Opinion guest column

From the River to the Sea to Every Mountain Top

Do you know what actually exists from the river to the sea? A fractured patchwork of different political jurisdictions, within which about seven million Palestinians live without the same basic rights as seven million Jews

Colonizers write about flowers. 

I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks 

seconds before becoming daisies. 

 – Noor Hindi, “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying” 


Today I learned my former host-brother is sleeping on the cold, cratered streets of Deir al-Balah in Gaza – his house destroyed by an Israeli missile, his cousins and uncle assassinated, his family surviving off animal feed and a plant called khoubiza, or mallow, which grows wild between the gutted concrete and shorn rebar. We’am, a host-sister, told me four months ago the bread lines grow long. I wake up every day wondering if she is dead. Fadi, a dentist student I met in Cairo is now trapped in Rafah with his elders, his family home destroyed by an Israeli bomb, ‘fighting to preserve the humanity that remains,’ he told me. Ma bdi akl. Bdi aish – ‘I don’t want food; I want to live.’ At least 30,000 people have been killed by the Israeli military since October – among the highest rates of killing in any war of this century. About 1.9 million or 85% of Gaza’s population are displaced, and the World Health Organization projects another 74,000 will die of starvation and disease in the next six months. The Israeli military, with American arms and taxes, has destroyed levels of civilian infrastructure on par with the Nazi and Allied bombing campaigns of Guernica, Dresden, Warsaw, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. The horror is palpable in the mass graves, the ruins of churches, mosques, schools, hospitals, and libraries, the cries of children buried under rubble which we hear on Instagram every day.  

This war is also driven by clear genocidal impulses. “I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza” said Israeli minister May Golan last week, “that every baby, even 80 years from now, will tell their grandchildren what the Jews did.” This retributive sentiment is not limited to Golan’s mainstream Likud party or MIT alumnus Benjamin Netanyahu, who sits at the helm of the Israeli government. It is shared by cabinet ministers, the major parties, military brass, and common soldiers. The sentiment is obvious in the smiles of Israeli soldiers who jeer at and humiliate their hostages, in the pride and impunity with which they livestream their favorite collection of dead women’s underwear, in the glee of Israeli counter-protestors who block the few aid trucks into Gaza and eat cotton candy and slushies while Gazans on the other side starve. The sentiment is also shared by the broader Israeli public, two-thirds of whom oppose “the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza residents.” This festival of horrors did not begin with the Hamas attack on October 7. Societies do not disfigure into fascist revelry overnight. What is happening in Gaza is the dark fruit of over a century of settler colonialism and apartheid in the Holy Land, consecrated by American firepower, ideology, and institutions.  

Agenda Setting and Things Left Unsaid 

MIT plays a unique role in this unholy alliance. It is a prestigious academic node of the U.S. military-industrial complex and the head of $23.5 billion endowment. When my comrades and I in the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA) challenge this node, we face a withering campaign of sanctions, hate speech, and misdirection. This is partially manifested in the way MIT chooses to define the relevant issue space. In my field of political science, there is an old insight by E.E. Schattschneider that “some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out.” The people who set agendas, who decide the rules of the game, and define the terms of debate have a special kind of authority. They decide, in other words, the institutional arena in which popular contention happens. This agenda-setting is sometimes called the hidden, “second face” of power.  

At MIT in 2024, a core issue organized into university politics is the “question” of free speech over campus safety and order, particularly in view of protests against Israeli apartheid and the ongoing, mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza. By the lights of President Sally Kornbluth, Provost Cynthia Barnhart, and Chancellor Melissa Nobles, the twin obligations of campus order and free speech are imagined as a trade-off – one that requires a delicate “balance” and lends itself to obsessive scrutiny into such high-stakes affairs as whether the MIT CAA properly filled out an event form or met with administrators three business days in advance before a vigil.  According to President Kornbluth’s letter, the CAA was suspended for violating these “normal permission processes.” Its MIT-hosted website was shut down and 13 of its student organizers were sanctioned presumably for the same reason. Now isn’t the enforcement of reasonable, ‘rules for the road’ for campus protest always a good thing?  

No. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, a law can be “just on its face but unjust in its application.” As he explains: 

“I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the first amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust…I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly...” 

