“If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”
- former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Very few students on campus know what we mean when we say the word Palestine. Many imagine that we are only talking about the dagger-shaped land nestled in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River; others believe we are only referring to the Arabs who live in that land; still others are convinced that we secretly allude to a campaign of terror and hate when we say the word.
None of these theories are true. To us, Palestine is an idea, a new way of being, a category of identity which grounds itself not in race nor class, but in our common humanity. Our Palestine, the Palestine that is alive and well at Dartmouth, is something much deeper than most know.
To explain what we mean by Palestine, one must understand our movement, one which is grounded in global struggles as well as in local campus circumstances. Though our cause is simple - we want Dartmouth to divest from apartheid - it is a cause which is perhaps one of the most misunderstood on campus. As such, in this article we will explain our cause, vision, and means, both for the incoming freshmen and for existing students unfamiliar with our beliefs.
Israel and Apartheid
Apartheid is the institutionalized system of oppression and domination by one racial group over another. There is general consensus in the international human rights community that such a system exists in Israel today: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the foremost Israeli human rights organizations, and several U.N. experts have all officially labelled the Israeli persecution of the Palestinian-Arab people as apartheid. To quote the Dartmouth lecture of Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, “It is undeniable that millions of Palestinians live today a reality of apartheid.”
What does such a system look like on the ground? It presents itself in different ways, depending on the territory an Arab finds themself in. Yet, whether in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel proper, Arabs are always forced into a system designed for their subjugation to the Jewish authority.
Contrary to the official narrative, these territorial demarcations are not temporary; there are the permanent means by which Israel segregates and controls the Arab population, in order to make way for both their demographic manipulation and gradual expulsion. As Amnesty International puts it, “the legal fragmentation of the Palestinian population between Israel, East Jerusalem, the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the refugee communities serves as a foundational element of the regime of oppression and domination of Palestinians.”
The net effect of this segmentation has been to create several different bodies of law in Israel-Palestine today: some for Arabs and one for Jews.
While Jewish Isarelis live with the full spectrum of civil rights and privileges, Arab citizens of Israel live without the right to self-determination. To quote the text of Israel’s Basic Laws, which operates as the country’s de-facto constitution, “The realization of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish People”. In practice, this lack of national self-determination for Arab citizens of Israel transforms them into second-class citizens, in a society which exists primarily for the satisfaction of Jewish interests. Take, for example, the fact that only protests by Arab citizens against the settlement program are met with brutal police violence and mass arbitrary arrests. During the 2021 Sheikh Jarrah protests, Israeli police arrested over 2,000 non-violent Arab protestors, making use of indiscriminate violence and torture to deter Arabs from protesting the government’s eviction of Palestinian families. Hundreds of protestors were injured, and a 17-year-old boy was murdered. The recent protests against judicial overhaul in Israel, vastly more disruptive but mostly attended by Jewish protesters, have recorded no such violence. After all, in the words of the current Israeli prime minister, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens''.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, apartheid is more straightforward: if an Arab is to commit the same crime as his Jewish settler neighbor, he is be tried in a different court and sentenced differently. If the Arab were to beat their neighbor with a metal rod and burn down their house, they would certainly face the harshest possible sentence. Yet, when Jewish settlers do the same, as they did earlier this year, they almost always go unpunished. As Yesh Din reported earlier this year, 93% of all investigations into ideologically motivated crime against Arabs in the West Bank are closed without an indictment. Only 3% of investigations led to a conviction. In February, when hundreds of Jewish settlers rampaged through the West Bank in a deadly pogrom, killing a 37-year-old man and injuring hundreds, they were not only left unpunished but were encouraged by a senior Israeli minister to wipe out Palestinian villages.
In Gaza there is not even an attempt to dress-up apartheid as democracy: Palestinian-Arabs of the Gaza Strip are simply subjected to “hell on earth”, to quote the U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres. This year marks the sixteenth year of a total Israeli blockade of essential goods and services to Gaza, and though the U.N. predicted that the Strip would be unlivable by 2020, in 2023 there are over 2 million Gazans living in inhumane conditions. Alongside basic foods, basic construction materials, and vital medical equipment, Israel has banned children’s toys, chocolate, paper, books, music, and clothes from entering the Strip. As a result of the blockade, over 61% of Gaza’s population lives in poverty and 53% in food insecurity. 78% of piped water is unfit for human consumption, and up to 12 hours of each day are spent without electricity. As Israeli officials have repeatedly stated in private communications, the goal is to bring the Gazan economy to “the brink of collapse.”
