday following an Israeli raid in the city of Nablus, near a flashpoint site in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Photo by Nasser Nasser/AP Photo.

The Israel Discovery Trip is one significant example of UConn’s consent to these crimes. The programming makes no mention of shedding light on rights violations, nor does it acknowledge “Palestinian territories” as occupied illegally. The trip has also been criticized for posturing itself similar to a study abroad trip or a vacation, as SJP UConn Vice President Jenna Rabah voiced to The Daily Campus. SJP President Layan Alnajjar also expressed the criticism that the Discovery Trip allows students to travel to Palestinian territories with ease while Palestinians, including UConn students, are denied the right of return to their historic land that they are afforded by international law.  

Hillel staff used ambiguous language to imply that it would be “logistically” difficult to include Palestinian students on the trip, thus affirming the double standard acknowledged by SJP. Regardless, the inclusion of Palestinians would not change the trip’s problematic foundations.  

The trip’s funding source, The Maccabee Task Force, which contributed a budget of $110,000 to the trip according to The Daily Campus, specifically tasks itself with “fighting Israel hate on campus,” according to the home page of its website, and has called the international Boycott, Divest, Sanctions protest movement against Palestinian oppression antisemitic. MTF routinely denies well-documented allegations of Israeli war crimes and apartheid and, according to SourceWatch, has donated $400,000 to Prager University, a right-wing media organization that espouses explicitly anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQIA+, Christian nationalist and Zionist videos — multiple of which MTF executive director David Brog has appeared in. An organization with a clear record of rights violations denial and support for extreme right-wing propaganda will not support a clear view of a decades-long campaign of violence against Palestine.  

The Daily Campus Editorial Board holds that the Israel Discovery Trip is a flagrant attempt to erase the violence against Palestinians, which is well-understood by UConn students whose own lives are affected. UConn must answer for its complicity and complacence in Israeli human rights abuses which it has demonstrated by hosting UConn ROTC conferences with the Israeli military, sending administrators to the country to make commercial connections and more.  

16 COMMENTS

  1. Israel, a tiny country the size of New Jersey, is the only state in the Middle East that substantially recognizes individual rights, such as legal equality for men and women, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the freedom to engage in same-sex relationships. Compared to its neighbors—Islamic dictatorships that trample rights and violently oppress their populations—Israel is an oasis of enlightenment and liberty.

      • Harrison Raskin, your question is spoken from a place of real ignorance about what’s going on in Gaza. I think a more relevant question is “why does Hamas, the corrupt occupying force that rules Gaza, use Palestinian children has human shields, by setting up their terror bases in hospitals and schools?”. You could also ask whether any country in the world has adopted a policy, like Israel, that when they go to destroy a site that is launch missiles at their civilians, the air force drops of flyers letting civilians know about imminent bombing raids, and also directs “dummy bombs” that don’t explode, but “knock” on the building to let people know to clear out.
        If those things don’t make sense to you, I suggest you inform yourself a bit more about the situation in Israel/Gaza.

  2. This editorial is so riddled with omissions, misinformation, and outright lies that the U of Conn should be ashamed. If any of you on the editorial board actually cared about the truth you ought to educate yourself rather than spew hatred.

  3. Let me get this straight: A campus newspaper is saying that a Zionist group cannot sponsor a trip to Israel unless it includes anti-Israel lies?

    Is there any other group that you want to deprive of their rights to free speech and dictate what they are allowed to say, or is it only for the campus Jewish group?

  4. I wonder, will the students also have the opportunity to really discover the human rights violations committed against Palestinians — but by those committed by the Palestinian National Authority? The arrests of those opposed to Mahmoud Abbas? Beatings of protestors in Ramallah Square? Detentions? Killing of those challenging an Arab leadership that refuses to negotiate, rejects Israel’s very right of existence, funds terrorists and incites against Jews? Learn about the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria as a result of the 1948 War (honestly, that’s not a form of Nakba?)? Practicing apartheid by seeking to refuse Jews the right to pray at the Temple Mount, a Jewish holy site many centuries before Islam came into being? And there is so much more to learn. Maybe the editorial writers should join the trip?

  5. This editorial is filled with so many omissions, half-truths and outright falsehoods. It is a propaganda piece that easily could have been written by Hamas. But, in the spirit of just which sites ought to be visited, here is my list:

    Go to:

    Hebron, the site of the massacre & ethnic cleansing by Palestinians of the indigenous Jews of Hebron in 1929

    – the site in Sheikh Jarrah of the massacre 79 Jewish doctors, nurses, and patients in the Hadassah Hospital convoy on April 13, 1948.

