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Tour promo strikes a sour note

The April 2013 issue of the Bulletin featured an advertisement for “a tour of timeless Israel” [Oct. 15–26] from the Alumni College Abroad office. This tour violates the growing international boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement to bring the Israeli government into compliance with international law. The movement—recently supported by British physicist Stephen Hawking—is for a comprehensive economic, academic, and cultural boycott comparable to the efforts that helped end apartheid in South Africa. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu was quoted as saying in The Nation in 2002, “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure—in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

For those who take this trip to the Holy Land, please keep in mind that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was founded upon the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Planned stops on the Swarthmore tour include Ein Kerem (originally ‘Ayn Karim) and Ein Hod (originally ‘Ayn Hawd), two of the more than 400 Palestinian villages depopulated by Jewish militias to make room for Jewish immigrants. Also, when you visit the grounds of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, you can look north to see the remnants of Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, armed Zionists entered this village of several hundred people, killing more than 100. Zionist leaders then used the story of this massacre to induce terror in other Palestinian villages and encourage their inhabitants to flee, according to Israeli scholar, Ilan Pappe. Timeless wonders, indeed.

Dahlia Wasfi ’93
Newark, Del.

8 Responses to “Tour promo strikes a sour note”

  1. To the Bulletin Editor:

    The boycott/divestment sanctions (BSD) movement against Israel is terribly mis-directed and unjust. Dr. Dahlia S. Wasti '93 is a wonderful, well-meaning humanitarian, and is well aware of the heart-ache of killings in her former homeland of Iraq. But, with respect, it appears she does not grasp the constant non-stop killing and hatred directed against Israel beginning with its creation and continuing daily thereafter, by all its surrounding and internal enemies. Is there a viable partner with which Israel can jointly seek peace? It appears that, with few exceptions, the Arabic and Islamic worlds are dedicated to Israel's violent destruction. Inflammatory words like "apartheid" and "massacre" might be directed to Islamic and Arabic terrorism, if such words are to be used at all. A positive position, which Dr. Wasfi might well embrace, could be a two state solution coupled with acceptance by the parties of their continued peaceful existence.

    Bill Hirsch '49

  2. Thank you very much, Bill Hirsch '49, for the dialogue on this critical issue. Personally, I support a single, democratic, secular state with one-person, one vote and rights distributed according to citizenship rather than ethnicity. But my opinion here is not relevant; the future of the region is up to the people who live there and have the right of return. Where my opinion matters, I believe, is here in the US where I was born and mostly raised ("mostly" because I spent part of my childhood in Iraq; I have been completely raised). I am strongly opposed to the 3 billion dollars in military aid the US gives to Israel every year in violation of the US Arms Export Control Act. It is because of blind American political, military, and financial support that Israel is able to continue and expand its illegal occupation of Palestine (and the Golan Heights of Syria; and from time to time, southern Lebanon; and at one point, Egypt).

    Respectfully, as Rachelle Marshall writes in "Triumph & Calamity: Israeli Historians Expose Myth of Israel's Birth*," the traditionally accepted history of Israel's creation is "mythology." Furthermore, "Because the myth of Israel's birth was so closely linked to the horrors of the Holocaust, to question its truth was for years as unthinkable as doubting the truth of the Holocaust itself. But today a new breed of historians is challenging much of that myth…The current debunking process…is being carried out for the first time by Israeli Jews–a younger generation of historians with impeccable credentials as Zionists, patriotic Israelis and scholars."

    I highly recommend this article in its entirety:

    *Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1995, pgs. 6, 101-102

  3. Dear D. Wasli:

    Thank you for your 12/12/13 response. It is not my opinion, but a fact, that the money furnished to various countries, including Israel, Egypt and others, is compliant with the law in every respect. Further, the money is an indication of Congressional intent consistent U.S. strategic interests. Contrary to your assertion, Congress is not "blind" to the various objectives of financial aid. Also, there is no myth to Israel's birth; it fought off a multi national army of hatred, seeking to eliminate Israel. Judging from your letter, it appears that such sentiment still exists, irrespective of its lack of basis. The so-called debunking process is someone's invention; perhaps created out of air by R. Marshall. Two questions, among others, are: does the press fully report the deadly rockets sent into Israel, regularly, by its hateful neighbors; and who can negotiate fully for the so-called Palestinian position?

