OP-ED: When hatred of Israel is stronger than the coronavirus

By MITCHELL BARD

Last month, I wrote about how Israel’s campus detractors were sidelined by the closure of the nation’s colleges.

Well, for some, hatred of Israel is stronger than the coronavirus.

The Associated Students of the University of California Davis (ASUCD) passed a resolution on June 4 supporting the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) by calling on the University of California’s board of regents to divest “from corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories, violating both international humanitarian law and international human rights.”

As in the case of the only other divestment vote this year (at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), the student government president vetoed the resolution. In an all-too-rare display of maturity, common sense, and sensitivity, Kyle Krueger acknowledged the complexity of the conflict, the divisiveness of the resolution, and the pain it caused to Jewish students who had “minimal to no input.”

As I’ve noted before, one of the ways the “success” of the BDS movement has been exaggerated is in equating student government resolutions with the views of the student body. In the UC Davis case, for example, divestment was approved by a 5-4 majority. That’s right, just five students out of an enrollment of nearly 40,000 — 1% — had the power to call for the entire UC system to punish companies that do business in Israel.

Understanding the unpopularity of their movement, BDS supporters have over the years placed a priority on winning seats in student government so they can impose their views on the overwhelming majority of students. Still, they have lost more than two-thirds of the votes that have been held and largely given up on introducing resolutions, which reached a high of 27 in 2014-15, and fell to 10 last year and two this year.

BDS advocates insist they are not antisemitic, do not support terror, and do not deny Israel’s right to exist. When they are asked their views, however, they typically obfuscate, dissemble, lie, or refuse to answer.

At UC Davis, ASUCD President Emeritus Michael Gofman said he challenged the supporters of the BDS resolution. “I can commit to supporting a Jewish and democratic state of Israel peacefully coexisting with its Palestinian neighbor,” he said. “Can you do the same?”

Gofman said, “Not one expressed any recognition of Israel, sinking to accusing Jews of blood libel, genocide, and a whole host of factual and historical inaccuracies.”

Jewish students should directly challenge Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other BDS advocates as Gofman did, in order to expose them as antisemites and hypocrites whose claim to progressivism is a charade. They should be asked the same question Gofman asked and others, such as:

  • Do you condemn terrorism — and specifically, attacks on Israeli civilians?
  • Do you believe Israel has the right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East?
  • Do you believe the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as the Palestinians?
  • Do you agree with BDS leader Omar Barghouti that there should be a unitary state, where Jews will be the minority?
  • Do you agree with BDS advocate As’ad AbuKhalil that “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel”?
  • Do you support Hamas and its charter calling for the destruction of Israel?
  • Do you agree that all of Palestine — i.e., what is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza — should be a Palestinian state?
  • Do you agree with Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, a Palestinian Authority official and imam of Gaza City’s main mosque, that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs?

Predictably, as occurred during the Ferguson protests, antisemites are exploiting the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder to demonize Israel. If students return to campus, the effort to link police brutality in America to Israel will likely be a major theme.

JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” project promotes the idea that abuses by US law enforcement officers are a result of training they receive from Israel. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights tweeted after Floyd’s death, “The Israeli military trains US police in racist and repressive policing tactics, which systematically targets black and brown bodies.”

The intersectionality crowd also claims that the IDF’s treatment of Palestinians is like the mistreatment of African-Americans by the police. Writing at Electronic Intifada, for example, Ahmed Abu Artema said, “The killing of George Floyd, an African American man, lays bare the brutality and danger that stems from a deeply embedded culture of racism. The situation for Palestinians confronting the Zionist colonial project is no less challenging: Jewish supremacy and racial discrimination are entrenched in Israel’s constitutional law.”

Israel’s detractors are also comparing the Floyd case to the tragic killing of a Palestinian man with autism. Reportedly, the man carried a “suspicious object that looked like a pistol,” and failed to obey police orders to stop before he was shot. Defense Minister Benny Gantz apologized for what happened, and the circumstances of the incident are being investigated.

Like every other country, Israel has a problem with racism. It is not endemic, however, to the society or police. Israel does not have a history of enslaving its minority population. Moreover, Israel faces a very different threat from potential terrorists than police typically confront on America’s streets.

With the failure of the BDS movement on campus, it is not surprising that proponents want to piggyback on a more popular cause. By glomming onto the Black Lives Matter movement with their own “Palestinian Lives Matter” slogan, critics of Israel distract from the issue of racism in America and minimize the murder of Floyd. Pro-Israel students should be prepared, however, for this line of attack in the fall.

Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and authority on US-Israel relations.

 
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