On November 29th, political activist and former vice president of Concordia University’s student union Yves Engler was invited by Carleton University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine to speak about his thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Canada’s relationship to it. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this event, but was surprised by the blatant falsehoods and fallacies presented throughout the speech. Because I am passionate about the intricacies of Israel/Palestine, I feel obliged to lay out the three arguments Engler made that are simply invalid.
The Great March of Return that is happening on the Gaza-Israeli border is a peaceful demonstration
The recent riots at the Gaza-Israeli border can be described as anything but peaceful. On a daily basis, terrorists hurl grenades and other explosives at Israeli border security troops, who are only at the border in the first place because the rioters, led by Hamas (an internationally recognized terrorist organization), have been trying to force their way into sovereign Israeli territory. In some instances, they have cut through the fence at the border and charged at Israelis with weapons.
In addition to this, they have launched hundreds upon hundreds of incendiary kites to spark fires on Israeli land, which has resulted in massive fires on farms and nature reserves; this has led to dire environmental consequences for the local ecological systems, as well as for the protected wildlife in the area. When discussing the goals of these protests, Hamas leaders have proudly and emphatically declared their desire to “tear the hearts out of the Jews’ chests.” Additionally, many of the people targeted by Israeli soldiers for violent activity were identified as Hamas members by the organization itself.
Zionism is a colonial movement
During his presentation, Engler made the outlandish argument that Zionism, being born in the late 19th Century, was created as an arm of European imperialism. In reality, there is no comparison between colonialism and Zionism. Colonialism means “acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically” while Zionism is the “movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, which aimed to establish a Jewish State in the land to which Jews are indigenous, as continuously proven by multiple archaeological discoveries. The Jewish native connection to Israel makes Zionism the world’s first successful indigenous liberation movement, since Jews have achieved self determination in their homeland after thousands of years of exile and foreign occupations prior to Israel’s independence. This means that the Jews arriving to the region were not foreign people, as suggested by Engler and his colonialist argument, but rather an oppressed nation returning home to decide its future by itself instead of by the actions of other rulers, as had been the case until 1948. In no way does this historical reality diminish the Palestinian right to self determination, or erase the fact that Arabs have been present in the region for several centuries as well.
BDS and Anti-Zionism are not anti-Semitic movements
BDS calls for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctioning of the State of Israel, and only the State of Israel, supposedly because of Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Simply, this movement is anti-Semitic because of its leaders’ views and because of the blatant double standards it employs. The movement’s founder, Omar Barghouti, has said that the 2 State Solution “was never a moral solution to start with.” Ironically, he advocates for a boycott of Israel despite his degree from Tel Aviv University. Furthermore, the double standards of this movement showcase its inherent anti-Semitic values. It singles out the world’s only Jewish State and employs fabricated accusations against it while completely ignoring injustices occurring in other parts of the world. If this discriminatory movement truly cared for the well-being of Palestinians, rather than the vilification of Israel, it would’ve campaigned for the Palestinian civilians who have been repeatedly bombed by Russia, the Syrian regime, and ISIS over the past several years, with consequences that dwarf those within Gaza and the West Bank. A serious human rights movement would address the worst violations first. BDS’s silence shows their lack of interest in truly standing up for Palestinian lives if it doesn’t involve attacking Israel.
Many supporters of BDS also champion themselves as anti-Zionist, which is an anti-Semitic standpoint. From now until the end of time, if people continue to endorse the view that indigenous groups have the right to determine their own futures in their historic homelands (whether it’s the First Nations populations in North America, Afghans in Afghanistan, or Japanese people in Japan), while exclusively denying that right to Jews, they hold an anti-Semitic double standard. If people are serious about peace in the Middle East, they need to understand this fact and refute individuals like Engler who advocate for BDS’s false rhetoric and anti-Zionism under the guise of peace.
Contributed by University of Ottawa CAMERA Fellow Gershon Tsirulnikov.