Across the country their has been a steady challenge towards various methods of Palestinian Solidarity groups for years. Whether it be past fire-bombings of university offices, systematic spying of Palestinian activists by the Anti-Defamation League, or the recent spying of Muslim students on campus’ across NYC, it has been known that repression towards either Palestinian or Arab activism has been faced with frequent strangle holds of freedom of speech. However, now, it appears that there is a further push towards a projected nation wide project of suppressing Palestinian activism across campus’ with Netanyahu recently labeling the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement) as a structural and existential threat to the so-called state of Israel. There has been much talk about the recent bills that have been proposed both on a state and national level to punish universities for supporting BDS on campus with revoking specific tax breaks and funding, yet in collusion with this policy push, we are as well seeing further disorientation instigated and encouraged by pro-Zionist groups on campus aiming to silence, remove, and delegitimize international solidarity with Palestinians. These groups, not only employing disorienting campaigns against campus speakers, had planned to do so prior to Israeli Apartheid Week with memo’s being sent out to pro-Zionist groups mapping out pre-written arguments to disrupt these said events before they occurred.
An example that has been very interesting and mainly frightening is that of Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine. Two weeks ago affiliates of Northeastern SJP did a leafletting of mock eviction notices under campus dorm doors that replicated those that Palestinians face before demolition of their homes by such companies like Caterpillar and Northrop Grumman that are often invested in by universities across the United States . This seemingly harmless act that is typical on college campus was seized by the Zionist community at Northeastern as an opportunity to push a four-year campaign to get this chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine off campus and state that these mock eviction notices made Jewish students feel uncomfortable. This example of Zionists conflating criticism of the so-called state of Israel’s practices of ethnic cleansing of land to antisemitism is a tactic that is often used to discredit Palestinian activism that is specifically talking about Palestinian liberation from settler-colonialism. This tactic is used to disorient, delegitimize, and change the subject when genuine dialogue is brought up about the inherently corrupt and illegal practices that Israel takes place with removing Palestinian families and destroying their homes. This supposed complaint and possible suspension/expulsion of Northeastern SJP has gotten a lot of national coverage and has sparked a student resurgence to react to these nationwide state tactics.With looking at these events, I would like to also stress that these events are not occurring within a vacuum but throughout a well thought out political assault and suppression of those whom call for divestment from Israel and justice for Palestinians on American campuses.
This neo – McCarthyite assault has not limited itself to just Northeastern University or the halls of state capitals of Albany, Annapolis, Indianapolis, or the White House, but other universities as well such as Barnard Universities and other various NYC universities. Barnard University recently had it’s Students for Justice in Palestine banner removed after the SJP went through all the motions, mechanics, and approvals to get the banner placed where other organizations are permitted to place such posters. However, after a call and complaint from pro-Zionist organizations and donors, it appears that the banner was removed by the universities administration until further notice due to it’s apparent “dangerous” message of an un – bordered Palestine calling for justice.
As Barnard and Columbia’s administration sought to silence further their SJP’s visibility and ability to reach out to peers on their campus, their as well have been editorials, op-ed’s, and other campus articles spread throughout campus news outlets that slant the conflict and events surrounding Palestinian solidarity work through the lens of re-appropriating left claims and arguments. This hasbarra campaign, noted by Max Blumenthal as a state funded campaign against BDS and criticisms of Israel, has become commonplace amongst campuses dealign with various NGO’s and organizations that have links with the state of Israel employing students on campuses. The arguments that have recently been pushed by campus Zionists surrounding especially my campus, New York University, shows the direct effect of the political climate nationally conflicting with the political climate on NYU’s discombobulated campus. New York University has been known to have a Zionist bend with many in various academic outlets in NYU are sympathetic to Zionism, as well as the strong ties that NYU has with the occupation of Palestine with such establishments as the Tel Aviv satellite campus. As well with this structural bias of interests of past donors assisting with studying abroad to Tel Aviv and supporting Taglit Birthright trips, the campus has various amounts of Zionist organizations on campus (Seven). These organizations predominately led by Hillel, TorchPAC (AIPAC’s student arm at NYU), and StandWithUs volunteers being the most vocal, they usually engage in counter campaigns to Palestinian Solidarity work such as hosting “Israeli Peace Week” events that have ties with hasbarra campaigns tied to the state itself.