    Bill Hirsch

  4. It seems that Mr. Hirsch has failed to investigate the history written by an entire generation of Jewish Israeli "revisionist" historians. Of course, Arab authors and authors of various backgrounds have also written, but we Jews need to hear it from other Jews first. By way of introduction I was the teenage president if a Zionist youth group in the New York suburb where I was raised, and I lived and worked in Israel for a short time in my twenties. I believed all that Mr. Hirsch has written because at the time it was difficult to get any real information, so the propaganda that passed for history was all we had. Now that is not the case, and I hope Mr. Hirsch will take my suggestion and investigate further. It's difficult to write a brief synopsis of the history, but to focus on the areas where Mr. Hirsch is mistaken: Zionists always intended to ethnically cleanse the native population of Palestine. There was a "transfer committee" in place for the entire history of the pre-state "Yishuv", the organized Jewish settlement in pre-state Palestine. As soon as the UN partition plan passed in 1947, Zionist terrorist groups began ethnically cleansing Palestinian villages. Palestinian resistance began in response to this. In April 1948 Zionist terrorists committed a massacre at the village of Deir Yassin that Dr. Wasfi mentions, in May 1948, the British ended their occupation, Israeli independence was declared, and only then, after ongoing ethnic cleansing and an horrific massacre, the regular Arab armies attacked. When they did so, they did it in defense if the Arabs of Palestine who were being massacred and run out of their homes. By war's end over three quarters of a million people were made homeless, the Arab armies were tragically defeated in their efforts to stop the slaughter, which included 30 documented massacres, and the racist Jewish exclusivist state of Israel was born. Israel has been expansionist ever since, notably conquering in 1967 the balance of Palestine that it did not conquer in 1948, along with other territories belonging to its neighbors. Unable to annex the West Bank due to inevitable global response, it never the less continues to settle the occupied area in defiance of international law. It is additionally in defiance of international law in its failure to repatriate Palestinian refugees. Mr. Hirsch is defending the indefensible, and really should research the subject further before offering any further opinions. I concur with Dr. Wasfi's objection to Swarthmore's violation of BDS.

  5. I am writing to express my solidarity with Dahlia Wasfi and my agreement with her letter in the October issue of the Bulletin in which she criticized the Alumni College Abroad’s “tour of timeless Israel” for occluding the Israeli Government’s rampant and widespread violations of the human rights of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

    It would be more consistent with the college’s Quaker origins to offer, instead, a “human rights” tour of Israel and the Occupied Territories. First stop on the tour should be a visit to the site near the Rafah refugee camp where American college student and peace-activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003 for attempting to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes. Tour participants could meet some of the 45% of Palestinians in Gaza under the age of 30 who are unemployed due to the Israeli blockade, travel to the West Bank checkpoints where Palestinian laborers spend their nights standing in long lines so they can cross into Israel the next morning to go to work, visit the Gush Etzion police station where Palestinian youths are routinely tortured to extract confessions to rock-throwing or other “subversive” activities, and lay wreaths on the graves of some of the 526 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces since January of 2009.

    A “human rights” tour would enable alumni to meet Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists in B’tselem and other similar organizations (see and join with them in exposing these and other human rights violations and demanding an end to the Occupation.

    Eliot Lee Grossman '70
    Attorney at Law

  6. Dear Mr. Hirsch–
    From "Rabbis Support Protestant Leaders' Call to End Unconditional Military Aid to Israel" (10/22/12):

    "It is hardly outrageous for American taxpayers to require Israel's compliance with our nation's laws and policies. The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act specifically prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations, limiting the use of U.S. weapons to 'internal security' or 'legitimate self-defense.'

    "As the letter notes, the most recent 2011 U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories detailed numerous human rights violations committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians — many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons."

    Question 1: The rockets aimed at Israel do not come from "hateful neighbors" but from people suffering under a brutal, illegal military occupation since 1967 and an economic blockade since at least 2006. The root of the violence is Israel's state-sponsored terrorism. When Israeli aggression ends, so will its victims' response to it. US press coverage of Israel-Palestine is well-explained in the documentary "Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land" (

    Question 2: Palestinians had legitimate democratic elections in 2006 for a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Many of the candidates were arrested by Israel before and after the elections. According to the human rights organization Addameer, "Although according to international law and Israeli courts no one can be detained for their political opinions, in practice Palestinian political leaders are routinely arrested and detained as part of an ongoing Israeli effort to suppress Palestinian political processes – and, as a result, Palestinian political sovereignty and self-determination."

    Addameer documents the total number of PLC members in detention at the end of each month since January 2009 here:

  7. In 1994 I participated in a "peace studies mission" to Israel and Palestine, along with other Trico students and a Bryn Mawr professor. We met Israelis and Palestinians and got a sense of the deep divisions and glimmers of hope for peace. I agree that that sort of trip is more in line with the college's Quaker origin, though I do wish that 20 years after my trip this discussion were moot.

  8. Dear Readers,

    Thank you for this stimulating conversation. As a reminder, our policy is to facilitate discussions that address topics in the magazine for two issues after the original publication. The “Tour promo strikes a sour note” letter addressed content that appeared in our April issue. Therefore, we are concluding discussion of this topic with the posting by Eman Quotah ’95. In addition, the editors reserve the final decision to publish and edit any letter—there is no guarantee that all letters received will be published. Views expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the official views or policies of the College.


    Sherri Kimmel