2020-2021 York University CAMERA Fellow Avi Feygin

This summer, the Palestine Solidarity Collective (PSC) on campus published remarkably inflammatory and inaccurate claims about Israel on their Facebook account. Three stand out as particularly egregious — they deserve to be unpacked and debunked. The first was opposition to the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism on the grounds that Israel is supposedly a “settler-colonial state.” The second was a blood libel claiming Israel is poisoning Palestinian agricultural land. The third was a claim that the political movement of Zionism itself is antisemitic.

Let’s address these claims one at a time.

Firstly, the claim that Israel is a “settler-colonial” nation is simply an attempt to paint Jews as tools of former European imperialist powers to take over the Middle East. It is a ridiculous premise; a colony is the sovereign territory of a country whose mainland is located in another part of the world. So, which “colonial” power asserts sovereignty over the Jews of Israel?

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The propagandists have no answer, because there is none. Israel is not an imperialist colony, but an independent nation-state — that of the Jewish people in their indigenous homeland.

In fact, to imply that Israel is a tool of European colonial nations is to ignore history. Modern-day political Zionism was envisioned by Theodor Herzl due, in large part, to the persecution of Jews across Europe and beyond. He was particularly moved by what is known as the Dreyfus Affair — the late 19th-century state-sanctioned persecution of a Jewish French army officer wrongly accused of treason.

For its part, even England, whose government-controlled the land that is now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, stopped boats carrying Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis for mandatory Palestine. Not only that, but the British fought with, trained, and equipped the Arab armies that invaded Israel after its declaration of independence.

Germany hardly needs discussion.

Who, then, is this mysterious colonial state serving as Israel’s metropole? America? The two countries’ relations were hardly warm from the beginning; the Americans implemented an arms embargo on Israel during its early years. President Johnson’s administration famously released a statement that indicated a policy of neutrality during the Six Day War: “Our position is neutral in thought, word, and deed.” The only other power in the world at the time was the Soviets, who were busy turning the Arab republics into client states.

The second post that dubs Israel an “apartheid” state and accuses its government of “poisoning of wells,” so to speak, is nothing less than a blood libel. This is particularly dangerous considering that they were historically used to whip up antisemitic fervor by fascist regimes and resulted in some of the bloodiest pogroms of the middle ages and even into the modern-day.

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The claim that Israel purposely poisons agricultural land is such a severe misrepresentation of facts that it borders on criminal incitement. The town of Idhna does indeed struggle to process a large amount of e-waste from Israel and the Palestinian Authority-administered territories. But, the PSC entirely ignores innovative Israeli efforts to combat the issue. This is nothing less than a new-age blood libel — a claim similar to those made across the Islamic world that Jews are responsible for harvesting organs or murdering children in cold blood.

The so-called apartheid wall mentioned in the same post is nothing more than a security barrier (it is mostly fence) built to prevent suicide bombings endemic to the Second Intifada. It succeeded spectacularly — suicide bombings in Israel decreased dramatically after its construction. Furthermore, Israel is hardly unique; most countries construct border fences and barriers to control the flow of people and defend against military incursions. Comparing Israel’s security fence to a uniquely evil political system of oppression is a brazen mischaracterization.

Finally, let’s address the canard that that Zionism is antisemitic. Such an assertion is Orwellian — it is the opposition to Zionism that is antisemitic. Here’s why: If your position is that Jews — and only Jews — are not allowed to exercise self-determination in their historic homeland, you are advocating for a double standard against the Jewish people. The PSC is blind to their own hypocrisy: If Palestinian self-determination is sacrosanct, why is Jewish self-determination beyond the pale? The sheer gall of those who preach to Jews that their desire to return to their homeland is somehow hatred against Jews is simply unacceptable. The claim that “Zionism is antisemitic” makes about as much sense as the claim that “Chinese nationalism is anti-Chinese,” or, indeed, that “Palestinian nationalism is anti-Palestinian.”

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The purpose of such blatant propaganda is to cast the state of Israel as a sociopathic society that tries its best to murder and oppress minorities. This could not be further from the truth and doesn’t even approach a reasonable criticism of policy. This is nothing new from the organizations I’ve covered. This is the serious concern: Why is the York University administration turning a blind eye to blatantly antisemitic propaganda by permitting this university-sanctioned organization to promote hate without penalization? These clubs are funded by the general student body, but also supported by the university, which is provincially run and chartered. The responsibility, therefore, lies with the governing bodies to ensure that the rights of students are protected from these racist attacks. Lastly, this demonization must be fought by Jewish organizations and all who value the truth.

This piece originally attributed a quote to the Eisenhower administration. This was incorrect — The president at the time was Lyndon B. Johnson. The error has been corrected.

Originally published in the CAMERA on Campus Medium blog.

Contributed by 2020-2021 York University CAMERA Fellow Avi Feygin.

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