MIT uses its rules to preserve ties with an Israeli apartheid state and de-mobilize students of conscience toward less political fora. It’s also clear we should be skeptical of MIT’s framing. Universities do not threaten students with suspension over jangled doorknobs or event forms, any more than the Confederacy went to war with the U.S. North over abstract theories of federalism and states’ rights. In W.E.B. Du Bois’ words, slave-holding Virginia fought “for property and privilege.” Similarly, MIT suspends its anti-apartheid students not out of an abstract commitment to rules about permits; Fossil Free MIT held a sit-in around the clock in the Infinite Corridor for four straight months in 2016, despite violating regulations in force at the time against after-hours activity. The Black Graduate Student Association have righteously "disrupted the peace" with protests in and around Lobby 7 over the 2019/2020 year, while groups like MIT Students Against War and Democratize MIT have marched through the halls of the School of Architecture and Planning in protest of the institute’s ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, libertarian oil baron David Koch, and the autocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Do you think they worried about permits? 

Nor are the admin’s sanctions exactly about safety; both actions in Lobby 7 on November 7 and February 12 as well as all events in between were peaceful, non-violent, allowed egress, and gave public notice. No organizer incited harassment or hatred against any individual or ethnic group. I know because I was there and because the reports by MIT’s own admin and faculty say so. Instead MIT administrators, under pressure, shut down anti-apartheid students and cancel their events to preserve a particular status quo of power and reputation. This pressure comes from sections of the U.S. Congress, donor class, faculty, trustees, and staff, who see the CAA and our peers at Harvard, Brandeis, and elsewhere as an unruly and potentially bigoted mob that must be taught a lesson. 

These sanctions are emblematic of a new red scare in national media, whose hysteria about wide-spread antisemitism in the pro-Palestine student movement is exceeded only by the dull tranquility of general MIT student life. According to two orthodox Jewish students writing in November, “campus life has, for the most part, remained the same.” MIT remains a place where students go to class and struggle over p-sets, where the dining halls offer kosher and halal options, where Hillel, Chabad, and the MIT Israel Alliance run rallies, speaker circuits, and inter-collegiate kumzit, where “Jewish and Muslim students peacefully coexist” at MIT’s Religious Activity Center, “as they have for decades,” where campus initiatives such as Standing Against Hate and Dialogues Across Difference trundle along, but where most students, for better or worse, are stubbornly apathetic toward political and human rights causes they don’t think immediately affect them.  

What then are the issues ‘organized out’ of university politics? First, MIT receives direct funding by the Israeli Ministry of Defense for surveillance and ballistic targeting research. Consider the project names from MIT’s financial disclosures:  Algorithms for Underwater Persistent Monitoring, Multifunctional Fiber System for Magnetic Wave Sensing, Heterogenous Multiagent Systems for Perimeter Defense Problems, and Rapidly Scanning Random Trees for Pursuit Evasion Games. Should we not be disturbed? “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Second, MIT hosts venues such as the Startup Exchange to connect its students and faculty to weapon manufacturers like Elbit, Raytheon, Caterpillar, Inc and BAE system. These firms are the raw suppliers of Israeli occupation hardware – its drones, D9 bulldozers, fighter jets, and artillery. Lockheed Martin even sponsors a $150,000 seed fund, administered by the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, to connect students with its weapon laboratories and offices in Israel.  

Third, the MIT Corporation dynamically manages a $23.5 billion endowment. In a world of increasingly complex asset securitization (ETFs, hedge funds, and private equity), the specifics of MIT’s opaque portfolio are difficult to fully chart. But if investigations at Harvard are any guide, endowments as large as MIT’s likely hold assets of companies which the UN, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International believe to support the Israeli settler enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories. Does MIT also invest in Israeli bonds, like Norway’s sovereign wealth fund did until a few weeks ago? We don’t fully know. Finally, MIT holds the unique distinction of being the only American university to host a weapons lab entirely bankrolled by the U.S. Department of Defense; the Lincoln Laboratories currently hold a $20 billion contract over the 2015-2025 period and conduct classified research in ballistics, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyberwarfare, and “war games.” The dark fruits of these innovations are ultimately routed not just to the U.S. military itself but re-packaged in the form of aid to American client states and allies. The state of Israel receives the lion’s share of such Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants.   