These are just a few examples of how apartheid presents itself in Israel-Palestine today, to say nothing of the rampant home demolitions, the withholding of water from Palestinian communities, the routine massacre of Gazan civilians in Israeli military operations, regular punitive raids against Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the many other ugly faces of apartheid.
As we will see, the goal of all these persecutions is quite easy to understand: to maintain the political and economic hegemony of the Jewish population of Israel-Palestine, and in turn to subjugate and marginalize the Arab population.
To maintain a Jewish ethnostate in historic Palestine, where all races, ethnicities, and religions had formerly lived side-by-side; to demographically control and slowly expel the Arab population through a campaign of Jewish settlement and Arab persecution - that is what defines Israeli apartheid.
Zionism to Apartheid
Apartheid exists in Israel today because of an idea: Zionism, the belief that there ought to be a Jewish state in historic Palestine. By that idea of a “Jewish state”, Zionism does not mean a state in which Jews happen to be a majority, or a state which provides a cultural and legal refuge from antisemitic persecution; if it did, there would be no apartheid to fight.
Rather, the Jewish state that Zionism proposes is a Jewish ethnostate. An ethnostate exists solely to serve the interests of one ethnic group, rather than the entirety of the population it governs. Because the ethnostate has no other concern than the prosperity of that ethnic group, its ideal population is ethnically homogenous and monolithic. If other groups exist beside those of the favored ethnic group, then naturally they are subdued, carefully managed, and forcibly prevented from forming a significant demographic. By their very existence non-Jews are a threat to the Jewish ethnostate.
How did such an ideology come to be?
Zionism first formed in Europe at the end of the nineteenth-century. That such an ideology could take hold over so many European Jews over the course of the coming decades was a natural, if tragic, response to the horrors of European antisemitism. After the collapse of assimilationist efforts in the late nineteenth century (especially after the Dreyfus affair), and with the rise of antisemitism on the continent, many Jewish thinkers turned to ethnonationalism as a new way to conceive of a solution to their endless persecution. The thought was simple: if no state on Earth would be safe for Jews, then the Jews ought to form their own state.
The state that these Jewish thinkers had in mind was the state that they had suffered under: the homogenous European nation-state, created by and for members of one particular ethnic group. Zionism thus started as an attempt to beat the European anti-semite at his own game, on the terms and rules they had laid out on the continent. Zionism rests on this replication of the political unit of modern antisemitism: the ethno-national state.
Further inspired by European conditions, these Zionist thinkers also took settler-colonialism as the basis for their movement, ideally to be supported by some great imperial power to subdue indigenous resistance while the process was underway. As the Basle Program, the manifesto of the First Zionist Congress in 1897, put it, Zionism’s goals were “the appropriate promotion of colonizing Palestine” and “Preparatory steps for the attainment of such Government consent as is necessary in order to achieve the aim of Zionism.” After all, only a settler-colonial project could provide the material basis to transport hundreds of thousands of European Jews to far-away Palestine to build a Jewish state in a land inhabited by non-Jews (~96% at the turn of the century).
The conclusion of WW1 and the Balfour Declaration provided the opportunity for such a plan to be realized. With a British colonial administration taking control of Palestine and their promise to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” (a convenient justification to control the region), Zionism found the pre-condition for its colonial project: an imperial power willing to subdue the native population and permit Zionist colonization. Tellingly, the Balfour Declaration inspired the World Zionist Organization to laud Britain by such grand titles as “the shield of civilization, the country which is preeminent in colonization”.
What followed in the interwar years was a pattern of Zionist settler-colonialism, British collusion, and Arab resistance. A detailed historical account of this process is beyond the scope of this brief essay, but suffice it to say that in this period of about 20 years the basic character of Zionism was cemented. The radicalization of the Arab indigenous population in the face of settler-colonialism and their subsequent campaigns of resistance (at times civil, at times violent) lead to the final development of modern Zionism, determined to subjugate and control the native Arab population. As Vladimir Jabotinsky summed it up in its later years, “Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population.”
