OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Noura Erakat’s Gaza gaffes and other errata

Confused about basic facts, the Rutgers University professor lacks the erudition of a genuine scholar and the intellectual honesty expected from people of even modest learning.

The P-47 was one of the most famous Army Air Force fighter planes of World War II. Although originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 (“Thunderbolt”) developed as a heavyweight fighter. Credit: U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons.
The P-47 was one of the most famous Army Air Force fighter planes of World War II. Although originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 (“Thunderbolt”) developed as a heavyweight fighter. Credit: U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons.
Andrew E. Harrod
Andrew E. Harrod, a Middle East Forum Campus Watch fellow, freelance researcher and writer, is a fellow at the Lawfare Project. Follow him on X @AEHarrod.

During a March 16 webinar discussion of Gaza, Israel-hating Rutgers University assistant professor of Africana Studies Noura Erakat bravely opposed the transfer of “F-47s” to Israel.

Details often befuddle ideologues: America’s propeller-driven P-47 “Thunderbolt” helped win World War II before its redesignation in 1947 as the F-47. Erakat surely had in mind the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter, recently acquired by Israel from the United States. This embarrassing gaffe was merely the first of several errors from this supposed expert on international law.

Sima Shakhsari introduced the No Sanctions on Iran Coalition’s panel “Deadly Iran Sanctions: Lessons From Iraq and Palestine,” a manifestation of the global red-green, leftist-Islamist alliance. An associate professor of gender, women and sexuality studies (preferred pronoun “they”), Shakhsari led a coalition of “grassroots and volunteer-run groups of feminist scholars, artists, and activists.” To the benefit of Hamas jihadists in Gaza and the Islamic Republic of Iran, her leftist coalition members “condemn sanctions on Iran and stand in solidarity with other peoples who are subjected to deadly sanctions from Gaza to Venezuela.”

After misnumbering and later correcting chapter numbers of the U.N. Charter—an error Erakat attributed to “not reading and so my stats were confused”—she garbled her discussion of 2018 cancer statistics. She first claimed that in the Gaza Strip, “39 percent of the population has been diagnosed” with cancer before admitting that is the percentage of patients who cannot get travel permits for treatment outside of Gaza. She then stated that “of 18 million cases, 10 million have resulted in deaths,” even though Gaza’s population is about 2 million. She later corrected herself, noting that the “18 million figure is a global figure and not specific to Gaza.”

Gaza’s “Hamastan” base, dedicated to Israel’s destruction provoked Erakat’s pity, for Gaza “is incredibly tiny, it is besieged” by Israeli (and anti-Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian) land and sea controls. Israel has waged, she alleged, “systematic large-scale, offensive wars using mass-weapons technologies that are only available to technological [sic] superior belligerents.” (These same technologies give Israel unprecedented ability to avoid civilian casualties, a fact she failed to acknowledge.) “I can’t describe to you a more surreal, violent situation,” she said, of what is in fact Israel’s inherent right to self-defense in the face of unrelenting rocket and terrorist attacks against civilian populations.

Perhaps experiencing the most luxurious siege ever, Gaza—with its shopping malls and obesity problems—formed for Erakat a “necropolitical regime that has limited life for Palestinians.” She dubiously claimed that Israeli officials have “put Palestinians on a diet of fewer than 2,000 calories per day. You need 2,500 calories to be sustained,” so this is “just above starvation.” Israel has had a “deliberate policy of attacking agricultural fields,” she stated without providing any evidence to refute Israeli claims that these fields contain military targets, including rocket-launching pads.

Erakat defined three-fourths of Gaza’s population as “refugees” from Israel, given that they descend from Arabs who lost their homes (largely through flight) in what became Israel during its 1948 independence war. Unique among the world’s refugees, these Palestinians have inherited their displaced status down through the generations. Rather than recommending they build productive lives in Gaza, she demanded a “return” of these natural-born “refugees” to modern Israel, where their ancestors’ agricultural villages have long since disappeared.

Devoted to the modern, nonsensical nostrums of Palestinian nationalism, Erakat rejected that Gaza’s inhabitants ever “would have to surrender that they are Palestinians.” While Arabs throughout the Middle East and North Africa fleeing for a secure, wealthy Europe have shown little allegiance to countries like Iraq, Libya or Syria, she held high Palestine’s flag for Gaza’s inhabitants. “They could be Arab, they could be nomads, they can be random refugees, but they are not an indigenous people with a right to the land and a return,” she said.

Meanwhile, analysts who have ignored such “indigenous” ideological pretensions have offered practical solutions for Gazans to live in dignity.

A supporter of the BDS movement against Israel, Erakat euphemized as Palestinian “resistance” decades of relentless efforts by Arab states and the broader Muslim world to destroy Israel. The “call for sanctions from Palestinians comes after decades of trying other forms of resistance that have been squashed, criminalized and made unavailable,” she said. She whitewashed this total warfare of economic, political and military assaults as measures ranging “from legal remedies to diplomatic remedies, to political remedies, to military remedies.”

Gaza plays a central role in Erakat’s wider diatribe against a Western “liberal veneer that masks and shrouds this violence.” Accordingly, she blamed chronic instability in the region on America’s “unrelenting penetration and intervention into the Middle East because of its natural and geopolitical resources.” More activist than scholar, she championed “challenging imperialism as a legitimate system of economic exchange” and “critiquing U.S. empire. We’re talking about just devastation.”

But by then, Erakat had devastated her credibility. Confused about basic facts, she lacks the erudition of a genuine scholar and the intellectual honesty expected from people of even modest learning. Academic charlatans like her are undermining the nation whose heroes flew P-47s to defeat totalitarianism almost 80 years ago and which produces the advanced F-35 today. Defeating their ilk will require top-to-bottom reforms of America’s educational system. Are Americans willing to accept and see this challenge through to victory?

Andrew E. Harrod, a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher and writer, is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at: @AEHarrod.

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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