Of course, none of these issues are on the table when MIT sends campus-wide announcements about the CAA or organizes a seminar on antisemitism. Why would it? There are no institutional incentives absent a vigorous, disruptive anti-war movement among students and faculty. And so the tension between what’s said and unsaid slides into a bizarre kind of Orwellian doublethink: MIT condemns the incitement of violence, but then hosts a research lab to perfect state violence. It talks endlessly about a safe campus but collaborates with the Israeli military to make a very unsafe Middle East. It stands against hate but not against genocide. It extols free speech but then sanctions the students who use free speech. Its President introduces a principle of “institutional neutrality” on world crises while MIT collaborates with a principal party in said crisis.  

Whose Rules? 

In the end, MIT asks the CAA to follow rules. Very well. Must institutions follow rules? When universities – their endowments and weapon research labs – provide material support to a foreign government engaged in the ethnic cleansing of a civilian population, are they breaking the rules? Rules like the Geneva and Genocide Conventions, the Material Support clause, the Leahy Laws? Or do rules just mean that students fill out event forms? Instead, students of conscience are encouraged to de-mobilize toward less political fora, to refocus their passions toward the question of whose feelings are hurt and why, to subordinate the causes of justice to the more worthy goal of a “smooth functioning of the campus community,” to protest but only in ways that are inoffensive, undisruptive and easily ignored, and to engage in civil ‘Dialogues across Difference’ – a worthy activity, but far from an activism that challenge power and vested interest. Do you see the subtle shift? The political is evacuated of its moral urgency. The material erodes into the discursive. The solidarity of ‘We’ collapses into the attention-seeking of ‘I’. The demand for justice and equality is abandoned in favor of a preference for order. 

No. Conscience requires that MIT reinstate the CAA, retract its threats against student organizers, and remove bureaucratic obstructions to protest. These are intermediate steps, of course. The long-term goal is that the MIT Corporation capitulates to a rising tide of student and faculty power; that it stops accepting money from the Israeli military, ends partnerships with arms companies like Lockheed Martin that sell to the Israeli military; divests its endowment and declares it free of Israeli bonds and the stock of companies that facilitate the occupation of the Palestinian territories; and announces clear redlines to the U.S. federal government that Lincoln Labs research should not benefit the Israeli government so long as it engages in policies of apartheid, occupation, and genocide.  

This agenda invites a list of ignorant and cynical complaints. Aren’t we missing the main villain? Aren’t universities soft targets? Why not protest at the local, state, or federal capitol instead of in Lobby 7? Or just call Congress representatives? Why not be satisfied with campus teach-ins, vigils, charity events, and raising awareness? Why waste energy punching at walls that won’t budge? Studies show for instance that the divestment campaigns for Free South Africa in the 1980s had no long-term impact on company share price. Why attempt pressure tactics on MIT that will not seriously impede Israel’s ability to procure weapons or MIT graduate labor? Why be so focused on Israel anyway while Indonesia occupies West Papua, China, Tibet, and Russia Ukraine? Aren’t you just cosplaying revolutionary for your own psychological benefit?  

The answer is that universities like MIT do matter as targets of student activism; they are complicit in a regime of Israeli apartheid but espouse public commitments to equality and human flourishing. These contradictions can be challenged by students and faculty who do not enjoy such unique leverage in other arenas. And because of Israel’s unique and historic dependence on American public finance, arms, and diplomacy, students at American universities have leverage over Israel to a degree we simply don’t have for the people of West Papua, Tibet, or Ukraine. It is true that divesting MIT of Israel, like the divestment campaigns against apartheid South Africa, may have no long-term impact on company profits or the Israeli bond market; less scrupulous actors buy up the divested shares. Same story for arms embargoes or consumer boycotts.  

But this critique misses the point. To divest a university like MIT, or strip it of ties to Israeli military, or announce a major strike pledge to withhold our labor from firms complicit in the Israeli occupation sends a costly signal about our values. The struggle against oppressive regimes is a struggle against their legitimacy as much as their material capabilities. If Israel can oppress Palestinians with our science, let them do it without us. We do not need to participate. MIT should, instead, affirm human life. 

