A recent article in the Technique titled “Tech MSA holds event on Palestinian awareness” by undergraduate student Tehreem Hussain is riddled with falsehoods about the State of Israel. Furthermore, its criticism of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is a slap in the face to the Jewish community at Georgia Tech.
As a Jewish person, there is an inexplicable sense of home, safety, and family that I feel in Israel. I spent three months there this past summer, living in Tel Aviv and seeing family on the weekends. I made salads with my grandma using the herbs in her balcony garden and took her dog on walks around the neighborhood park at sunset. I visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and saw videos of people singing what is now the Israeli national anthem, HaTikva (The Hope), after being liberated from Auschwitz. I prayed at the Western Wall, our holiest site, where my people have been praying for over two thousand years.
So when I saw an article in the Technique starting with the claim that the “Israel-Palestine” conflict began with the establishment of the State of Israel and the adoption of the 1947 Partition Plan, I was outraged. From the outset, the article leaves out crucial details about the history of the Jewish people and delivers a heavily biased account of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For instance, Hussain fails to mention in any form that Israel fought for its right to exist, beginning with the War of Independence in 1948, followed by the Six-Day War in 1967, and the Yom-Kippur War in 1973. In each case, Arab armies sought to eliminate the world’s only Jewish state.
She also omits peace offers by the State of Israel and other parties, which provided viable paths to Palestinian statehood. Time and time again, Arab leaders have refused to come to the table.
Putting history aside, the way the Muslim Student Association(MSA)’s event and Hussain’s article frame current events is particularly offensive because it misrepresents them to vilify Israel. Hussain describes how recent raids by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank have affected Palestinians, but she fails to mention the reason for the raids in the first place: the rise of Palestinian terror groups. Last year, Israel saw a three hundred percent increase in terror attacks, most orchestrated by terror groups operating in the West Bank.
Since January, we have witnessed a shooting in a Jerusalem synagogue that killed seven people and injured three and an intentional car-ramming at a popular bus stop that killed two children and a young man. Although no group claimed responsibility, the attacks were praised by Hamas and celebrated with fireworks by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sadly attacks against Jewish people are not exclusive to Israel. Although Jews are just 2.4 percent of the US population, they were the victims of 57 percent of all religious hate crimes in 2020, and an audit by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the US in 2021, including a 21 percent increase of incidents on college campuses specifically. Those rates do not seem to be slowing down any time soon. Just this past week Neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups called upon social media followers for a national “Day of Hate” against Jewish people.
Needless to say, holding the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of Antisemitism is crucial to the safety, well-being, and inclusion of Jewish students on our campus. Trying to refute people’s own definition of the prejudice they experience and move to overturn it is frankly absurd. There is no scenario where it is appropriate to tell another group what does or does not threaten them.
The definition itself is a brief, non-legally binding statement about what antisemitism is, along with eleven examples of contemporary manifestations of it – seven of which relate to Israel.
MSA claims that the IHRA definition is a “Silencing Campaign” because they believe it, “distorts and conflates advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism.” This is simply false. In fact, nowhere in the definition are the words “Palestine” or “Palestinians” even mentioned.
The IHRA definition allows for political debate and even criticism of Israeli policy, just as one would see in any other country. Where it draws the line is when that criticism becomes the basis of denying the right of the State to exist. Dialogue is welcome, and indeed helpful, so long as Israel’s right to exist is acknowledged.
As the Technique article states, “MSA’s primary concern with the definition is the seventh point that equates antisemitism with ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’.” MSA is objecting to GT recognizing the Jewish right to self-determination – or recognizing the right of the State of Israel to exist, a country that is home to 6.3 million Jews and recognized by the UN, the US, and 164 other countries.
As a final point, let’s define Zionism for what it truly is: a belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Denying the Jewish people a right that every other group in the world is entitled to, is a form of antisemitism.
So yes, I am incredibly proud to be a Zionist, and I am proud to be part of a resilient Jewish community at GT. I believe it is imperative that GT supports students of all backgrounds and respects the right of minorities to define their respective forms of discrimination. Jews should be no exception.
This article was originally published in Technique, the official campus paper for the Georgia Institute of Technology in print and online.