Jewish Pro-Palestinian speakers don’t negate student groups’ implicit anti-Semitism

Read an opposing viewpoint to this piece by opinions writer Stefan Sultan here.

Last month, the GW chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a talk by activist and author Ben Lorber. The topic of this meeting: anti-Semitism. Ben Lorber, a pro-Palestinian Jew, discussed his work as an on-campus organizer for the group Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization that seeks “an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,” as well as his group’s book, “On Anti Semitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice.” This event was a part of a long history by SJP to create the impression that they are leaders of social justice work while depicting Israel as a discriminatory apartheid state and Palestinians as perpetual victims who are denied basic rights.

This paradox underscores the central issue with this event and others like it: Anti-Semitic groups are attempting to co-opt anti-Semitism and redefine it for their own purposes to push their own ideas. GW’s chapter of SJP has welcomed members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a terrorist network disguised as a social justice initiative dedicated to the “liberation of Palestine” through the murder of Israeli civilians, to speak at events. Whether it be their payments to Palestinians who kill Jews or their complicit sanctioning of the murder of innocent Israelis, the PLO certainly is not an organization I would like to be associated with.

It is essential that everyone is educated on the intricacies and facets of the larger Israel-Palestine issue.

GW SJP and similar groups are attempting to commandeer moral authority on issues of Jewish persecution to achieve their sinister ends. Students on college campuses are on the front lines of this debate, and we can never let this happen. Speak out, inform others of the actual facts and take it upon yourself to think rationally and compassionately for all people. As a community we must first condemn those who attempt to assume the moral high ground on issues of anti-Semitism. Secondly, it is essential that everyone is educated on the intricacies and facets of the larger Israel-Palestine issue. Lastly, we must engage with those who disagree with us to better understand the issue. Much of this is up to pro-Israel students. By seeking common ground, conceding that Israel is not perfect, opponents can have arguments based around a common set of facts.

Events like the one with Lorber try to separate anti-Semitism from a vow to destroy the state of Israel. But the two are inseparable. This is just one of the many hypocrisies revealed when we look at the national organization’s ideological history and political positions in the proper, often violent, context. SJP, a group attempting to co-opt anti-Semitism to cover their fundamentally anti-Jewish policies, deserves complete condemnation by GW students in order to finally end this dangerous trend.

Anti-Israel zealots, like SJP members, are quick to point out the Jewish people amongst them as evidence of their lack of anti-Semitism. The author at this event, Lorber, is yet another example. I do not question Lorber’s faith, what I question is Lorber’s resignation to being used as a ploy in a movement that seeks the violent overthrow of Israel and an end to political Zionism. Lorber served as a simple means to an end, a pawn in a burgeoning campus movement to cease the progress Israeli-Jews have made in preserving their culture, history and lives. This is eerily similar to when GW SJP hosted anti-Israel Jewish author Josh Ruebner in 2013, another in a long line of events using liberal Jews as political cover.

Through discussions and even some heated arguments, my pro-Israel views have been moderated and reformed.

The attempt by SJP to assume anti-Semitism as their own is part of an ever-increasing trend on the anti-Israel activist left in this country and around the world. This blatant hypocrisy is seen in the leaders of the national SJP and the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement, which seeks to defund Israeli companies and boycott their goods but then claims to hold no anti-Semitic beliefs. SJP supports the BDS movement, run by men like Omar Barghouti. Barghouti, the co-founder of the movement, has approved of violence against innocent Jews and, according to participants at a speech of his at University of California, Los Angeles, has declared that Jews are not a people. Even if SJP activists solely seek changes in military policy in regards to the Israeli presence in the West Bank, the eventual goals of the organization would precipitate the end of Israel. This is yet another deception of SJP and the violent Jew-haters they associate with.

Yet, GW SJP has made efforts to distance themselves from the extremists amongst them, something that should be expected but is nonetheless commendable. They have recently canceled an event with Palestinian refugee and activist Amena El-Ashkar. When GW SJP members learned that El-Ashkar’s event coordinator had a history of anti-Semitism, they promptly canceled the event, sending a strong message about what they will not tolerate within the movement. This could not have been an easy decision, but it was necessary.

Even with all of these issues, discourse and mediation are possible. Through discussions and even some heated arguments, my pro-Israel views have been moderated and reformed, and even the most pro-Palestine students I’ve talked to have come to see some of the darkness emanating from their side. The issue here is with the leadership of anti-Israel organizations rather than their members.

If this generation has any hope of being saved from the creep toward far-left anti-Zionism, it’s the understanding pro-Israel young people that are our greatest hope.

Henry Bartman, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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