Of course, MIT is just one front in generating momentum for a mass movement and making inroads into state power. It is the beginning, not the end. It is not limited to campus direct action. Members from the MIT  CAA have protested at the Capitol twice, on November 4 and January 13. We show up in Boston and at the Cambridge City Council regularly. We hold teach-ins, with Leila Farskh, Les Field, and Miko Peled, and these complement the events organized by coalition members – the teach-ins by MIT Black Student Union on Black/Palestinian solidarity, shabbat dinners by MIT Jews for Ceasefire, the political readings of Readings for Revolution, and fundraisers by Palestine@MIT. The CAA is a broad coalition; it contains the multitudes of the MIT student fabric – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, secular, Black, White, Arab, Desi, Hispanic, Queer, graduate, undergraduate, and so on. It is united by the principle that the fight for Palestinian liberation occurs within a broader movement for the liberation of all oppressed peoples and that every human being has the right to a life of dignity.  


We are each moved to support Palestine for different reasons. For me, the Holy Land is a place of profound meaning to my Christian faith. It is where I discovered Oscar Romero’s “violence of love” that beats weapons into sickles for work. Palestine is where my friends live under apartheid and occupation. This Israeli occupation is a brutal and degrading regime I have seen with my own eyes over my time living in the Palestinian territories and in Jerusalem itself. I hear it in the stories of Gazan children who stayed in my family home over the years with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund to receive medical treatment. I support the Palestinian people because I am tired of watching old men and women on video show me scabs and bruises from when they were detained and beaten in Israeli military. I am haunted by the orphan in Gaza who tells me in Arabic that all his family were killed and that he sleeps on the unlit road hoping someone would run him over. There are at least 17,000 orphans now in Gaza. 

I support the end to apartheid because Mahmoud Darwish said “the occupier and myself – both of us suffer from exile. He is an exile in me and I am the victim of his exile.” Because in the state of Israel today, about 2 million Arab citizens of Israel live under surveillance, many in communities suffering under organized abandon by the state and planned “judaization.” Because in Jerusalem, my friend Ahmed lives in annexed Israeli territory, but he and his wife do not have full voting rights. There are 372,000 of them. Because Iman in Ramallah has never seen the Mediterranean or the Sea of Galilee. To do so requires a permit, like the old South African pass laws. Should she fall in love, she cannot easily marry a Palestinian from Haifa, Nazareth, or Jerusalem (or a Jew for that matter), without leaving the country.  

I support the end to apartheid because my mother’s friend Samir lives with his three children in Bethlehem enclosed by checkpoints, walls, watchtowers, and ever-growing Israeli settlements. An Israeli citizen in the same physical space falls under Israeli civil law; Samir falls under Israeli military law. There are 2.7 million such Palestinians in the West Bank. I support the end to apartheid because my colleague Dana lives in the diaspora, cut off from the land of her grandparents who were expelled by Zionist militias. Anyone born of a Jewish mother can easily visit or obtain residency rights in the land of Israel and historic Palestine. The Palestinian diaspora cannot, and there are 6 million of them.  

I support the end to apartheid because in 1948, more than 90% of Palestine’s Christian and Muslim Arabs within the borders of the declared state of Israel were expelled as stateless refugees. The few who remained, many in northern cities such as Nazareth and Haifa, lived under military rule until 1966. Upon winning the 1967 war against its Arab neighbors, Israel then occupied the Sinai, Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank – subjecting large, urbanized populations of Palestinians in the latter two regions to a regime of military rule that has lasted now more than half a century. In 1980, Israel formalized its annexation of East Jerusalem, conferring on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem a special ID status short of full citizenship and voting rights. With the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, Israel outsourced the governance of major Palestinian cities in the occupied territories to the newly-created Palestinian Authority but retained about two-thirds of the land, called Area C, for its own military and settler enterprise.  

I support the end to apartheid because these settlers live under different laws, hold different IDs, drive on different roads, attend different schools, and vote in different elections than their native Palestinian neighbors. Their most influential voices in Knesset politics (Tkuma, Otzma Yehudit, Jewish Home, Likud parties) embrace an irridentist, messianic, theocratic, and far-right vision of Jewish supremacy at any cost. Since 2003, Israel has built a massive Separation Wall through Jerusalem and the West Bank. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, swapping a direct land occupation for a crippling blockade by air, land, and sea.  

