Photo: Robert Chriss/Wikimedia Commons
During an October 27 Ohio State University (OSU) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event, facts became irrelevant. And the dozen-or-so students in attendance became a dozen-or-so more casualties of rage politics, a psycholinguistic maneuver seen throughout history to rally crowds of people into a state of anger unescorted by reasoning.
The event was a response to a late September announcement by Zoom that Leila Khaled, a member of the US-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), could not use its platform. (Khaled was a scheduled participant on a panel sponsored by San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies program.)
The OSU event began with a monologue by the SJP chapter’s president that propagated gross inaccuracies and hyperboles of Middle Eastern history. The audience was told that Israel colonized Palestine, committed a genocide against the native Palestinians, and continues to operate an apartheid state, where Israelis are the superior majority and Palestinians are the inferior minority.
This narrative was then supplemented by a pre-recorded video of Leila Khaled speaking, justifying her terrorist acts by expounding on the propaganda spouted by SJP’s leader just seconds before.
Of course, if the issues were analyzed objectively, the audience would see through the speakers’ lies.
For instance, if they examined Palestinian population statistics and then the speakers’ claim that the Israeli government has been ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people for decades, they would be confused upon discovering that the Palestinian population is one of the fastest-growing in the world.
If they examined the Israeli government’s exact laws that anti-Zionist activists regularly label as “apartheid,” the audience members would instead discover these claims are wildly distorted; for example, as CAMERA UK’s Adam Levick has noted, proponents of the “discriminatory Israeli laws” narrative have maligned an Israeli public health law requiring that parents vaccinate their children as “racist.” And, of course, if they examined the claim that Palestinians are indigenous to the land and the Israelis are settlers that pushed them out, they would find that the opposite is true:
The Jews ethnically originate from Israel, while the Palestinians are ethnically Arab. The name “Palestine” comes from the ancient Philistines, a militant group that dedicated themselves to destroying the Israelites (and were actually of Southern European descent). After Rome conquered Israel and exiled the Jews, the land was renamed Syria-Palaestina after the two ancient enemies of the Jewish people — the Assyrians and the Philistines — to punish Jews for refusing to accept Roman authority. There has never been a state or country called Palestine, and attempts to rewrite this history are based in efforts to downplay Jewish connection to the land of Israel.
This was clear towards the end of the meeting, when an older man (interestingly, the majority of those who spoke in the meeting were seemingly not current students) told the student audience that Israel is now “Nazi Germany” — that the horrors of the genocide against the Jewish people are being repeated against the Palestinians.
“There has never been a state or country called Palestine, and attempts to rewrite this history are based in efforts to downplay Jewish connection to the land of Israel.”
Not one person in the audience challenged this comparison, an undoubtedly false and antisemitic accusation. It’s worth noting that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism includes “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Each time a speaker at the Zoom meeting accused Israel of genocide or war crimes, or used the term “Israel” as a mass collection of the government and people living there, but made no mention of a country’s right to defend itself against terrorism or the Jewish people’s right to return to their indigenous homeland, the audience was exposed to antisemitism.
The entire evening was a conglomerate of ungrounded accusations against Israel and glorification of armed terror. Not once was the suffering inflicted by terrorism against Israel acknowledged, and Khaled’s actions were met with unwavering praise — an egregious insult to the innocent people she hurt and killed.
Instead of yearning for peace and reconciliation with Israel, the speakers glorified Khaled’s terrorism and propagated blatant falsehoods in the name of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is just another manifestation of antisemitism, as even the largest NGO of imams worldwide acknowledges. During OSU’s SJP event, we were all reminded of how easy it is to become a victim of rage politics, and OSU became just another gear in the Jew-hatred machine.
Originally published in The Algemeiner.
Contributed by 2020-2021 Case Western Reserve University CAMERA Fellow, Isabel Davidson.