An Israeli professor well known for his support of Palestinian rights told a Coolidge Hall audience yesterday that the Intifada is a democratic organization fighting to restore human rights taken away by the Israeli government.
"Intifada has two purposes," said Israel Shahak, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "To struggle against oppression and to liberate for freedom and democratization of Palestinian society," he said.
Shahak cited many examples of government-sanctioned human rights violations committed by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank region. He said members of the Israeli army are allowed to slap Palestinian women to calm them and shut off electric power to Palestinian homes.
In addition, Palestinians are frequently "ordered to shout 'There is no Palestine,'" Shahak said. "Those who don't follow orders are beaten up," he added.
He said Palestinians in the occupied territories are treated as second-class citizens and are not afforded the same rights as Israelis. "There is a crucial difference between Israeli citizens and the occupants of the territories," Shahak said.
Shahak said that the Intifada's goals are moral, and are merely defending land that is rightfully theirs.
"The Intifada began because the land that was open to the Palestinians 23 years ago now has to be avoided by them," Shahak said. He added that the Intifada is a democratic organization with the "tragic aim of changing the society internally."
Shahak added that the movement is not only waging a war on Israel, but also on drugs and prostitution.
Drug users are excluded from Palestinian village meetings and drug dealers are executed, Shahak said, adding that he does not approve of the death penalty for such crimes. He said Palestinians are also cracking down on "houses of prostitution."
Shahak said that although he supports the Palestinians, he does not support Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yassir Arafat.
"I am afraid I am not a fan of Yasir Arafat," Shahak said. "He quite often speaks nonsense."
Approximately 35 people attended the speech by Shahak, who is a chemistry professor and chair of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights.