Author Thomas Suarez leads talk on Israel-Palestine conflict

By Caeli Chesin

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(Collegian File Photo)

Author Thomas Suarez spoke to a group of nearly 100 on the third floor of the Integrative Learning Center last night on the subject of his recent novel, “State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel.”

The talk started with an introduction, followed with an hour-long speech from Suarez and then led to an open discussion among the audience. The talk was co-sponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace, Interlink Publishing, Media Education Foundation and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Suarez started by stating that the Palestinian and Israeli conflict is not the irreversible conflict that it has been made out to be; the common goal for everyone is to reach an end to the conflict.

“That’s why we’re here,” Suarez said.

Within the next hour, Suarez explained the rise of the issue and what he sees as viable solutions.

Throughout his talk, he worked to redirect the narrative the conflict has been given in the past, pressing on the point to re-examine what has already happened. He explained that Zionism, a movement originally for the the re-establishment and now protection of a Jewish nation—currently Israel—is not Jewish self-determination but actually the exact opposite. He went on to explain instances in which, in the attempt to make Israel purely Jewish, Palestinians were forced out of Israel in vicious ways. It was a time where it was seen as worse to raise your kids in a non-Jewish home than it was to be a murderer.

“The fact is that the agency placed Zionists’ need for ethically-correct settlers above the lives of the people,” Suarez said.

Near the end of his talk, he explained that while it may feel like the situation’s intensity calmed after the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the notion is false; zionists, ethnic cleansing and terrorist attacks are still relevant.

“Here we are seven decades later…how do we finally fix this instead of going around talking about it? How do we finally bring peace? Increasingly, it is clear that the only possible solution is what should have happened in 1948— a single, democratic, secular state of equals,” Suarez said near the end of his talk. “The end to the conflict begins when we deprive this conflict of its smoke and mirrors and when we acknowledge there is a single state.”

During discussion, Suarez was asked to give his opinion on Noam Chomsky’s viewpoint that a one-state solution is not possible.

While also acknowledging that Chomsky has often been very thoughtful in his many past arguments, he thinks his perspective on this conflict betrays all the premised thinking in which he had become famous for.

“There’s some sort of disconnect between the person who has been so good on so many progressive issues, so good on the U.S. imperialism, and so good on the Israel-Palestine issue. Then, all of a sudden, to come up with this,” Suarez said.

Suarez was also asked by a Northampton resident about the comparisons between the Israeli military and the American police, in which he responded with the notion of solidarity between movements. He also added that no matter the bigotry and who it’s against, we should join together in solidarity against it.

There were mixed views among attendees, some who questioned Suarez on his explanations during the discussion and some who applauded him for his work.

“I believe this is a good discussion to have, even though this may have not been the best way to go about it,” said Aron Unger, junior public health major who asked the first question during discussion, pointing to certain claims made during Suarez’s original dissertation.

Gabriel Moushabeck is a citizen of Amherst who came out to hear Suarez talk after having read his recent book.

“I think the talk was right on. It was an excellent explanation of how terror began in the state of Israel between 1948 and 1969. But, I really think the book should be read in order to really understand the complexity of what’s going on today,” Moushabeck said.

Senior social thought and political economy major Celia Jailer, who has been involved in Students for Justice in Palestine since her freshman year, said she appreciated that the talk covered the perspective in opposition to the conflict posed as some age-old conflict between religious groups that’s been in existence for forever.

“Work like this that’s historically based….helps refuse this Americanized position where we’re pushing this conflict away as natural or inevitable,” Jailer said.

Caeli Chesin is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @caeli_chesin.