Here and There: The US-Israel relationship – where is it headed?

We should be deeply concerned about what the future will bring.

Posters in support of Palestinian rights have appeared on the London Underground to mark Israeli Apartheid Week (photo credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY IN LONDON)
Posters in support of Palestinian rights have appeared on the London Underground to mark Israeli Apartheid Week
The constant anti-Israel bombardment is affecting Jewish students as well as others. These past weeks have been dominated by the American presidential election.
US citizens choose a new president this year. I have to confess that I find myself tuning in to Fox News more frequently than normal, despite the fact that every few minutes it leaves the news and goes into the irritating “Fox Extra” mode. However, I do seem to be caught up in the excitement and anxiety of seeing which candidates will finally face off against each other in November.
As the US is Israel’s strongest ally, many Israelis view with concern which candidate will be in the driving seat by the end of this year. At a time when many countries seem to be turning away from Israel, the strength of the US-Israel relationship takes on even greater significance. To what extent will this relationship remain intact, given increasing worldwide pressure to isolate the only Jewish state? One of the most worrying articles I have read recently is by Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit. Having visited some 40 American universities this past year, giving lectures to thousands of students, he was shocked at the devastating inroads the BDS movement had made among far too many students – Jewish as well as others. He described conversations with Jewish students as heartbreaking – showing a clear turning away from Israel.
This year marks the 12th annual Israel Apartheid Week. The first Apartheid Week was held in Toronto in 2005. Today the IAW website boasts of 155 universities worldwide hosting this event.
As Columbia University’s “Apartheid Week” was set to begin in New York, a Canary Mission report profiled 39 of the university’s major campus anti-Israel activists over the past several years, students and professors, many belonging to Students for Justice for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. One professor profiled is Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history. The mission documents his ongoing anti-Israel research and teaching, considered one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent history. Last year The Algemeiner reported that Columbia topped a list of universities “with the most anti-Semitic activity.”
On March 1, Israeli-born Ilan Pappe, a “new historian” known for his anti-Israel pro-Palestinian stance, addressed students at America’s prestigious Yale University under the umbrella of Students for Justice for Palestine. The lecture was titled “Why is Palestine still the issue in 2016?” The $5 entry fee was “a suggested donation” to be used to fund Pappe’s trip to the States. Born in Haifa to parents who escaped from Germany in the ’30s, Pappe lectured for years at the University of Haifa. He was asked to resign when he called for the boycott of Israeli universities. Currently, he is a professor at the University of Exeter in the UK.
On the first day of the United Kingdom’s Israel Apartheid Week, February 22, London commuters came face-toface with official-looking advertisements depicting Israel as an apartheid state – displayed in over 500 tube trains reaching four million passengers. The fact that Transport for London removed them does not take away from the reality that the damage had already been done.
At Oxford University, Alex Chalmers, co-chair of the Oxford University Labor Club, resigned because of the decision to endorse Israel Apartheid Week 2016.
On Facebook, Chalmers accused members of the club’s executive of “throwing around the term ‘Zio’” (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan), stressing that anti- Israel feeling and anti-Zionism have become mechanisms for expressing anti-Semitism.
Speakers invited to past Oxford IAWs have included Omar Barghouti. Born in Qatar, brought up in Egypt and now living in Jaffa, he holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Tel Aviv University and is studying there for his doctorate.
He is the co-founder of the BDS Movement and a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. While 184,000 signed a petition demanding his expulsion from Tel Aviv University, the petition was rejected.
Another speaker was Avi Shilam, who once lived in Israel and has dual Israeli and British citizenship. A virulent verbal and written critic of Israel, he married the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George – British prime minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration.
A regular contributor to The Guardian, he accuses Zionism of being the “real enemy” of the Jews. Clearly, one who holds Israeli citizenship becomes an even more powerful advocate against the State of Israel.
What is happening on campuses today worldwide concerns us all. The link to the American 2016 election campaign is clear. It is from universities that tomorrow’s leaders will emerge. While there is a sense that, for the coming year or so, Israel will continue to enjoy support from the US, we should be deeply concerned about what the future will bring. The constant anti-Israel bombardment is affecting Jewish students as well as others. Jewish undergraduates overwhelmed with sophisticated anti-Israel campaigns waged virtually on a daily basis are totally unprepared from an informed and educated point of view. If one doesn’t know the facts, it is all too easy to take on the ferocious stream of negativity aimed at Israel.
Last month a “secret” gathering took place in Jerusalem under Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan with 150 participants from 20 countries. The subject was how to deal with BDS. Because of the secrecy it is difficult to know whether the question of what is happening on campuses today was discussed at any meaningful level. This is an urgent matter to be dealt with now or there will be no one to invite to such “secret” gatherings tomorrow.
These past weeks have highlighted the US presidential campaign as well as the 2016 Oscar award ceremony. Among the winners was the Hungarian film Son of Saul. I saw it, and it shook me to the core – a film on the Nazi concentration camps that left nothing to the imagination, a graphically painful portrayal of how Germans treated human beings.
The Holocaust was something that happened in my lifetime, but for university students it is history.
This film should be shown on every campus throughout the world. It might go a long way toward understanding where we come from and why we have managed to build a beautiful country whose gates remain open to every Jew.
The writer is co-chairperson of ESRA, and is also active in public affairs.