Before June 2015, when President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to help undocumented young people obtain temporary citizenship, immigrants lived in perpetual fear of deportation. Today, with new representation in the Oval Office, fear is once again brimming. President Trump’s decision to cut the DACA program has inspired college students to stand up in solidarity with undocumented immigrants whose freedom and legal status in America is being threatened.
A proposed DACA rally was to be held at the Hunter College subway station where students were supposedly going to raise awareness about the recent DACA developments in a public, vocal forum with both students and passerby invited to participate. When I arrived at the rally, I was dismayed to discover that the protestor’s message had little to do with the repeal of DACA and instead, had morphed into an anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rally. Rather than educate observers on the imminent deadline for the DACA extension application, the anti-Israel students took the struggle of undocumented immigrants as an opportunity to raise awareness about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Although I appreciate everyone’s right to protest, it is intolerable that students hijacked a domestic conversation on immigration in order to slander and delegitimize the state of Israel.
These students spread their own message by desperately trying to compare the tribulations of DACA recipients to the plight of the Palestinians. They held signs that read “No Human Is Illegal” and “From Palestine to Mexico, Border Walls Have Got to Go”. Their opening remark was that just as Palestinians have been removed from their homes, individuals are fearful of deportation due to the revocation of DACA. While this manifestation of intersection is brutally dishonest, this comparison is also completely distorted given the myriad of differences between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and young DACA recipients losing their legal status.
The first and most important difference is that the DACA recipients do not pose even a remote existential threat to America. It is unreasonable and unjust to compare the contentious situation in the Middle East, where Palestinian leaders are using significant sums of their limited budget to pay terrorist salaries and are explicitly inciting citizens to commit acts of terror against Israeli civilians in order to become “martyrs” in the name of Jihad. There is absolutely no comparison among DACA recipients in America.
The rally’s digression from the topic of DACA to the topic of Middle-East conflict was even more disturbing as students completely deviated from the truth by spreading partial truths and drawing irrelevant comparisons that painted Israel in a demonic light.
In one instance, the anti-Israel students stated that the barrier that separates Israel from violent areas of the West Bank is “more than twice the size of the Berlin Wall”. The entire premise of this claim is flawed, irrelevant and misleading.
While the Berlin wall was constructed by a communist regime in order to prevent its citizens from escaping to West Berlin, Israel’s security barrier was built along the border of threatening areas in order to curb crippling suicide bombings on buses and in cafes during the Second Intifada. The Israeli civilian death toll at this time was upwards of 1,000; with thousands more injured. The implication of a barrier as a defense against terrorism has been overwhelmingly successful, with no suicide bombings having taken place within Israel’s borders since its construction. Comparing Israel’s security barrier to the Berlin Wall is a complete fabrication and only intends to deny Israel the right of self-defense from life-threatening violence. Additionally, Israel is neither the first nor the last country to build a barrier to protect its citizens, with a third of the world’s countries having completed similar barriers. This fact was conveniently omitted at this rally.
Another deception, which echoed from the steps of the subway station and into the minds of students and NYC commuters, was that the Jewish people have “no connection” and “no ties” to the land of Israel. The anti-Israel students stated falsely that Palestinians are the only indigenous people from this area when Jewish history, archeological findings, and traditions of Jewish prayer all validate and reinforce the Jewish connection to the state of Israel as well.
To conclude the offensive misrepresentations of Israel spewed at this rally, organizers made the outrageous claim that Israel is a white supremacist state. This claim is even more heinous considering the fact that Jewish people were persecuted by white or Aryan supremacists during the Second World War and are today still harassed by neo-Nazi sympathizers such as those involved in the Charlottesville protests from earlier this year. Labeling Israel as such is a blatant inaccuracy and a disservice to the countless religions, races, and ethnicities that enjoy equal rights and have a voice in Israel’s democratic society. Israel is a melting pot of people, a feat that in and of itself completely counters the core ideals of white supremacy. With Israel’s progressive affirmative action laws, annual parade for gay pride and inclusion of all types of people in its government, equating Israel with white supremacy is an absurd and baseless claim.
With each passing moment of the rally came more lies and deceptions about Israel. Not only were my people’s ties to the land of Israel questioned and criticized, they also were flat out rejected and denied. My hopes to attend this rally and potentially participate in this important domestic dialogue about DACA were dead on arrival. Hijacking a narrative in order to advance a hateful political agenda is a regrettable injustice that accomplishes nothing but invalidating a cause that deserves an honest conversation and solution.
Contributed by Hunter College CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Fliegelman.