“Zionist Occupation is the Virus.”
No, that hashtag wasn’t shared by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip or by an Iranian state mouthpiece.
White supremacist and anti-Semite David Duke didn’t share it. Nor was it shared by Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who has called Jews “termites,” and who spews hate against gay people and women.
This hateful and slanderous hashtag, created originally by anti-Israel activist Younes Arar, was reposted by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Cornell University, where I am an undergraduate student.
Cornell SJP shared the post on their Facebook page on March 21, days after the university suspended classes because of the coronavirus pandemic and sent students home to finish the semester virtually. Cornell SJP’s post is yet another unfortunate example of the propagation of classic anti-Semitism on college campuses, ostensibly in the name of “justice” and “peace” for the Palestinian people.
Despite SJP’s use of the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to demonize the Jewish state, Israel has been cooperating with and assisting Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to save lives. Israel has transferred thousands of testing kits and swabs to Palestinians; provided safety and operational training to Palestinian medical and laboratory workers; and continues to allow Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza with chronic conditions into Israel for life-saving treatment.
The hashtag Cornell SJP shared thus amounts, in effect, to a contemporary version of anti-Semitic smears that have existed since antiquity. In the Middle Ages, Jews were falsely blamed for causing and spreading the Black Plague in Europe. Many Jews were murdered in ensuing pogroms; entire Jewish communities were destroyed. Most recently, Palestinian state media and officials from the Palestinian Authority have compared Israel to the coronavirus, with many Palestinian activists calling Israel “COVID48”—a reference to the 1948 advent of the Jewish state.
Arar’s page is rife with hateful content. On Jan. 21, days before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration in Jerusalem, Arar attacked the planned ceremony on Facebook, asking whether it was “another way to deny Palestinian rights” and “approve Zionist Jewish occupation war crimes.” He added the hashtag “41 fascist hypocrites” to the post. Two days later, Arar posted it on Twitter, baselessly accusing Holocaust survivors of taking part in “mass massacres against Palestinians during late 1930s until 1951.”
It’s telling that Cornell SJP did not have any qualms about sharing a post from a page whose author has shamelessly propagated Holocaust inversion. By drawing from anti-Semitic social-media pages to share information with Cornell students, Cornell SJP has positioned itself as a vector for anti-Semitic hate on campus.
The toxicity goes even deeper. Five days before their “Zionist Occupation is the Virus” post, Cornell SJP referred to Israel on Facebook as “the Zionist entity.” This term has been used by the likes of Iran—the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism which threatens to annihilate Israel—demonize and delegitimize the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Indeed, Cornell SJP, instead of promoting justice in Palestine, has made it its mission to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination. Max Greenberg, the leader of Cornell SJP, has even written in The Cornell Daily Sun to clarify that his organization is fighting for Israel’s demise as a Jewish state.
To this end, Cornell SJP has compared Zionism—the idea that Jews have a right to self-determination in their historic homeland—to “European fascism,” the ideology that ultimately led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Not only is this comparison rabidly anti-Semitic, but it also disgraces the memory of the millions of Jews who perished as a result of the anti-Semitism Nazi Germany channeled into its attempted annihilation of the Jewish people.
Cornell SJP also has a record of promoting and celebrating the internationally designated terror organization Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, whose members have and continue to murder Jews in Israel.
But its hatred of Israel won’t win. Israel will continue to be a flawed, yet free and liberal, democracy where Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of any religion can freely worship. Israel will continue to ensure equal rights for all citizens. It will continue to innovate, build and discover. And with the commitment to improve and strive to be better at the core of its existence, Israel will continue to be a light unto the nations.
Josh Eibelman is a senior at Cornell University and a CAMERA fellow.