Recently NYU had an event with speakers Ali Abunima (of Electronic Intifada and author The Battle for Justice in Palestine ) and Max Blumenthal (of the Nation with research of such activities of African Refugee rights and David and Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel) called Against Israeli Apartheid!. The event, which the talk will be shortly linked once edited on WeAreMany.org, covered quite aptly much of the connections that the United States has as a settler-colonial state with Israel’s recent vicious politically far right revival of both a rise in settler assaults as well as links with it’s rise in visceral racism towards all they perceive as ‘infiltrators’. Max Blumenthal covering much of the laws of racial and ethnic supremacy that riddle Israeli policies showed very similar correlations with Israeli treatment of ‘infiltrators’ with U.S. treatment towards immigrants and minorities alike. As well Ali Abunimah covered aptly that there is an active war on campus, but much like all wars involving occupation, the oppressed are beginning to win and rise with radical consciousness as the oppressors flounder to justify their suppression and repression of liberation. The talk was fantastic and reflected the cooperation the authors of these separate books tying together various struggles.The panel covered where exactly BDS and campus politics did fit into the larger question of pressuring Israel for Palestinian liberation. However, although this panel provides evidence that an event of this stature can bring out 220 different students and activists, their are still those who will take up the “good fight” to protect the settler-colonial state and policies of good ole ’48.
Amongst the typically clichéd Zionist agitators challenging the speakers to a “debate” and espousing viscerally racist remarks to disrupt the event NYU SJP put on with such comments of “All Gazans teaching their children that Jews are monkey’s”, “All Palestinians are aggressive terrorists”, and the mythological weapons being shipped to the West Bank and Gaza, their were as well students of NYU reporting for such pro-Zionist campus groups to spin the conversation on campus. This spin is a typical tactic of those on the Zionist wing of campus politics changing the conversation to one of Anti-Semites vs. Zionists rather than what the event actually was, an honest conversation of a genuine opposition to racism and settler-colonial policies of Israel and analyzing the conflict with strict adherence to facts on the ground. Campus Zionists rather than listening to the panel, readings, and discussion that spoke towards not conflating both sides of Palestinians and Zionists as equals in this conflict, but rather oppressor (Israel) and the oppressed (Palestinians), Zionists on NYU’s campus recently published an article accusing Blumenthal and Abunimah of being anti-semitic.
This accusation of anti-Semitism towards Max Blumenthal and Ali Abunimah at the NYU event is if not clichéd it is as well disingenuously backed up with a serious lack of facts. Initially leveling this claim at Blumenthal and Abunimah for joking about the ridiculous claims of equivalence and claims that the IDF are the real victims of Palestinians aggressing against them with the argument that, the article by Avital Kaplan and Josh Levin in Washington Square News on NYU SJP’s event, replicates an old ridiculous claim “rock throwing by Palestinians has certainly destroyed many Israeli lives.” This claim places the conflict in an a-historical vacuum away from 6,792 Palestinian lives that have been claimed between 2000-2012, the Palestinian refugees displaced by colonizing advancements since the first Aliya, and the tragedy of the “Nakba” in its entirety. It takes away the character of Israel’s blatant colonial project and replaces it with an equalizing idea that it is simply just two nationalisms contending for the same piece of land for a millennia. This conflated mythology has often been repeated throughout campus halls and conversations and must be dismissed as a non-point, and one that apologizes only for similar excuses as ones that where put forth by South African Apartheid apologists that called similarly for Nelson Mandela’s arrest.
As well it appears that besides them conflating Zionism and Judaism, resulting in speaking for the entirety of the Jewish community at NYU in a sweeping claim, the authors as well appear to copied or at least pay homage to the StandWithUs memo that described Palestinian activists that would be present on campus’ during Israeli Apartheid Week. The memo states:
“When Ali Abunimah comes to your campus, be prepared for a sophisticated, smooth advocate of radical Palestinian positions. A graduate of Princeton University and currently a researcher in social policy at University of Chicago, Abunimah is adept at weaving arguments and making verbal counter-attacks. But his calmness, highbrow style and constant references to international law and human rights cannot conceal his intense hostility about the very founding of Israel. He opposes a two-state solution and instead wants to see Israel and the territories emerged into one state- that is, he wants the Jewish state dismantled.” – StandWithUs Memo on Palestinian Activist Speakers
where StandWithUs does not only display an anti-intellectual current that appears to be making headway to pushing the Jewish intellectual community into a bind or as some commentators have called it “intellectual suicide”. The StandWithUs document resembled much of the un-redacted and edited WSN article and appears to replicate similar sentiments of displaying the speakers as cunning deceivers. With possibly leaving the same font settings to the dossier from StandWithUs, it almost comes off that this specific section was copy and pasted stating:
“Abunimah and Blumenthal are dangerous. They are well educated- Abunimah has degrees form Princeton University and the University of Chicago while Blumenthal has a degree from the University of Pennsylvania. They are fantastic orators and they are overflowing with charisma. These characteristics endow them with an aura of credibility. As a result, people are blind to their deceptions, distortions, and slander.” –WSN Avital Kaplan and Josh Lavine on the Speakers of “Against Israeli Apartheid!”
