Where is Palestine?

“Where is Palestine? Where is Justice?” read a banner behind Max Blumenthal Tuesday night as he spoke about prejudice to the extreme at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill.

Blumenthal is the author of “Goliath”, a book about the conflict in Israel-Palestine. The conflict in question has been going on since World War II, when displaced Jews settled in Palestine, growing to oppress the native Palestinians. However, the struggle over the land itself is centuries old. As it stands right now, it is rooted essentially in racial prejudice. Israel maintains control over Palestinians who suffer from limited rights, as well as a dangerous environment. Many Palestinians have their homes demolished, their water cut off, and are killed as a result of Israeli oppression.

Blumenthal was not afraid to equate this situation to events in the history books. He referred to the condition as not unlike anti-Semitism during World War II. It is, essentially, religious persecution that results in the deaths and harming of countless people. Blumenthal made references to Northern Ireland and South African Apartheid. He also equated it to colonialism in the United States. If Israel ever got rid of the native Palestinians for good, they could start naming their sports teams after them, he said in a dark comedic reference to what has similarly happened in the U.S. with Native Americans.

Much of the talk focused on options for resolution. Blumenthal frequently referenced Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which in his personal opinion, is the most effective and ethical way to go about it. Essentially, it means to refuse working with Israel until Palestinian rights are respected. Still, there are a lot of ways that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could go down, and in response to a question, Blumenthal admitted that looking toward the future sometimes felt like wondering about the end to a science fiction novel.

The event got heated during the Q&A. A man stood up and asked why Blumenthal had equated Islamophobia with racism, professing to identify as an Islamophobe himself, but didn’t see it as a bad thing. Several audience members began yelling, standing up to object to his comments. Blumenthal responded by thanking the man for his honesty and willingness to share his belief… his belief that the Muslims in his community should enjoy limited rights, similarly to the horrific anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. His point hit home with the rest of the audience, who erupted in applause.

The thing about the audience was this: it was comprised of people who all appeared to be over the age of fifty. This raises the questions, where was the youth community? How much do Seattle University students know and concern themselves with the conflict in Israel-Palestine? Seattle U is a school focused on social justice, and yet no one had walked down the street to attend this talk. It is probably a case of poor advertising in the University community, but many conflicts like this still receive insufficient attention. Blumenthal will be presenting again at the University of Washington this Thursday night.