It’s Israel Hate Week on many college campuses. The people who host these events don’t call it by that name, of course, but spreading hatred toward Israel is a primary goal of ill-informed and bigoted students around the world who have joined the campaign to delegitimize Israel.
The hypocrisy of Hate Week this year is especially stark. Self-righteous individuals who criticize Israel for alleged violations of human rights and international law have nothing to say about the wanton slaughter taking place in Syria. The student champions of the Palestinian cause have been silent while thousands of Palestinians have been murdered and fled the country. An estimated 40,000 Palestinians nearly starved to death in the Yarmouk refugee camp. The war has taken more Palestinian lives than all of the conflicts with Israel over the last hundred years put together, and the killing continues without hardly any student protests. If the suffering of Palestinians cannot be used as a bloody shirt against Israel, then no one is interested.How can “Students for Justice in Palestine” have the chutzpah to call themselves “pro-Palestinian,” when they are content to watch Palestinians massacred in Syria, discriminated against in Lebanon and Jordan, and isolated by Egypt? The answer is clear: they don’t care a whit about the welfare of Palestinians; they are interested only in spreading hatred of Israelis. They should change their name accordingly.
Longtime critic Norman Finkelstein was ostracized by the delegitimizers when he dared to speak the truth about their goal. He said the proponents of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel refuse to support a peace agreement based on the two–state solution, because “a large segment of the movement wants to eliminate Israel.”
The leaders of BDS do not hide their intentions; which makes the willingness of otherwise intelligent students to support their genocidal platform especially disturbing. People like Max Blumenthal and Remi Kanazi (both welcome speakers at Hate Week), and the writers at Mondoweiss.com and Electronic Intifada are extremists whose views are anathema to most Americans (who continue to support Israel at record levels in surveys while ranking the Palestinian Authority with pariahs Iran and North Korea). A commitment to Israel’s destruction, and an insensitivity to Palestinian suffering unless it can be blamed on the Jews, defines today’s “pro-Palestinian activism.”
Anyone who dares to deviate from the orthodoxy of Israel demonology or advocate peace with Israel, is accused of being a “collaborator” or “traitor.” In the Palestinian Authority, these associations will at best earn a jail sentence and, more frequently, execution.
To be pro-Israel is also to be pro-peace. Pro-Israel students support negotiations and a two state they solution; they often go out of their way to engage their classmates in dialogue. Occasionally, a reasonable group of Muslim or Arab students will participate, and on a handful of campuses, Muslim and Jewish students have a very good relationship. On most campuses, however, efforts to engage Israel’s detractors amounts to a dialogue of the deaf. The anti-Israel groups are more interested in disrupting events and trying to silence Israeli speakers and supporters of Israel than in the type of informed, reasoned discussions expected in a university environment.
Faculty have helped make a difference on many campuses. An evaluator concluded that as a result of AICE’s Visiting Israel Professor program, “Israel has moved from its place as an isolated ''extra-curricular'' topic into mainstream classrooms and core curricula. In addition, the way Israel is discussed on college campuses has shifted. AICE programs have succeeded in incorporating rigorous scholarship and debate into discussions on Israel that were previously dominated by polemical hyperbole."
Unfortunately, Israel Hate Weeks have the exact opposite effect. They debase the conversation and exploit freedom of speech to spit venom that is fine for a street corner but should have no place at an academic institution.
Perhaps someday in the future, mainstream Palestinian solidarity activism will shift from trying to convince Americans to hate Israel to advocating a permanent end to the conflict. Until then, no one should have any illusions about what the “pro-Palestinian” groups really want.