When my father was a little boy growing up in Poland, there were signs that read, “Jews: Get out of Europe. Go back to Palestine.” On today’s college campuses there are shouts of “Jews: Out of Palestine. Go back to Europe.”
These past two weeks have been difficult ones for American Jewish college students. It has been Israel Apartheid Week, and across many American college campuses, most of our Jewish students are confronted with “mock die ins”, with student actors dressed as menacing Israel soldiers “brutalizing” other student actors dressed as hapless, “innocent” Palestinian civilians, and “apartheid walls”. Jewish students at Emory University have had “mock eviction notices” placed in residence halls, that say “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state’s ongoing attempt to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants”. At Columbia University, Students for Justice in Palestine created a poster of an IDF soldier with horns. At Harvard University, one of the speakers for Israel Apartheid Week, Omar Barghouti, supports the “euthanasia of Zionism.”
Many Jewish students do not have the knowledge to be able to respond to these horrific distortions. The few who have both the knowledge and the backbone to fight back, do. However, most put their heads down in shame. It is no wonder that Natan Sharansky has called American Jewish college students, “The new Jews of silence”.
The problem is that many university professors have used their desks for one-sided political propaganda rather than giving them a solid education about the region. A tenured professor at Columbia, Hamid Dabishi, for example has tweeted that “Every dirty, treacherous, ugly and pernicious act happening in the world just wait a few days and the ugly name Israel will pup.” (sic). Marc Lamont Hill, a tenured professor at Temple University in Philadelphia called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Unfortunately, these statements are no longer the outliers, but have become very much the norm in many classrooms that study the Middle East.
I long to equip our students with some basic facts, if I could only teach them for one semester. I would teach them about how the Palestinian Liberation Organization, whose membership is the same as the Palestinian Authority,(PA) was established in 1964, 3 full years before the 1967 War, and before there was any “occupation” to resist. I would teach them about the Oslo Accords, and how Yitzchak Rabin had reluctantly agreed to negotiate with Yassir Arafat on the one condition that he give up terrorism. I would tell them that after the Accords were signed there was a sharp rise in Israeli civilian victims of Palestinian terrorism, which is now over 1,000 fatalities.
I would tell them how Israel withdrew from all the major Palestinian population centers, putting 90% of the Palestinian population under the PA’s control. I would tell them about the enormous offer Prime Minister Ehud Barak had made to Chairman Arafat in July of 2000, which would eventually have given the Palestinians 91% of the West Bank, Gaza and shared sovereignty of Jerusalem, yet Arafat walked away from the offer and launched an intifada. I would tell them that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, an even more generous offer in November 2008, including making all of Jerusalem an internationally controlled city. And yet again, this Palestinian interlocutor walked away from the negotiating table, launching a renewed intifada.
I would tell them about the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, and how the Israelis trained their soldiers not to feel pain as they uprooted Jewish residents from their homes. And about how Israelis had left the greenhouses to give the nascent Palestinian state some sort of economic infrastructure, and the synagogues to be turned into mosques. And how these greenhouses and synagogues, along with every remnant of a Jewish life had been destroyed in a frenzied atmosphere of chaos and hatred. I would tell them how now Gaza has become a simmering sea of hatred which is unleashed every Friday when mobs try to penetrate the fence and kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.
I would tell them about the innocent looking balloon bouquets and kites, meant to attract young Israeli children, launched with incendiary devices attached to them, that have destroyed thousands of acres of Israeli agricultural land near Gaza and have created an ecological disaster. I would tell them that over 1,000 missiles have been launched from Gaza, giving neighboring Israeli men women and children just 15 seconds to run for shelter.
Before anyone casts blame on the democratically elected government of Israel, I would ask them to walk a mile in their shoes.
I know they will not, however. Because anti-Zionism is just the 21stcentury form of ant-Semitism. And as Jean Paul Sartre had said, “The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith.” Anti-Semitism is hatred, and hatred is an emotion, and one, unfortunately cannot reason with an emotion.
A version of this recently appeared in the Washington Jewish Week.
Photo: Uriel Heilman