If a seminar organized this month by the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is any indication, City University of New York (CUNY) law-school students may be challenged both in vocabulary and their ability to recognize irony.
Palestinians are resisting “genocide,” said third-year CUNY law student Nerdeen Kiswani. The only acceptable answer to this, she added, is to reject any peace efforts and work towards eliminating Israel—in other words, to commit genocide.
No serious scholar includes the Palestinians among victims of genocide. The Palestinian population has only grown since 1948, and its own arts and literature thrive. Kiswani’s is also a particularly tone-deaf comment given that the world is now debating whether Russia’s ongoing slaughter of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians or China’s mass detention, forced sterilization and indoctrination of Uyghur Muslims reach the threshold of genocide.
What makes the Palestinian genocide accusation ridiculous is that Israel has the military might to do exactly what Russia is doing in Ukraine. But nearly 75 years after its founding and 55 years after it took over the West Bank and Gaza, it has never come close. At some point, even its greatest foes should acknowledge that if Israel wanted to inflict such horror, it would have done so by now. This is despite numerous attacks on its civilians and terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s stated assertion that Israel’s elimination is the only acceptable outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kiswani has advocated for the same outcome. Repeatedly.
During a 2020 rally opposing the historic Abraham Accords, she said: “The clock is ticking on Zionism. We cannot know the exact timeline until liberation, but we must do all that is in our capability to defeat the ‘deal of the century,’ to defeat Israel, to defeat Zionism and to ensure that liberation will come within our lifetime!”
She said so again last Wednesday.
After showing her audience a picture from the Abraham Accords signing ceremony, Kiswani blasted those who “act like Israel has a right to exist or negotiations can be made with this colonial entity. But we know that that can never, and should never, be the case.” It is difficult to imagine how her vision could be realized without mass killings, displacement and the annihilation of Israeli culture, i.e. genocide.
Kiswani did not offer an alternative vision. Instead, she praised a year-old call for a “unity intifada” that she described as “a passionate commitment to liberate all of Palestine and for Palestinians to unite [in] overthrowing the settler colonial structure.”
She runs an SJP offshoot called “Within Our Lifetime.” Its name comes from the hope “that we will achieve Palestinian liberation within our lifetime,” as she said during a 2019 rally. It pushes the slogan “Globalize the Intifada” and defends “the right of Palestinians as colonized people to resist the zionist (sic) occupation by any means necessary.” Its Instagram account was briefly suspended last month after it posted a collage of female terrorists to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.
And like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)’s anti-Semitic San Francisco chapter executive director Zahra Billoo, Kiswani said that anyone who supports Israel is an enemy. Anti-Zionism and support for “the right to resist” is required for anyone who wants to be seen as an ally.
“Especially, you know, throughout this last summer,” she said, “seeing so many people who say that they support Palestine. But then say, like, they also support Israel. That’s actually a direct contradiction. You know, you cannot support Palestine and be a Zionist because Zionist ideology, Zionist supremacy is literally a threat to our existence. So how can you support something that is literally made to wipe out our existence?”
That’s a question many Israelis ask about Palestinian “resistance” groups, but by SJP standards, this kind of talk is somewhat tame.
SJP was among the sponsors of a 2017 rally in New York’s Times Square where people chanted: “We don’t want two states! We want ’48!” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Khaybar O Jews, Muhammad’s army will return!” The first chant rejects a peaceful, two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The second, invoking a Palestinian state “from the river to sea,” is a call to eliminate Israel. The third invokes a seventh-century Muslim slaughter of Jews.
CUNY itself has become a hotbed of rabid anti-Israel activity, especially among its faculty. Its law-school senate passed a resolution in December that “proudly and unapologetically endorses the Palestinian-led call for BDS against Israel” and calls to “end all Israel exchange programs.”
As a result, more than 50 faculty members left the faculty union last June after it blamed Israel alone for the 11-day conflict last May between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. One who left, computer science professor Yedidya Langsam, said the union chose “to support a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose goal (‘From the River to the Sea’) is to destroy the State of Israel and kill all my relatives who live there.”
At the April 13 seminar, speaker Fatima Mohamed, another CUNY law-school SJP member, emphasized “the importance of armed struggle and really put into context that the Palestine people are not waiting for the United Nations. They are not waiting for international NGOs or for nonprofit organizations for their liberation. They are the fighters who are on the front lines for almost 75 years fighting for their land.”
Her language echoes a statement issued last week by the New York University law school’s SJP chapter, which, in addition to alleging a “Zionist grip on the media,” said that “Palestinians are not obligated to engage in racialized ‘nonviolence’ theory and wait around for a United Nations action that will never come as their homes are taken from them.” Like Kiswani, Mohamed has said that “Palestinian people have literally resisted genocide. And they have, they are, they are resistance fighters who have used all means necessary to resist.”
Kiswani and Mohamed’s misuse of genocide cheapens the word, diminishing its significance in genuine cases. It also triggers emotions that further instill hatred of Jews and Israel, dehumanizing them as monsters.
Their statements make it clear that they don’t want Israel to change its policies. They don’t want it to withdraw from the West Bank in a negotiated peace agreement. They want it to end.
Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.
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