Zionist colonization naturally led in 1948 to the Nakba, the violent expulsion of the Palestinian-Arab population in the founding of the Jewish ethnostate. Zionist forces expelled almost one million Arab Palestinians from what is now called Israel, 85% of the Palestinian population in that territory. Palestinian civilians were massacred throughout Palestine, and hundreds of former villages were destroyed. The antisemitic logic behind Zionism reared its ugly head; as one Zionist soldier remembers, “Such pictures were known to us. It was the way things had always been done to us, in the Holocaust, throughout the world war and all the pogroms…and here — here, we were doing these awful things to others”.
Since the Nakba, and especially after the 1967 war, the modern system of apartheid emerged to allow for the continued existence of the Jewish ethnostate and the gradual expulsion of the Arabs. After the Nakba, a minority of the original inhabitants were allowed to stay in the newly-formed Israel - few enough to be easily controlled and demographically managed. The rest were thrown in refugee camps under Jordanian or Egyptian administration, until twenty years later when Israel put the West Bank and Gaza under its own military administration, depriving its Arab inhabitants of any semblance of civil rights or democracy. Naturally, Zionist colonization immediately resumed in the form of the modern Jewish settlement program, and has continued to expand to this day.
The territorial segregation between Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, the settlement program, the unequal legal systems and endless persecution - all are inevitable byproducts of Zionism and its idea of the ethnostate. Apartheid was thus born, and continues to thrive in Israel today.
Dartmouth and Apartheid
Apartheid exists in Israel; why should we care in Hanover? Our answer is, again, quite simple: apartheid maintains roots in Hanover, primarily through the College’s endowment.
As students, we know remarkably little about what companies the College chooses to invest in with our tuition money. Yet, we do know that that money is trickling its way back to fund Israeli apartheid. In the list of Dartmouth’s direct holdings of publicly traded equities, available to any student through the Dartmouth’s Investment Operations Office, are a multitude of apartheid-fueling investments. These include Israeli companies, such as the various entities making up the Health Care Select Sector, as well as American companies which directly support Israeli apartheid, such as Amazon, whose web service platform enables the Israeli military to constantly monitor everyday Palestinians through AI facial recognition. Furthermore, the vast majority of Dartmouth’s endowment is invested through third-party firms, who keep their investment strategies a convenient secret; Dartmouth’s investments in apartheid likely far surpass what we know.
To the uninformed student, the idea that their tuition money could be being used to fund a violent system of racial discrimination, segregation, and persecution may be incredible; yet, it is nothing new on campus. In fact, this is the second time we, as students, have found ourselves confronted with an administration complicit in apartheid, the first being in the time of the South African anti-apartheid struggle. As former Dartmouth President David McLaughlin wrote in his memoir, “many Fortune 500 companies were doing business in South Africa, and much of the college’s endowment was invested in those corporations.”
College officials - including McLaughlin himself - attempted to rationalize this complicity in many ways, especially by arguing that they could change South Africa from within by exerting “positive influence on its government”. To them, divestment from apartheid was too extreme, too sudden, and too radical; by some paradoxical logic, to dismantle apartheid, they had to keep funding it. Yet, as McLaughlin remembers, “The activists did not buy that reasoning at all, and they insisted that their institutions get rid of—divest themselves of—all South African investments immediately.”.
What followed was a long and protracted student movement for divestment from South Africa, resulting in the famous anti-apartheid shantytowns on the Green and the occupation of Parkhurst Hall by student activists. After a impassioned divestment campaign stretched over the course of several years, McLaughlin’s administration finally agreed to completely divest from South Africa in 1989.
Five years after Dartmouth’s divestment, in 1994, South Africa formed a democratic government, and apartheid was destroyed.
Palestine is not South Africa, and divestment will not necessarily produce the exact same results as it did then. Yet, we think it undeniable that Dartmouth’s immediate and total divestment from corporations which do business with apartheid would accelerate the end of that system. As Dartmouth students, possessing this rich legacy of anti-apartheid struggle and victory, we have the unique opportunity to play a role in the second act of apartheid’s global destruction.
