A group calling itself Law Students for Justice in Palestine insists people should single out Israel for boycott, and is acting close to home by advocating that other NYU law students join them in discriminating against the Jewish state.
Undeterred by the broad spectrum of leaders recently linking anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism — President Obama, Pope Francis, Socialist French prime minister Manuel Vals and Conservative British prime minister David Cameron have done so, as did Martin Luther King shortly before he was killed — the NYU anti-Israel group promotes anti-Zionist policies meant to eliminate self-determination for the Jewish people, even while claiming self-determination for the Palestinians as a “guiding principle.”
As is so often the case with groups seeking to convince others that Israel is uniquely deserving of opprobrium and punishment, LSJP seems to realize that if it has any hope of swaying reasonable students, it must misinform them. An honest account of a booming but beleaguered, impressive but imperfect country just wouldn’t do the trick.
When not hurling inflammatory charges about “apartheid” and “Jewish supremacy,” a phrase popularized by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, LSJP claims Israel is guilty of “institutionalized segregation of its indigenous Palestinian population.” An examination of their indictment shows this to be all syllables and no substance.
“The state segregates Jewish and Palestinian citizens in public education,” the LSJP statement claims. But it is demonstrably false that Israel requires the two populations to attend different public schools, as they suggest. Despite the fact that Israel’s Jews and Arabs speak different languages, have different cultural backgrounds, and tend to live in different communities, hundreds of thousands attend schools with at least one Arab and Jewish student. At the same time, those linguistic, cultural, and geographic divisions result in students normally attend schools where the language of instruction corresponds to their own first language. In the words of Yousef Jabreen, founder of the Arab Center for Law and Policy, the Arab sector in Israel desires “to tailor its own education system to the unique identity, culture, language and history of the country’s Arab citizens.”
This handful of NYU activists are entitled to think they know better than Israel’s Arabs about what is best for Israel’s Arabs. But they shouldn’t mislead audiences on the topic.
Leasing and Owning
The LSJP students also claim that, “with the exception of a handful of ‘mixed cities’ and Arab villages, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are generally blocked from leasing or owning property.” Again, the charge is untrue.
The thread is a bit difficult to follow: The passage in the LSJP statement claiming Arabs are barred from holding property links to a document that, for its part, cites another statement by the partisan NGO Adalah. The body of that Adalah statement notes that 13 percent of the country’s land area is privately owned by the Jewish National Fund — land purchased by Jews or transferred to the organization for the purpose of having a guaranteed place in the world for Jews, but which on occasion has nonetheless been leased to Arabs. In a footnote, the Adalah statement alleges that “Palestinian citizens are blocked from purchasing or leasing land in approximately 80% of the area of the state,” but provides no substantiation. Other Adalah documents, though, make clear that their purported 80 percent figure is largely derived from the fact that new inhabitants in small towns that are subject to “admissions committees.” These committees are bound by law not to discriminate, and Israeli courts have intervened on behalf of Israeli Arabs. In short, Arab citizens of Israel are in no way legally barred from leasing or owning property.
LSJP again trips up when claiming that “many laws that explicitly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel” and linking to an Adalah as evidence of this allegation. An examination of Adalah’s list of laws that purportedly discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel exposes just how absurd the charge is. The list, for example, includes a law describing the design of Israel’s flag, which like the flags of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Iceland, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, and dozens of other countries not targeted by the NYU law students includes a religious symbol. Israel’s flag law discriminates against citizens no more than the U.S. flag discriminates against Americans living outside the 13 original colonies. The 13 stripes that represent those colonies, after all, take up most of the area of the American flag.
Adalah also insists that a law meant to encourage immunization is discriminatory. Same with a law stripping payments from parliamentarians charged with a crime, a law stating that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, and a law barring trade with enemy states. (For more on Adalah’s list, see here.)
In the same passage, LSJP claims that “mixed marriage is prohibited.” But while Israel’s system, which holds religious communities formally responsible for marriages and does not offer state-officiated civil marriage, can certainly cause inconveniences for couples of different religions, gay partners, and others, mixed marriages are absolutely not “prohibited.” Civil weddings performed outside the country are recognized inside Israel, for example, and “common law” marriage affords rights that approach those of religious marriages. Jews and Arabs do get married in Israel, and their unions are not “prohibited.”
At any rate, Israel’s sometimes awkward and cumbersome marriage regulations certainly do not “explicitly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” as claimed by LSJP.
LSJP claims that while “Israeli settlers who throw stones at Palestinians might be punished under weak criminal laws …, a Palestinian youth who throws back a stone on the same street is punished under Israeli military law with a mandatory minimum of four years.”
But those who click on LSJP’s link are taken to a web site (never mind that it’s a website described in the Washington Postas an anti-Jewish “hate site”) referring to the mandatory minimum prison term as applying to “Israeli citizens” and Jerusalemites who are residents of Israel — which is to say, roughly the opposite of LSJP’s suggestion that the mandatory minimum does not apply to Israeli citizens.
Indeed, the heated discussion in Israel about the law focused in part on the possibility that a judge could freeze National Insurance Institute and other benefits of the families of stone throwers, benefits that are granted to Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of Israel, but not generally to those governed by the Palestinian Authority. An Arab parliamentarian protested the possibility that the law could “tak[e] away benefits from a citizen who pays taxes.”
Forcibly Removed to Surrounding Countries
LSJP claims that “the majority of the native population who originate from the lands to be visited on the trip were forcibly removed in 1948 and 1967,” which is false, and that “most were ejected to surrounding countries,” which is also false. A majority of Palestinian refugees voluntarily fled their homes, usually as a result of, or for fear of, the ongoing war approaching their towns and cities. Some left at the encouragement of Arab leaders. And some, but far from most, were forcibly expelled from strategic areas during the war. Most Palestinians, furthermore, were internally displaced, having fled to other parts of British mandate Palestine and not to “surrounding countries.”
Entry Into Israel
LSJP claims that students of Palestinian descent are “regularly denied entry into Israel” and that this is “purely on the basis of their ethnicity.” Again, LSJP intentionally conflates ethnicity with nationality and citizenship. The site they link to for substantiation cites a State Department statement referring to Palestinian nationals — not ethnic Arabs — as sometimes being denied entry to Israel. Especially in light of the fact that LSJP refers to Arabs in Israel and West Bankers alike as “Palestinians,” it’s clear that any denials of entry are not based on ethnicity — Arab Israelis, as well as American Arabs who do not carry or are not eligible for Palestinian Authority identification cards, are certainly not routinely denied entry into Israel — but rather affiliation with the Palestinian Authority.
The above focuses on some, though not all, of the errors and distortions in LSJP’s statement to NYU law students. Considering what the activists want students to believe, it’s no surprise LSJP hopes they won’t visit Israel, where they might get a more honest, accurate and nuanced understanding of the country, its laudable achievements, and its continued challenges.