For many years, members of anti-Israel student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have charged that they are being unfairly accused of antisemitism for simply “criticizing Israeli policy.”
Of late, however, those charges are ringing extremely hollow.
With increasing frequency, SJP and similar student groups are making it clear that their primary goal is not simply to criticize Israeli policy, but to advocate for the complete elimination of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state:
A coalition of several New York City chapters of SJP adopted as its logo the outline of the entire State of Israel filled in with the colors of the Palestinian flag and declared in its mission statement: “We support the One State Solution and understand that it is the only possible end result of the struggle to liberate ALL of Palestine.”
In recent years at the University of California Irvine, the annual series of Israel-bashing events, including talks by individuals calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, is officially known as “Anti-Zionism Week.”
Chants of “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free!,” blatant calls for a Palestinian state not alongside but in place of Israel, are de rigueur at anti-Israel rallies on campuses across the US.
These examples and dozens more just like them are not mere criticism of Israel and are not intended to result in a peaceful solution.
Rather, they uncover the true antisemitic intentions of SJP – the elimination of the only Jewish state. They are perfect examples of “eliminationist anti-Zionism.”
Let’s be clear: criticism of the Israeli government and Israeli policies, including settlements, the separation barrier and the living conditions of Palestinians, is not antisemitism and is appropriate and welcomed on a college campus. Calls for the elimination or destruction of Israel, however, cross the line.
The US government, global leaders including President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, the prime ministers of Canada, Britain and France and the 31 nations of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the world’s preeminent scholars of antisemitism and the vast majority of world Jewry all recognize this type of expression for the blatant antisemitism that it is.
In fact, the University of California recently became the first US school to acknowledge that expressions of anti-Zionism are “assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture,” and a form of antisemitism that has “no place” on any UC campus.
In a recent comprehensive investigation of reported incidents of antisemitism – both classic antisemitism and those instances when classic antisemitic tropes are applied to Israel – at more than 100 US colleges and universities, our organization found that expression opposing Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled from 2015 to 2016.
More than ever before, in chants at protest rallies, painted on “apartheid walls,” written in op-eds in the student newspaper, posted on social media and argued in numerous talks and symposia, Zionism – Israel’s founding ideology – is portrayed as wholly illegitimate, “solutions” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that would eliminate Israel are promoted and open calls for the destruction of Israel are made.
Moreover, schools with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activity were about six times more likely to show evidence of expression opposing Israel’s right to exist.
This is not surprising since virtually all of the more than 150 active SJP and like-minded student organizations ally themselves to the BDS movement. After all, the BDS movement’s non-negotiable demands that Israel end its “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and allow all Palestinian refugees and their descendants – upwards of five million Arabs – to return to their pre-1948 homes would necessarily result in the elimination of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state.
In addition, each of the BDS movement’s founders and leaders has called for an end to the Jewish state through violent or non-violent means, and at least one of the movement’s founding organizations, Hamas, espouses an openly genocidal anti-Zionism, aspiring not only “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” but to murder all of its Jewish inhabitants.
Nor is it surprising that in our study, schools with incidents of expression opposing Israel’s right to exist were almost three times as likely to show evidence of blatant anti-Jewish hostility, including assaults and harassment of Jewish students, destruction of their property, discrimination, and suppression of Jewish students’ speech. This, too, is consistent with the tenets of eliminationist anti-Zionism, which targets not only Israel, but also its presumed supporters, for harmful action.
What is surprising, however, is that despite clear evidence that SJP and similar groups are not simply criticizing Israeli policy but advocating for Israel’s annihilation, and that such advocacy frequently leads to actions that target Jewish students for harm, anti-Israel student groups continue to charge that they are being unfairly accused of antisemitism.
More university leaders must acknowledge that eliminationist anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism and leads to increased antisemitism on campus, and commit to addressing it with the same promptness and vigor as all other forms of bigotry. Barring that acknowledgment and commitment, Jewish students will remain at risk.The author is a faculty member at the University of California and the director of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that combats antisemitism at colleges and universities in the United States.