    – the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem which was ethnically cleansed of all its Jewish inhabitants in 1948, and then ransacked by Palestinians followed by the Jordanian army’s demolition of 52 synagogues, some centuries old.

    The site of the Kfar Etzion massacre in which 129 Jews were killed, most after being taken prisoner.

    Visit the Haifa oil refinery where 39 Jews were killed and 49 injured by Palestinian mobs.

    They can also explore the history of the Palestinian leader of that period, Haj Amin el Husseini, who formed an alliance with Nazi Germany, lived in Berlin during the war, knew about and supported the Holocaust, recruited Bosnian Muslims to join the Waffen SS to fight anti-Nazi partisans in Yugoslavia, and with his contacts at the highest levels of the Nazi regime prevented the rescue of 4,500 Jewish children who ended up being sent to the gas chambers.

    And why stop in 1948? I think visits to the memorial sites of the suicide bomb massacres of some 1,100 Israelis during the “2nd intifadah” terror war ought to be include. Some examples:

    – the Dolphanarium where a Hamas suicide bomber murdered 16 Israeli teens,

    – the hotel in Natanya where a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Passover meal, killing 30 people and wounding scores more.

    – The Sabarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem where a suicide bomber murdered 15 civilians including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and wounded 130.

    And yes, they ought to go to Gaza to see how Hamas rules that area with an iron fist, preventing dissent, freedom of expression, freedom of religion. Visit the prisons where Hamas sends gay men for 10 year sentences. Visit the sites of rocket launchers in the heart of civilian neighborhoods, visit the schools, hospitals & mosques where Hamas stores its munitions. Ask to tour the miles of tunnels under the streets of Gaza where Hamas also stores munitions, builds missiles & rockets all under civilian neighborhoods.

    On their way to Israel I suggest they stop in Munich and visit the site of the PLO’s massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

    I would hope the editorial board will also go on this tour to round out their misinformed minds.

  6. Palestinian leaders were Nazi collaborators trying to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Jewish population of Judea. The fact that they lost is not a “nakba” but one of the best things to ever happen in world history.

  7. One wonders how the writers could be so misinformed. They claim ethnic cleansing, but the people ethically cleaned were Jews. Jews were a meaningful part of the population in Judea and Samaria (with a 4,000 year history there), but that went to zero because of Arab violence and murders. Jews were a majority of the population of Jerusalem (again with a history of thousands of years) when they were ethnically cleansed in 1948; the population went to zero. I should note, there Ottomans conducted multiple census counts. Jews were either a plurality or majority in Jerusalem from the first census taken (1840’s iirc) and in every subsequent one. Even Gaza had Jews, now that population is zero. Meanwhile, 2 million Arabs live in Israel. They are there with rights and citizenship and so forth.

    As for apartheid, in S. Africa, zero Blacks were not allowed to vote. In Palestinian society, zero Jews are allowed to vote. In Israel, roughly 1 million Arabs vote. No tell me, dear authors, which of these are apartheid?

    What an embarrassing education these authors have.

  8. This article is filled with lies and misinformation.
    Not one word about terrorism.
    Also, Israel’s presence in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is not illegal. They entered militarily in a defensive war after Jordanian forces opened artillery and mortar fire on civilians from there towards Israeli civilians during the 6 day war. The right to control that territory was formalised with the Oslo accords, (and its subsequent breach by the PA).

    Also Gaza’s water is inconsumable because Hamas uses the sewage pipes to make rockets.

    Shame on you!

  9. You’re a bloody lying lot ! To start with ‘plasticinians’ exist only in your sick imagination. The Arabs that live in Judea and Samaria are invaders and invader offspring colonising land they robbed from the indigenous Israelite population. If that’s not enough , those criminals keep murdering innocent people of all nationalities and all in the name of a sick jihadist creed.

  10. What a load of misinformed propaganda drivel, would the writer be happy to include Hamas & PLO mistreatment and murder of opposition party members and gay people in their information? Would they like to explain where all the billions in foreign aid money has gone seeing as it hasn’t been used to help ordinary “Palestinians” in any way? Would they explain what accountability for the rockets which fell short in Gaza killing many during the last round of attacks has been held? What about the rights of the families who lost loved ones in today’s terrorist stabbing attack, are they worth a mention? The answer will be no as they only want to misinform and demonise the world’s only Jewish state.

  11. I call hogwash stop trying to spread lies about israel , why not talk about hamas goal ,in killing every jew living in israel (hamas charta) ,the terror attacks against innocent civillians like when islamist terrorist throws rocks at buses with elderly people ,children etc.

    The Palestinian authority has no respect for human life or animal life as a matter of fact considering the palestinian authority pays people to kill stray puppies.

Leave a Reply