Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) is an organization at the University of Michigan whose mission statement is to “advance the causes of freedom, justice, human rights and equality for all peoples” with a focus on Palestinian rights. Yet the group has ignored the most heinous crimes against humanity, especially those against Palestinians. Recently, SAFE has been mobilizing a new divestment campaign designed to deceive other students into believing that Israel – a democracy that embraces and respects different views, different religions and different races – is an oppressive regime. The time has come to examine whether SAFE’s motivations are actually rooted in human rights or whether they seek to serve some other purpose of an insidious nature.
SAFE has been absolutely silent about Egypt, which between 1948 and 1967 (when control passed to Israel as a result Egypt’s defeat in the war it initiated against Israel) made Gaza an open-air prison, dumped sewage into Gaza and destroyed many homes on the Rafah border for political retaliation. SAFE has been absolutely silent about Jordan, which during the Black September conflict in 1970 and 1971 killed more Palestinians than have died in their conflict with Israel for more than 67 years. More recently, SAFE has turned the other check while Bashar Assad and various forces in the Syrian conflict have killed over 200,000 civilians and continue on a daily basis to starve many thousands of Palestinian refugees. Most unusual of all, SAFE does not even acknowledge the actions of the Palestinian leaders who have inflicted decades of pain and suffering on their own people.
Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), embezzled over a billion dollars from Palestinian families and deposited the money in offshore bank accounts for the benefit of his own family. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has made the sale of land to a Jew punishable by death and rewards families of terrorists with large sums of money. Hamas is the second richest terror organization in the world while the Palestinians of Gaza live in abject poverty. Hamas forces civilians to stand on rooftops as human shields for its rocket launch sites (which are often hidden in hospitals, schools and mosques) and uses humanitarian aid money to build terror infrastructure. The supplies used to build a single Hamas terror tunnel could be used to build 86 homes, 7 mosques, 6 schools or 19 medical clinics. During Operation Protective Edge, the IDF found more than 30 tunnels, which means the humanitarian aid diverted to build these tunnels could have been used to construct more than 2,530 homes, 210 mosques, 180 schools or 570 medical clinics. These regimes have completely forsaken the well being of their own people, yet they are of no interest to SAFE.
Contrary to its own mission statement (or its own name, for that matter), SAFE has no regard for the advancement of human rights, especially those of Palestinians. It diverts attention away from vast abuses of human rights and instead preaches a myth of Jews stealing Arab land. “Colonialist” and “genocidal” are among the many charges leveled by SAFE against Israel. These charges fly in the face of historical facts.
Jews have lived in the land of Israel for millennia. Many were forced to leave as a result of the Roman conquest over 2000 years ago and were harassed by the Islamic caliphates that ruled over the land over the fall of the Roman Empire some 1500 years ago. The Jews of the First and Second Aliyot (1882-1903 and 1904-1914) were refugees escaping the oppressive anti-Semitism of colonial Europe and the Islamic lands of the Middle East and North Africa. Unlike colonial settlers serving the agendas of imperial nations, the Jewish refugees were escaping the countries that had oppressed them for centuries. In Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine, the Jewish refugees lawfully purchased land from absentee landowners, fertilized what was said to be non-arable land and employed hundreds of Arabs looking for work.
Israel is the only country in modern history to have returned disputed territory crucial to its self-defense in exchange for the (unfulfilled) promise of peace. Its judiciary is the only one in the world that enforces the rule of law during wartime. It has killed fewer civilians in proportion to the number of its own civilians killed than any country in a comparable war. SAFE’s characterizations of Israel are more than distortive of historical facts; they are devoid of any historical facts.
SAFE’s stated mission of upholding human rights is a valid objective. However, its actions have not sought to uphold human rights. SAFE has failed to speak out about past and current violations of human rights that have been and are currently being committed on a massive scale by other Islamic leaders. One can only wonder why SAFE refuses to speak out about the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have been killed in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya at the hands of other Muslims, but instead focuses all of its attention on the actions of a democracy in which members of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths are all free to worship as they please and participate actively in the economy, the government and the armed forces.