A former employee of Amnesty International, Hind Khoudary, has been denounced for getting a Gaza peace activist arrested by Hamas authorities. The reason? Journalist Rami Aman, of the Gaza Youth Committee, held a virtual meeting with his Israeli counterparts over Zoom, which has become increasingly popular around the world as a means of maintaining social ties during the coronavirus pandemic.
Organized by Israeli peace activists, the Zoom conference was titled and presented as “Meet Gazan Activists.” The event description detailed the expectations of the conference call: “Finally, an opportunity to speak with Gazans who not only do not hate us but are working tirelessly to open channel of communication between Gazans and Israelis.” Khoudary, who identified herself on social media as an international research consultant for Amnesty International, denounced Aman in a Facebook post, now removed, and tagged three Hamas officials. Aman was arrested on April 9 has not been heard from since then.
Hamas’s Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozom explained after the arrest: “Holding any activity or any contact with the Israeli occupation under any cover is a crime punishable by law and is treason to our people and their sacrifices.” Hamas’s brutality is, at least, consistent with its 1988 Charter, which proclaims under, Article 6:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”
Anti-Israel activists may wish to continue to live in an alternate universe, where Israel’s terrestrial and naval blockades are the culprits for the lack of civil liberties that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip experience. But in doing so, they are simultaneously imposing a double-standard on the Jewish state while perpetuating Palestinian suffering in Gaza.
Imagine Tijuana, along the U.S.-Mexico border, being run and administered by a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. In addition and identical to Hamas’s grip to power in Gaza, imagine that the territory was used as a terror launchpad and that thousands of rockets would eventually be fired, indiscriminately, at civilian communities in San Diego.
The United States, like any other sovereign country around the world tasked with the need to protect its own civilian population, would at the very least almost certainly impose a similar blockade like the one currently in place along the Israel-Gaza border. To demand from the Jewish state—and only the Jewish state—a course of action that would inevitably risk the security of her citizens is a direct violation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Secondly, by disregarding the short history since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, Hamas’s constant and recurring human-rights violations will never be properly addressed. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip nearly 15 years ago, 8,000 Jewish settlers and 21 settlements were uprooted. Even graves were dug up to meet the Palestinian leadership’s requirement that the territory ought to be ethnically cleansed from Jews. Infrastructure and enterprises were left in place by Israel, despite its withdrawal, so that Palestinians could strive to reach a self-sustaining economy. That quickly changed once Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, was democratically elected to rule in 2006. Aligned with Hamas’s anti-normalization policy, all “Zionist” infrastructure, including economically valuable greenhouses, was torn down and direct communication with Israel came to an immediate halt.
Khoudary explained her motivations for reporting this Zoom conference to Hamas officials over her own private Facebook account:
“As a Palestinian born and raised in the Gaza Strip, under endless blockade, survived two aggressive wars, covering the Great March of Return I believe that the worst sin any Palestinian can commit is Normalization; which is any joint activity between Palestine and Israel.”
While I have no intention of disregarding Khoudary’s agency, her rhetoric should not come as a surprise. After all, for the past 15 years, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected to live, learn and work under Hamas’s blatant institutionalized anti-Semitism.
But to those outside of the Gaza Strip, perhaps in America’s top universities where the marketplace of ideas is free and abundant, hasn’t history provided us with enough evidence on the failures of anti-normalization policies?
Not according to University of Michigan’s Professors John Cheney-Lippold and Lucy Peterson, who denied a student a letter of recommendation for wanting to partake in a study-abroad program to Israel in 2018.
Not according to the nearly 100 students at the University of Florida who protested my visit to campus in December of 2019 and walked out of my event because I introduced myself as a proud Israeli.
And not according to the founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, UC Berkeley’s Professor Hatem Bazian, who claimed: “The ‘Jewish nation’ is the central myth of Zionism. It needs to be dismantled.”
Khoudary’s decision to advocate for “anti-normalization” reflects the simplicity of this conflict:
Until the Palestinian leadership, in Gaza and in the West Bank, is willing to accept Israel’s right to continue to exist, no Israeli concession will suffice the price for peace, as it is currently being demanded by Palestinian leaders.
Khoudary’s anti-Semitic rhetoric is a product of a system that intends to perpetuate the conflict and the suffering of all peoples involved.
While I may not be able to expect much from Khoudary, I certainly place my expectations that college students, faculty members and policy-makers in the United States and around the world will come to understand the proven failures of anti-normalization approaches to this particular conflict, and use their civil liberties to engage in meaningful and productive dialogue.
A dialogue that Khoudary robbed from Rami Aman and a dialogue that Palestinian leaders continue to rob from their own people.
Yoni Michanie, a former paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces, holds a master’s degree in diplomacy and international security from IDC Herzliya. He is an Israel advocate, public speaker, Middle East analyst, and a campus advisor and strategic planner at CAMERA.