This statement, besides mimicking almost verbatim talking points from the StandWithUs dossier, sheds light a couple of important points I feel for Anti-Zionists on campus. First it shows that Zionists are not able to contend anti-Zionist arguments on the basis of facts, and must resort to defamation through re-appropriation of typically left-wing arguments of tolerance, freedom of speech, and social justice, and disorienting facts with claims of anti-Semitism and de-contextualizing the situation. It appears that the Washington Square News piece, as well as many other campus Zionist responses, is trying to appropriate lines as well from identity based politics in the sense that all non-Jews (and now some left wing “self-hating” Jews including but not limited to: Max Blumenthal, Norman Finkelstein, Judith Butler, Sherry Wolf, Leon Trotsky, Lenni Brenner, Ilan Pappé, Noam Chomsky etc. etc.) must not tell Zionists that it is both unjust and plain wrong to colonize Palestinians on the premise of ones religion stating you are the chosen for their neighbors land, or that you believe that all part of a ethno – religious background of Judaism necessitate a national state. These arguments are followed with a ethno-religious supremacist attitude, and we are seeing this attitude being replicated on campuses by mostly Ashkenazi Americanized or Israeli Jews whom benefit from the set of privileges set up by the so-called state of Israel. We have to realize that these ideas are wrong-headed and have always had contentions amongst a solid block of Anti-Zionist Jews with principled emancipatory politics as displayed through opposition that includes Jewish communities from the revolutionary socialists to the Iraqi Anti-Zionist Organization in the 1940’s. We as well have to realize more importantly, that we must take the Palestinian claim of their inalienable right of return and respect of equal rights being called by Palestinian activists and their communities.
This comes to my second point, that campus and liberal Zionists tend to forget that as emancipatory they may attempt to portray Israel, it still remains that Zionism has the reactionary crux of it’s argument that it necessitates colonization and Jewish supremacy. The argument of a ‘Jewish and Democratic’ state is beginning to loose ground as the history of Zionism is becoming much more well known as well as the consequences of a settler colonial state like Israel’s visceral racism being intertwined with Zionism’s project. This intertwining of settler-colonialism and emancipatory politics has traditionally clouded the actual motives of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, resulting in tradition prior to 1948 of not acknowledging the “Arab problem”.
This discussion, only to be brought up by the far right revisionist Zionists Ze’ev Jabotinsky, only acknowledged the Palestinians explicitly wanting to resist Zionist expansion and colonization due to the history surrounding the British Mandate and the close interaction that Jabotinsky’s para-military gang had with resisting peasants throughout differing townships. Jabatinsky’s tactics, much like contemporary Israel’s tactics with both Labor and Likud Zionists, encouraged conquering and suppressing the land to Jewish supremacy and understood that a country like Israel can only function with the suppression and majority rule by a Jewish population. As time progressed and “Arab” Israeli’s (i.e. Arab Jews from various countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and North Africa that migrated during the early 1950’s to Israel due to heightened anti-Jewish sentiment aimed at the 1948 displacement of Palestinians) begun to realize that although participating in the Zionist project and displacing Palestinians, they as well faced discrimination by the Europeanized Ashkenazi establishment that rules Israel’s economy and politics. With heightened racism frequently being executed indiscriminately to any Arabs, including at times Jewish Arabs in Israel proper, many are beginning to realize more and more that besides settler-colonialism pitting similar men and women against each other Jewish and Arab alike, it as well is inexplicably linked with a profit drive and interests in preserving special privileges of ultimately a minority in the area. It abhors the call for equality with what the Zionist idealists like Theodor Herzl often called the uncivilized in reference to the indigenous population in Palestine and because of this we have seen a rise in inequality and violence towards those whom don’t fit into the colonial mold wether it be African Refugees or indigenous Palestinians.
Campus and liberal Zionists seek to discredit the legitimate struggle against oppression Palestinians face on the basis that the land in which Palestinians reside in is entitled to Zionists although their has always been a Jewish community present in Palestine prior to colonization. However, although this is the case, their is a new generation challenging and grappling with the legitimate history of this occupation, where they call into question this entitlement to special privileges and others lands, and bring a much more emancipatory call of equal rights to all within the area in one state. As this call begins to grow as students are beginning to see the links and ties of the United States capitalist structures encouraging re-investment in an occupation that has mimicked that of our countries settler colonialism. It appears that activists are finally beginning to string together (much like myself) the lines and webs that Palestine is placed within the internal contradictions of capitalism itself due to the connections that settler colonialism has historically had with global capitalism and the nationalistic exceptionalism that it has often been encouraged by the United States. This being said, the campaigns and state mandated PR actions will continue, but hopefully as they begin to escalate, students begin to not only use history as a tool to fight in favor for the oppressed to speak for themselves, but as well that these will ultimately lead to a much larger movement taking off that ties together these inherent contradictions of capitalism, colonialism, private security, surveillance, occupation, racism, and imperialism for a much more sustained left that can really begin to win and demand serious gains not just for Palestinian liberation, but human emancipation.