Last Thursday Professor Brahm of Northern Michigan University gave a lecture at Chapman auditorium on Israel, anti-semitism and antizionism. I was disappointed by its lack of serious academic research, by its demagogy and its falsification of many historical facts.
The first serious problem in the lecture was the claim that anti-zionism = anti-Israel = anti-semitism. While we all, unequivocally, condemn anti-semitism, it is absolute demagogy to equate that with anti-Israel or anti-zionism. On August 23, 2014, 327 holocaust survivors and descendants wrote an open letter in the New York Times titled “Ongoing massacre of the Palestinian people.” The letter states “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide, we, unequivocally, condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine”¦Genocide begins with the silence of the world”¦We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Never again must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANY ONE.”
I wonder if the speaker and his supporters will label these 327 Jewish holocaust survivors as anti-Semitic.
The second point that the speaker made was about the cause of the rise of anti-Israel sentiments across college campuses in the US. Once again the speaker avoided the root cause of this phenomenon and gave a simplistic and intellectually-challenged explanation. The speaker claimed, as a matter of fact, that the root cause is anti-Semitism. To prove his point, he made a mockery of academic research. He quoted extreme statements from few individuals, none of them is a college student. It is obvious that one can always find extreme statements about a group of people, just listen to some of the statements made by some presidential candidates. Had the speaker made his point based on a field study among college students, I would have respected his conclusions. What the speaker has ignored is the root cause of anti-Israel sentiments in US college campuses, namely, the continued occupation of Gaza and the West Bank since 1967 (the longest occupation in recent times), the illegal blockade of Gaza, the war crimes committed in Gaza by the Israeli military and the continued humiliation and dehumanization of the Palestinian people.
The most remarkable thing about this is that despite all the pro-Israeli propaganda in the US media, with Fox News more royal than the king, college students and their professors were able to find the truth. I am so proud to be part of such enlightened and admirable group.
The third point that the speaker made was about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) global movement, whose main aim is to bring about the end of the Israeli occupation through world-wide people’s action. BDS was inspired by the Boycott Movement that was founded in London on 26 June 1959 at a meeting of South African exiles and their supporters to bring about the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. However, the speaker claimed that BDS is “dishonest, anti-Semitic and that its true aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.”
I wonder if the 327 survivors of the holocaust who support BDS support the destruction of Israel.
When one of the students in the audience asked the speaker to suggest an alternative strategy to end the Israeli occupation, he fell in the trap of blaming the victims, the Palestinians. This is what the late Edward Said described in his book “Orientalism”, colonial powers always blame the colonized people for being colonized. Palestinians deserve to be occupied because they refused all Israel peace offers! What a mockery of serious academic work!
As the late Nelson Mandela stated in a letter to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, “Palestinians are not struggling for a “˜state'” but for freedom, liberation and equality. Just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.”