A letter went out on Oct. 14 signed by Yousef Munayyer, executive director of a Washington, D.C.-based group called the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Acting as a coalition-generating agitprop outfit, its goal is to motivate people to “take a stand on the right side of history, get involved and be part of the movement for Palestinian rights.”
Munayyer himself, if you recall, was a frequent guest at Peter Beinart’s Open Zion, a blog set up “to foster an open, unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine and the Jewish Future.” That effort of openness was abruptly closed , but its spirit lived on and in one instance, probably nudged some young Jews to say Kaddish—for Hamas terrorists.
The letter informed that at the USCPR Conference, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) spoke these words:
“The world has a name for the form of government that is codified in the Nation-State Law—it is called apartheid.”
Munayyer termed this a “narrative shift” benchmark moment, and was proud that McCollum added that together with USCPR “we are establishing a narrative in Congress that promotes Palestinian rights.” One report on her speech was quite emotional, noting that “there was a collective gasp, and the audience, many in tears, leaped to their feet in a massive ovation.”
But Palestinian narratives can be convoluted. Take, for example, a response by Ali Abunimah to Lara Alqasem’s efforts to study for her master’s degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which, by the way, has claimed, “like all Israeli universities, contributes to Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. These institutions play a persistent role in planning, implementing, justifying or whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.”
Abunimah went on, in an angry tone, pursuing another narrative and charged that:
“Alqasem’s decision to enroll at Hebrew University directly violates and undermines the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israeli institutions … ”
And quoted PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, as making clear that:
“Any international student, regardless of her/his identity, enrolling in a complicit Israeli university, like the Hebrew University, is violating the relevant BDS guidelines. We strongly advise against such enrollment and against any other connection to these complicit institutions.
Abunimah then added that if Alqasem accedes and denounces BDS,
“she will be striking a blow at the collective efforts of people all over the world to end Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinians.”
This, of course, is part of the non-cooperation effort led by the Palestinian Authority, initiated by the pro-Nazi Mufti during the Mandate period, nowadays termed anti-normalization. And like then, it only hurts the Arabs of the land we all share: its water, its resources, the environment, economic growth and industrial development.
If there is a major difference between Abunimah’s approach and that of Alqasem, it might be that the latter seems to have a lot more Jews involved, from her lawyer to supporting Members of Knesset to favorable media reporting and even to the Hebrew University’s executive and academic leadership itself.
So, which is the correct “Palestinian narrative”?
Is it the one the Palestinian Authority promotes? Or that of Hamas? Or that of the various infighting Arab groups? Or that of the Jewish pro-Palestine groups, the Kaddish-sayers?
It would appear that a theme of “rights” garners more sympathy. But do not Jews also have rights? Cannot we campaign for our rights? Is not our narrative no less legitimate?
We have a right that the world demand of the Arabs-called-Palestinians to recognize Jewish national identity?
We have a right, after terror, infiltrations, wars and boycotts to demand the most absolute possible terms for our security.
We have a right to call for the halt of incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s educational institutions.
We have a right that Jewish groups who seek to pressure Israel’s government do so vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority, and in ways and methods no less activist than those they practice against Israel’s official bodies.
We have a right that scientific archaeological discoveries that indicate a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria be respected.
We have a right that Jews can reside in Judea and Samaria no less than Arabs can in Emek Yizrael, as well as the right to build, construct and plant.
We have the right that calumnies and fabrications not be reported in the media until confirmed and verified, and that they cease acting as conduits for propaganda.
We have the right to speak out on campuses without fear, no less than any other student group.
And we have the right to defend those rights, champion them and promote them.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and commentator.