The 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry called for a boycott of Israel during his lecture Thursday morning at the 14th Hancock Symposium.
George P. Smith addressed the crowd at Westminster College on a topic he considers himself an "amateur" in. For 15 years, Smith has studied the Palestinian struggle for equal rights living in Israel and the Palestinian exodus from 1947-49, also known as the Nakba.
"A catastrophe happened to Palestine. More than half of the Palestinian-Arab indigenous people of Palestine were expelled from the part of Palestine that was to become Israel," Smith said.
During the Nakba, mass looting took place in various cities such as Lydda and Ramle, Smith said. More than 50,000 Palestinians were displaced from these two cities. Smith explained the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were the only areas that resisted depopulation.
"Any human activity is complicated, but is it so complicated that we can't be appalled at this crime against humanity? I just don't think so," Smith said.
Smith gave background on the 20th-century of the Palestinian and Jewish people to provide context for the issue. These points included the early 20th-century Jewish renaissance as well as the Palestinian revolt that took place while Palestine was still under British rule.
His talk centered around the physical walls that divide the Israeli and Palestinian people and why those walls should come down.
The first wall in Israel that Smith addressed was the Gaza Border Fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel.
"The Gaza Border Fence reminds me of a prison wall, and I think that's very appropriate," Smith said.
Smith said the Gaza Strip has been under military blockade for 70 years, and Israel has prevented people living in the strip from accessing the outside world. Some examples he provided were Israel destroying the Gaza Strip's airport as well as preventing the construction of a sea port.
"Sara Roy, who's a Harvard economist, who happens to be Jewish as well, has made a study of the economy of the Gaza Strip," Smith said. "She's coined a new term for Israeli economic policy towards the Gaza Strip and she calls it 'purposeful or intentional dedevelopment.' That's a very good term for what's happened to the economy of the Gaza Strip."
Smith also cited the Israelis 2014 Operation Protective Edge in which the Israelis launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens by Gazan Hamas members. The following conflict, during which Hamas launched rockets at Israel and Israel conducted air strikes on Gaza, resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Gazans and 73 Israelis, Smith said. He pointed out how most of the Gazans killed during the conflict were civilians.
"The Israelis killed 550 Gazan children, and the Gazans killed only one Israeli child with their rockets," he said.
The next wall Smith lectured about was the West Bank Separation Border, which divides the West Bank from Israel. He said behind this wall, 60 percent of Palestinian villages are not recognized by the Israelis and are often dismantled under martial law.
"Home demolition is a major tool that the Israelis use to expel Palestinians into the remaining disconnected enclaves (within the West Bank)," Smith said.
Smith was critical of the United States' aid of Israel throughout the last century. He said the U.S. has vetoed any security council resolutions in the United Nations that would have an effect on Israeli behavior.
He suggested the only way to reach unity would be by the U.S. cutting off military aid and to boycott all "complicit Israeli corporations." He supports the Palestinian BDS Movement, which stands for "boycott, divestment and sanctions."
"Our government should cut off all military aid to Israel until they meet three fundamental demands of international law. First, that they end their 52-year military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Then, to grant full equality and citizenship to the Palestinians and that they respect the Palestinian right to return (to their homeland)," Smith outlined.
Smith was asked by an audience member whether a two-party solution or a democratic state would best fix the region's problems. Smith said he does not believe a two-party solution will work to obtain peace in the region because it would deny the "second class status Jim Crow status of the Palestinian people and their exile."
"I do think a democracy over the entire country is the only logical (solution), and I ultimately think it's what's going to happen," Smith said.
This article was edited at 10:35 a.m. Sept. 25, 2019, to clarify Smith's statement about the displacement of Palestinians during the Nakba.