Yet, besides being anti-apartheid, what do we stand for? What do we call to replace the ethnostate that Israel is today?
Consider the failure of Palestinian resistance to Zionism so far. Just as Zionism formed in the bloody depths of European antisemitism, so too did Palestinian nationalism coalesce around the shared trauma of the Nakba and apartheid. The response of the Palestinian national movement was simple: we are not welcome in the Jewish state, so let us replace it with an Arab state.
A nuanced, historical study of such resistance is out of the scope of this essay, but it can more or less be characterized up in one word: ethnonational, along the lines of the two-state solution. On this principle did Arafat and Palestinian guerilla resistance operate in the years after the Nakba. Both Zionism and Arabism slashed at each other’s throats with the hope of relieving their own pain, failing to see that they both were, fundamentally, based on the same idea. 75 years after the Nakba, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are still on this path, much to the suffering of the Palestinians continuing to suffocate under apartheid.
With these facts in mind, we firmly reject the ethnonational idea of a two-state “solution”. Creating an Arab state alongside a Jewish state wouldn’t solve the root issue of ethnonationalism and apartheid in Israel, but would instead only create another ethnonational regime, a new Zionism under the name of Arabism. The old injustices of apartheid would simply take new forms, both within Israel and in the new Arab state. There is a reason the Zionist establishment has paid so much lip-service to the two-state solution over the decades of its proposal.
Fundamentally, a two-state solution would also fail to heal the core trauma behind all Palestinian suffering, and the bloody root of apartheid: the Nakba. Any solution which doesn’t redress the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from their ancestral homes is not a solution which will produce long-term peace and prosperity; the right of return for refugees is unalienable and uncompromisable, throughout all of historic Palestine.
Furthermore, a two-state solution would also prove catastrophic for Jewish Israelis. Apartheid, if it runs out of Arabs to oppress, inevitably will transform into fascism for all - including Jews. That present slide into fascism going on in Israel, the subject of massive Jewish protests against the judicial reforms of the far-right government, would only accelerate if Israel was given carte-blanche by world powers to define itself as the Jewish state in the light of an Arab state next door. We are already witnessing this in the ascendance of openly anti-democracy leaders like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich - to quote Meir Kahane, the role model of Ben-Gvir and other influential ministers of the Israeli government, “The very idea of a ''democratic Jewish state'' is nonsense.”
This fact would be true of an Arab state, or of any state which claims to be both ethnic and democratic, particular and universal. Democracy isn’t complacent to serve one race at a time; it demands that everyone, regardless of race, class, or identity, is entitled by their very humanity to a government which treats it with respect and dignity.
Status-quo intellectuals worry and stress that the two-state solution is dying. We answer: it is dead, and good riddance. No, the only solution which is possible, the only solution which is just, is a much simpler idea: one democracy, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, for Jews and Arabs to live side-by-side in a state which exists to serve its citizens. Such a system grounds the state not in ethnonational fantasies, but instead on the common humanity of its citizens. Such a system is anti-Zionist and anti-Arabist; it is pro-human. Such a system is the antithesis of apartheid, and it is this system that we demand.
This, then, is the cause of our Palestine Solidarity Coalition: to advocate for the creation of one democracy for Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine, through the immediate and total divestment of Dartmouth College from Israeli apartheid.
When we say the word Palestine, we are referring to an idea. That idea is that everyone, regardless of their race, class, or identity, is entitled to a free and happy life.
Our Palestine is not Arab nor is it Jewish, and it is both Arab and Jewish, for it is human. It is a Palestine which begins in Palestine but which grows to confront every injustice, every drop of blood spilled. It is a Palestine which cannot be contained within the narrow walls of hate, a Palestine which refuses to accept the status-quo as it kills, a Palestine which furiously and aggressively demands resistance and love.
There are a thousand of these Palestines, all by different names: some call it worker emancipation, black liberation, indigenous human rights, queer solidarity, so on and so forth. Yet, all of these causes hearken back to this one idea, beating at the heart of every human movement. This is Palestine we are talking about, our cause, our vision, and our means; this is the Palestine we have created here in Hanover.
Take this Palestine, and hold it close to your heart. Feel it beat against your chest, banging against the walls of your ribcage, demanding to return. Then let it in.
The Dartmouth Radical