(June 10, 2020 / JNS) This past semester, I attended an event hosted by the campus organization Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP). There is no doubt that it would be impossible to unravel all the untruths uttered during this event in one short article, yet there is no question about what the overall message of the panelists was: Israel is an oppressive state that should cease to exist. The case of this event is extremely worrying; it is part of a wider problem that exists on campuses globally: anti-Semitism.
The contradictory nature of this event began with the opening statement: “Our united front has impetus of deep radical love for every human being, no matter their race, no matter their creed, no matter their color, no matter their country of origin, no matter their sexual orientation.”
It is ironic that the same “united front” that claims to have such a deep radical love for all shows anything but that towards Israel as they marginalize the Jewish people and aim to dismantle their nation-state. There is an intense double standard at play here, as many nation-states are organized around a religious character in some capacity (there are, for example, European countries whose flags brand crosses). If only Israel does not have a right to continue its existence, it is clearly discriminatory against the Jewish people.
Anti-Israel activists frequently mask this goal with allusions to “one state” for all in the name of “equality.” During the event specifically, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti expressed his support for a “secular, one-state solution” between the river and the sea. While this may sound appealing to the uneducated observer, there are legitimate fears regarding this solution that BDS supposedly stands for, as there is good reason to think that it could jeopardize the safety of Jewish Israeli citizens.
The hatred directed towards the Jewish people goes beyond their nation-state. Statistics (according to research from the Anti-Defamation League) reveal that 95 percent of Palestinians surveyed hold anti-Semitic views, and the ideologies spewed by Hamas call for the killing of Jews, as they believe “The Day of Judgement will not come about until [they] fight Jews and kill them.” As CAMERA UK’s Adam Levick has astutely noted, “ … Jews can never, and will never, replace the Jewish state with the pre-Holocaust state of perpetual political weakness which left Jews continually vulnerable to anti-Semitic scapegoating, violence and genocide.”
Perhaps most contemptibly, as the panelists relentlessly made their discriminatory case against Zionism, they entirely ignored the threats Israel faces. Israel’s neighbors have pledged to raze Israeli cities to the ground, and the Iranian regime sends vast quantities of money and weapons to terrorist organizations to further this goal. Israelis live under constant fear of rockets and other terror attacks carried out by organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The perpetual battlefield that exists in and around Israel is a profound threat to the country, and Israel has the same right that every other nation does to defend itself.
It is despicable that an acclaimed university such as Harvard did not condemn this event on their campus—an environment where Jewish students may already feel alienated and marginalized due to the high levels of anti-Zionist activism. This anti-Semitic movement continues to flourish on campuses whilst wearing a cloak of social justice and human rights. But this was not the only display of anti-Israel bigotry that occurred on a Boston-based campus this semester; since that event, multiple student organizations across the city engaged in similarly libelous activities.
Boston University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter hosted an event this February screening the disputed film “Occupation of the American Mind.” As CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile explains, the film provides a “counter-factual depiction of events that downplays the threats [Israel] faces and exaggerates the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The whitewashing of Israel’s endless state of jeopardy is a recurring theme among these events, as they ignore the fact Israel has the right to self-defense. In 1988, Hamas declared that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” The organization’s intention is to wipe Israel off the map; as such, Israel has no choice but to protect itself and its citizens. The film absurdly portrays the country as a malevolent force and ultimately aims to convince its American supporters that it’s not worthy of their support.
Another Boston-area university’s SJP chapter, this time at Tufts University, launched a seven-day event calling for an end to the so-called “Deadly Exchange” between the university police department and Israel. Inspired by the anti-Semitic “Deadly Exchange” campaign spearheaded by the anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voice for Peace, the SJP students insisted that the Tufts police chief’s 2017 attendance at a counter-terrorism seminar in Israel denoted an unforgivable crime. As one student activist put it, “What we’re trying to do [in our campaign] is we’re trying to recreate the most disturbing elements of the deadly exchange so that people can understand how dangerous it is that U.S. officials are being sent to Israel to train with their military.”
Of course, many police forces in the United States train with the Israeli military to learn counter-terrorism tactics and save civilian lives. The Deadly Exchange campaign seeks to cut these ties and end the training exchange programs, as they claim that “trips should not be exchanged with an occupying army.”
Zac Schildcrout, CAMERA’s campus adviser and online editor, said “this campaign, which falsely accuses Israel and Jewish organizations of purposely fomenting racist policing in America, is not an intellectually serious endeavor. Its eerie similarity to classic anti-Semitic allegations about the supposedly malign influence of ‘Jewish power’ is obvious, and it is a shame to see such ideas so publicly glorified at Tufts.”
Astoundingly, Tufts’s SJP was awarded a “Collaboration Award” for their “activism work” from a university committee. After condemnation from pro-Israel activists, the president’s office published a statement denouncing the award.
The whirlwind did not stop there. Yet again, Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine, in coordination with other campus organizations, hosted an event this April disparaging Harvard’s “financial practices,” and urging that the university’s endowment investments reflect the activists’ “moral and political principles.” These “principles” are chiefly motivated by demonization of Israel; in a March 19 article in Harvard’s student paper The Crimson, an interviewee criticized the university for its financial activities, claiming that they were “profiting off war crimes” due to the Harvard Management Company’s (HMC) investments in “Booking Holdings, a company that a United Nations human-rights body ties to Israeli settlements in Palestine.”
This demonization of companies that operate in Israeli “settlements” in the West Bank is based on a falsehood—that such neighborhoods and Israeli military presence in the territory more generally are the main cause of the conflict. But as CAMERA UK has pointed out, “If Israeli control of disputed territories did indeed explain the absence of peace, then you would have expected Israeli withdrawals from large parts of the West Bank in the ’90s under the terms of the Oslo Accords to have greatly diminished the threat of violence from those areas. Yet, after Yasser Arafat rejected a US brokered peace offer in 2001 (that would have created a sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state), he launched the 2nd Intifada, five years of shootings, bombings, and suicide attacks, (that killed over 1000 Israelis), launched from those very West Bank territories where the Israeli army withdrew.”
Not to be outdone, Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee students took to their new blog to “unmask Zionism” on their website. The writers call Zionism “racist,” another egregiously anti-Semitic act and deliberate scheme to delegitimize the Jewish people’s right to their own homeland. The yearning to return to Zion has been a 2,000-year goal for the Jewish people since their exile—to return to their homeland and celebrate their connection to Israel. Zionism does not discriminate against other religions or cultures. The ADL responds to this manipulative accusation: “Rooted in the liberal principles of freedom, democracy, equality, and social justice, Zionism is fundamentally incompatible with racism.”
Yet again, Zionism has been falsely “unmasked.”
These events all have common themes, proving that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is prolific. The campus campaign to delegitimize Israel rages with deceptions and misinformation, which underscores the importance of aggressively countering such claims so the truth can prevail. After thousands of years of devastating persecution, the Jewish nation owns the right to their homeland, and this must never be forgotten.
Nicole Shamash is a CAMERA fellow at Boston University.
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