Rabbi speaks at NUDivest event on Israel-Palestine conflict


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Midwest regional director for the American Friends Service Committee and social justice activist, speaks to a crowd of about 60 students, faculty and community members at an event hosted by NUDivest. Rosen spoke about justice for Palestine and the importance of social movements like NUDivest.

Mariana Alfaro, Assistant Campus Editor

Rabbi Brant Rosen, co-chairman of the Jewish Voice for Peace rabbinical council, spoke Thursday night to a crowd of about 60 students, faculty and Evanston community members about the importance of demonstration and conversation regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The event was hosted by organizers of NUDivest, which calls for the University to “divest from corporations that are profiting off of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands,” according to its website.

Rosen, who identifies as an activist and advocate for peace in Palestine, spoke about misconceptions and misunderstandings about groups like NUDivest — which follows the Boycott Divestment Sanctions model — and the role of Jewish activists in the struggle for peace and justice for Palestinians. He compared his role as a pro-Palestine activist to that of a mandated reporter.

“A mandated reporter … is mandated by law to report abuse that you know is going on,” said Rosen, the Midwest regional director for the American Friends Service Committee. “In the triage of things that you need to do when abuse is ongoing is to make sure that people or persons who are being victimized is no longer victimized. The first order of business is to end the abuse.”

That, he said, is a model of how he addresses the Israel-Palestine issue.

“There is very real abuse going on against Palestinians, inflicted by Israelis right now,” Rosen said. “We know this, I know this. It takes many different forms.”

Rosen said the occupation of the West Bank and the military occupation of Palestine by Israel are some examples of how Palestinians are being pressured and abused.

“Nobody is holding the abuser to account,” he said. “There is no government in the world, no international body is telling Israel it can’t do this … it is required of us to call out this abuse, to shine a light on it publicly and to do what we can to end it.”

That, he said, is where the BDS movement comes in.

“This is not an effort that is being done on behalf of Palestinians from outside Israel-Palestine. This originated from Palestinians themselves. It is a call from Palestinian society,” Rosen said. “(Various Palestinian groups) basically put out a call to the world to support their struggle for human rights, for civil rights.”

NUDivest, which Rosen considers a “non-violent movement,” targets six different corporations that have been linked to the conflict in Israel-Palestine, including The Boeing Company, British security company G4S and Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturer.

“The BDS campaign is not a human rights campaign,” Rosen said. “It is a campaign that is standing in solidarity with the (oppressed) people.”

NUDivest has drawn both praise and criticism for its goals, the latter most recently in an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune by Law Prof. Steven Lubet, an article Rosen referenced during the event.

“I found this article offensive, I felt that it was patronizing to Northwestern students and to the organizers of this campaign who are important and remarkable leaders,” he said.

Noah Whinston, a Weinberg junior and a member of NUDivest, invited Rosen to speak and created the event.

“There is a sort of misperception on campus and in the world that being Jewish means that you must have some particular type of relationship towards Israel,” Whinston said. “I think Rabbi Rosen is a great example of a great Jew, a great man and a great rabbi who rejects that norm.”

Imtisal Khokher, a Weinberg senior and another organizer of the event, said the event cleared misconceptions regarding NUDivest’s purpose.

“We thought it was a really important conversation to have, especially with the misconception that supporters of BDS (and) NUDivest are just Arab or just Palestinian,” she said. “We come from all over the world and from all different struggles. It was important to show that Judaism and Zionism are not the same thing. Zionism is a political movement. … Judaism is a religion.”

This story was updated for clarity at 7:55 p.m. on Saturday.

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