OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Questioning only Israel’s right to self-determination

The views expressed on the opinion page of New York University’s student paper are why we need legislation to protect Jewish students on campus: Anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism is still anti-Semitism.

New York University’s campus in Greenwich Village. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
New York University’s campus in Greenwich Village. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Ben Newhouse
Ben Newhouse

In a Jan. 27 op-ed published in New York University’s student newspaper, Washington Square News, deputy opinion editor Asha Ramachandran makes the argument that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism” does nothing to inhibit anti-Semitism on campus. Rather, she suggests that it only continues to silence Palestinian activists on campus. In reality, pro-Israel voices are silenced on campus, mainly due to intimidation and threats by student organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

The author begins by questioning aspects of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s Definition of anti-Semitism, including, but not limited to, “denial to the Jewish people their right to self-determination” and “comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” Ramachandran sees this widely accepted definition as one that describes anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism. But Zionism and Judaism are not mutually exclusive.

Zionism, at its core, is simply the belief that Jews, like any other group of people, are entitled to the right to self-determination. Questioning the right to self-determination only when it pertains to Jews is, indeed, anti-Semitic.

In addition, the Nazis systematically slaughtered 6 million Jews solely for the crime of being born Jewish. Drawing a comparison between Nazi Germany and the modern Israeli government is not only factually incorrect but also anti-Semitic. It is nothing more than a fear tactic used by SJP and its supporters to marginalize Jewish and Zionist students on campus. By creating this analogy, the author engages in Holocaust minimization.

The most striking statement that the author makes is that Israel consistently engages in “ethnic cleansing, occupation, displacement, indiscriminate bombing and apartheid.”

The claim that Israel is ethnically cleansing the Arab population is simply false. Under the care of the Israeli national medical system, the health of Israeli Arab citizens has continued to improve. In fact, the life expectancy and infant mortality rates of the Arab-Israeli population ranks best in the Arab and Muslim world.

Israel faces constant threats due to rocket attacks from Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. When a rocket is fired from Gaza into Israel, a person has 15 seconds to run to safety in a bomb shelter. Israel only targets known terrorists in Gaza, but when Hamas fires rockets into Israel, it targets civilians: Arabs and Jews alike. Hamas’s very own charter states that “the Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them,” a direct call for violence against Jews. Israel’s only goal is to protect its borders and its citizenry, not to conquer neighboring countries or peoples.

Comparing Israel, a country that guarantees political and religious freedom to all its citizenry, to South Africa’s system of apartheid, is, quite frankly, insulting to people who lived through that system. Arabs in Israel are some of the most successful people in the country. Israeli-Arab Christians are the most educated group within Israel; Arab Israelis are expected to hold as many as 15 of the 120 available seats in the Knesset (Parliament); the chairman of the board of Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank, is Arab, Samer Haj-Yehia.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that the captain of Israel’s national soccer team, Bibras Nathro—an Israeli of Circassian-Muslim origin—is a hero to Israeli children, regardless of religion. Needless to say, the diversity within Israel is well-reflected within its vast society—politically, religiously and culturally.

The author continues in her attempt to defend the claim that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism by stating there is a “long history of Jewish people opposing Zionism.” Her evidence for the popularity of Jewish anti-Zionism is one small, fringe organization: Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP is clearly not representative of the wider Jewish community, as more than 75 percent of Jewish Americans feel “very attached” or “somewhat attached” to Israel. The claim that JVP represents Judaism at large is as ridiculous as saying that Islamists represent Islam.

Israel is an integral part of the Jewish people’s faith and tradition, and while criticism of Israeli policy—to the same extent as any other democratic country—is perfectly acceptable and in fact encouraged, demonization of the one Jewish state is not. Denying Jewish self-determination is anti-Semitic, and drawing parallels between Israeli and Nazi policy is anti-Semitic.

SJP and their supporters are on the frontlines of promoting anti-Semitic ideology. The views expressed by the author of the Washington Square News op-ed are the exact reason why we need legislation to protect Jewish students on campus—because anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism is still anti-Semitism, and we need to make sure to call it out when we see it.

Ben Newhouse, a junior in New York University’s Stern School of Business, is a CAMERA on Campus Fellow. He serves as president of NYU TorchPAC, a student organization that promotes the U.S.-Israel relationship, and treasurer of Realize Israel, a student organization that celebrates cultural aspects of Israel.

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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