Some of my fellow MIT students take issue with the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” But do you know what actually exists from the river to the sea? A fractured patchwork of different political jurisdictions, within which about seven million Palestinians live without the same basic rights as seven million Jews. Human rights groups call it apartheid. It is an apartheid of walls, concrete, checkpoints, housing demolitions, settler attacks, censorship, confiscated land, and imprisonment without trial.  

Inevitably, this regime inspires armed and at times brutal resistance. As Thomas Paine wrote of the uprisings against the French plantation colony in Haiti in the 1790s, “It is the natural consequence of slavery and must be expected every where.” The last few decades have been punctuated by periodic, devastating wars in Gaza, where Hamas organizes the last hold-out of serious Palestinian armed resistance to Israeli rule. Tareq Baconi calls this cycle the “violent equilibrium.” Since the early 2000s, Israel created a security architecture that would allow Israel to divide-and-conquer the West Bank and Gaza, prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state, and repress any serious resistance to its rule. The implicit wager of Israel’s right-wing rulers was that the cost of these wars would be small enough to be ignored by the Israeli public. That the Palestinians, entombed behind concrete and fences, could be ignored forever. One wonders if the October 7 attacks have torn asunder this illusion. 

These wars of course reflect a colonial double standard: that any Palestinian violence is the sui generis act of a savage, not of a severely constrained political actor operating in the Manichean divisions of the settler-colony. That Palestinian violence justifies Israeli violence of any form – hospitals, mosques, churches, schools, apartment buildings, power plants, civil infrastructure are all valid targets. That no Israeli violence ever justifies any Palestinian violence (one must suffer occupation with saintly resolve, even gratitude); that Israel has an iron-clad right to self-defense, but that Palestinians have none.  

I support the end to apartheid because this unholy and precarious arrangement is underwritten by American weapons, justified publicly by American politicians and diplomats, bankrolled by American taxes, shielded by American military assets, sanctified by American pastors and rabbis, and ignored by the American public. It is an arrangement papered over by MIT itself, which refuses to divest its $23.5 billion endowment from Israeli companies or end its partnerships with the Israeli government and US-based weapons suppliers. Instead, the administration prefers to represent itself, deceptively, as a neutral midwife of higher education. This is a lie. I follow Noam Chomsky, Willard R. Johnson, the MIT Physics Department and other former lights of the MIT community who took a principled stand against war, nuclear armament, and apartheid in their own time, and who connected that stand with the policy of the university. It requires me to say, along with the Palestinian Knesset member Ayman Odeh, “Cursed be they who cry out: Revenge. We choose life.” We choose life in Palestine.  

This principle also requires us to recognize that basic tradeoff between war and human flourishing which Dwight D. Eisenhower once identified in his Cross of Iron speech: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” We want our science and engineering to affirm all human life, not death. 

Finally, I support the end to apartheid because I am moved by my Palestinian and Israeli comrades: Amjad Iraqi, Mosab Abu Toha, Yuval Avraham, Daniel Boyarin, Gideon Levy, Noura Erakat, Rashida Tlaib. I am guided by the witness of Aaron Bushnell. By leftist Jews in the United States. By the US Civil Rights movement and the black radical tradition. And by the legacies of Irish unification and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. I also recall the 1995 Dayton Accords, which however imperfect, stopped the Bosnian genocide, ended the Balkan war, and established a multi-ethnic, consociational democracy in Bosnia which has held for three decades. These legacies convince me that a meaningful off-ramp to Israeli apartheid and its genocidal war in Gaza requires a permanent and immediate ceasefire, a release of all captives held by Hamas and Israel, an end to the siege on Gaza, a return of refugees to their homes, a war crimes tribunal, and a global campaign to compel Israel to end apartheid in favor of mass enfranchisement, equal rights, and the creation of progressive, secular, social democracy in a free Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.  

This is not a utopian or alien position; it is quite possible and rooted in the oldest political visions of the Palestinian national movement and Jewish tradition. The coalitions exist to achieve it. In fact, it’s the only future that does not preserve Israel as an ethnic supremacist state or lead to mass population transfers, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing. To do this, the anti-apartheid coalition must gain leverage into the American state. This process of course starts locally, in places such as MIT or Cambridge.  It is what guided me and my partner to support the MIT CAA and participate in the sit-ins, which I understand as a disruptive and conspicuous act of protest and civil disobedience against the will of the MIT administration. We will likely continue to attend and support the coalition at future direct actions. 

