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columnIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Guess who’s leading your child’s tour of Israel?

An American University trip with the theme of “social justice” will offer a “dual-narrative immersive experience” that will feature “both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.”

Graffiti on the security wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. Credit: Marc Venezia via Wikimedia Commons.
Graffiti on the security wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. Credit: Marc Venezia via Wikimedia Commons.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

The problem of anti-Semitic intimidation on American college campuses is serious, and hopefully, U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent executive order will help combat it. But an equally significant problem is the deeply entrenched anti-Israel bias in the lectures, discussions and even the student trips abroad that our sons and daughters are participating at many universities today.

Case in point: an upcoming trip to “Israel and Palestine” for students who attend American University in our nation’s capital.

The official description of the trip employs all the usual clichés that indicate the organizers’ slant without being too overt about their bias.

It will be a “dual-narrative immersive experience,” which will feature “both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.” That means the students will be taught that the “Israeli narrative” (in which Israel has a right to exist) and the “Palestinian narrative” (in which Israelis are Nazis and Israel’s creation was an act of racist colonialist aggression) are equally valid.

According to the web site, the theme of the trip will be “social justice,” and “in order for social justice anywhere to be achieved, a true and lasting peace rooted in a power structure based on equity, security and justice must take shape.” In progressive-speak, that means Israeli policies are unjust, the Palestinian Arabs are innocent victims, and Israel must be pressured to make more concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

The itinerary of the trip posted on the university’s website is short on details, but there are some clues as to its flavor. For example, the students will “walk the separation wall.” Not the security wall, which is what Israelis call it, since it was built to keep out Palestinian Arab suicide-bombers. No, the American University organizers prefer the Arab propaganda term “separation wall,” which is in effect an endorsement of the Arab allegation that the wall’s purpose is to enforce apartheid-style “separation.”

The itinerary also mentions that there will be a discussion of “the impact of war and violence.” The word “terrorism” isn’t mentioned. I wonder why not. The students will also get to “visit with a joint peace-seeking NGO.” The NGO is not named, but when pro-Palestinian activists use buzz words such as “peace-seeking,” you can imagine what they have in mind.

According to the website’s description, the purpose of the trip is to “allow” the students “to begin to think critically about the necessary steps that must take place for peace to come about.”  And what are those steps? No need to guess. All we have to do is look at the Twitter feed of the co-leader of the trip, an American University senior and Palestinian American activist named Yazan Hanouneh.

Earlier this year, Hanouneh marked the anniversary of Israel’s founding by re-tweeting a multi-part video from Al Jazeera called “What Is the Nakba?”

According to the Anti-Defamation league, Al Jazeera is “a major exporter of hateful content against the Jewish people, Israel and the United States.” And the “What Is the Nakba?” video that Yazan Hanouneh is promoting certainly lives up to that description.

The video falsely claims that “over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes” by Israel in 1948. It features a speaker claiming that “many times” during the 1948 war, Israeli soldiers went into Arab villages, “took ten of the youngsters in the middle of the village, shot them just in order to kill them in order that all the others will see it and run away, and if it was not enough they took others also.”

The video does not even acknowledge that there was a Holocaust. Although the video covers the entire period from the early 1900s to the present, viewers are told only this about the Nazi genocide: “The persecution of Jews across Europe led them to believe they were not safe there and Zionists saw Palestine as a prime location for a Jewish homeland.”

That’s the Al Jazeera version of Israel’s creation, which American University’s Yazan Hanouneh promotes—Jews committing mass murder, Jews undertaking mass expulsions, and Jews seizing “prime” Arab land for their state. Evidently, that’s what Hanouneh believes, and evidently, that’s the perspective he will be sharing with the students on the upcoming trip.

The trip’s co-leader is a student activist named Aylon Berger, who, according to the website, is fluent in Hebrew and once lived in Israel for a couple of years. Defenders of the trip will no doubt say that Aylon’s presence will give it “balance.” But let’s keep in mind what “balance” means in this context. As former chairman of High School Democrats of America, Aylon represents one particular political perspective. For some reason, no representatives of any other perspective were included among the leaders of the trip.

Isn’t that strange? Where are all the proponents of diversity when it comes to American University’s trip to Israel? Are Palestinian advocates and representatives of the youth wing of the Democratic Party the only ones whose views should be aired on a trip to Israel?

If the American University administration expects parents to shell out $3,000 (!) to send their child to Israel under its auspices, it ought to consider the idea of ensuring that the student participants will be exposed to some genuine diversity and balance in the perspectives of the trip’s leaders. 

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism,” now available on Kindle.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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