Hamas and Zionists 

Supporters of Israel may continue to see us as unruly bigots, committing vile acts of anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish hatred that make students feel unsafe on campus. So did white southerners think that integrated bussing made their communities unsafe. “When I criticize a system, they think I criticize them” wrote Thomas Merton. “And that is of course because they fully accept the system and identify themselves with it.” Zionists like to object to a particular means of contention – this or that chant, the defiant tone, a lack of enthusiasm for the depoliticized venues of dialogue. But how do you dialogue in good faith with an ethnic supremacist? “We can disagree and still love each other” said James Baldwin, “unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” No anti-apartheid student should be obligated to engage in morally exhausting exercises unless they want to. 

Moreover anti-Zionism – that is, opposition to the establishment and maintenance of a Jewish state by force – is quite kosher. It is rooted in mainstream Jewish tradition and spans Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox and Hassidic sects. Its roots lie in Biblical scripture and the Hebrew prophets, the writings of Rashi, Maimonides, Mendelssohn, Teitelbaum, and Judah Leon Magnes. In secular circles, we see its progressive values at work in the historic Israeli Matzpen and Communist parties, the Hadash, and Israel’s beleaguered human rights community – B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din, and Adalah. In the United States, we have IfNotNow, Jewish Voices for Peace and MIT’s own Jews for Ceasefire. Frequently it is said these groups do not represent the Jewish community. Neither did the Jews who took a stand against apartheid South Africa or volunteered for Freedom Summer in Mississippi. “People who demand justice when they have the luxury of indifference are rarely representative,” Peter Beinart once observed. “That's why we remember their courage.” 

Zionists in the press and on campus sometimes tar us as Hamas apologists and to that end harass and dox students by putting their personal information on blacklist sites like Canary Mission. This is the tactic of bullies and cowards, but it is likely driven by a sense of insecurity. “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly” wrote James Baldwin, “is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” Indeed, it can be painful to see the dead bodies of one’s kin in Sderot and Be’eri; it was painful for me, and I am not Israeli. But to go beyond vapid condemnations of Hamas, one must ask why Hamas’ call to arms resonates among the young orphans who make up its brigades. As a scholar of Islamist politics, I point to the classic studies of Hamas by Khaled Hroub, Jeroen Gunning, Sara Roy, and Tareq Baconi, who locate the overriding answer to this question in the intransigence of the Israeli occupation.  

Put yourself in their shoes. If you watched a foreign people take your grandfather’s land, torture your uncle, shoot your cousin, imprison your sister, invade your holy site, and subject your nation to a humiliating siege in a calorie-counted ghetto while the world watches and does nothing, would it not also be tempting to take up arms? It was so in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. It was resentment against British rule, not bigotry against the Protestant, that propelled Irish youth to join the Irish Republican Army struggle in Ulster. To end the cycle of violence in Palestine, one needs a Good Friday Agreement. One must show the world that mass, civic non-violence also can make material gains, that it carries dignity and ennobles. This is precisely what the MIT CAA is trying to do.   

Finally, the cynics might see us as deluded peaceniks – utopian, cringe, stupid. Yet I am similarly struck by the pessimism of those who until the very last moment could not imagine the Berlin Wall falling, who saw “one man, one vote” in South Africa as a pipe dream, and who believed Jim Crow was etched in stone. For this reason, I think we must commit to an irrational, radical hope – to a solidarity that is global and indivisible, that is founded as Robin Kelly once wrote, “not on shared experience but shared principles.” No one can fully grasp what lies beyond the moral horizon. But we can continue the long march to that horizon, undaunted by the world’s grief – committed to “mourn the dead” as the protest slogan goes, “and fight like hell for the living” – from the river to the sea to every mountain top. I hope you join us. People are dying. 

Richard Solomon is a PhD student in the MIT Department of Political Science where he studies Middle East politics and the political economy of trade. He is a member of the MIT Coalition for Palestine and the MIT Grads for Palestine. Before MIT, he worked as a consular diplomat with the U.S. Department of State in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The views expressed above are his alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. government or any MIT affiliated organization.