An event at San Francisco State University last week had several Jewish organizations deeply concerned.
Our friends, Rima Greene and Emunah attended.
Here is their report:
The March 6 discussion at San Francisco State University "Report and Discussion From Members of the North American Based Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014," had no pretense of objectivity. Although promoted on the official SFSU website of the College of Ethnic studies, the presentation was hardly academic in nature. Rather it was a series of biased and unsubstantiated observations, devoid of history and context, by an admittedly biased panel. The College of Ethnic Studies houses the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, (AMED), a co- sponsor of last years notorious rally that featured placards glorifying murder. The department has never condemned the glorification of violence expressed at that rally, or expressed regret for their role in the event. They have made no attempt to distance themselves from the psychotically violent writings of the former president of the General Union of Palestinians Students, Mohammad Hammad. To those attending the discussion, the reason is now obvious. The panel’s cavalier attitude towards violent threats on campus was reflected by their attitude towards violent threats abroad.
The discussion featured Rabab Abdulhadi (Race and Resistance Studies), Joanne Barker (American Indian Studies) and Jaime Veve (a self-described Labor and Social Justice Activist), and was intended as a report on a trip that participants readily admitted was highly politicized and biased, saying this was not "solidarity lite" There were repeated references to apartheid South Africa, claiming a system of "apartheid by law, by practice and by acceptance" existed within Israel. There were repeated comparisons to the Nazis. There were spurious claims that the Bedouin have no water or power because these resources were "diverted to the settlements" There were claims of segregation within Israel, with the implication that new immigrants could not live in "high fashion areas’ but rather were separated by race and origin. Rabab Abdulhadi had no issue with race-baiting, claiming the Holocaust was used as a propaganda tool, and that Christian support for Israel was "not in order to survive, they're supporting Israel in order to destroy the world."
The photos of Leila Khaled, Sheik Raed Salah and Omar Barghouti flashing in the background made this all perfectly clear. The fringe movement to demonize the Middle East’s only democracy has been desperate to broaden their range of support, and have honed in on people of color as potential allies. The reoccurring tropes of genocide, apartheid and ethnic cleansing were presented with attempts to tie them into the struggle of the indigenous people throughout the world. Even the most banal occurrences were judged as examples of the irredeemably flawed quality of Israel’s existence. Shops in Israel selling dream catchers were held up as an example of shameless "cultural appropriation." The conclusion of the panelists was clear- of all the nations of the world, only Israel was so uniquely damaged, so inherently flawed from its birth onward that all of its actions, and its very existence were called into question. Thousands of years of Jewish connection to this land were denied, with the ancient homeland of the Jewish people dismissed as a mere "settler colonialist project"
The panelists talk was long on anecdote but woefully short on facts. The steady stream of unsubstantiated hearsay and downright lies were punctuated repeatedly with the statement " It happens all the time". The solution to Israels’ "multi-tiered system of oppression’ and the "basic democratic freedoms denied to the Palestinian people" was "Boycotts Sanctions and Divestment"
Most egregious was the panelists’ white-washing of terror. The murder of Israeli civilians and the ongoing terror war against Israel was dismissed as the "cry of a baby" for attention. The panelists freely admitted meeting with people who had committed "political acts of defiance and resistance’ who had been released in a recent prisoner exchange. They acknowledged that these murderers of civilians were regarded as "heroes". The panelists offered their unqualified support for hijacker Leila Khaled, describing her as a feminist "icon" and for Sheik Raed Salah, who has recently been sentenced to prison for incitement to violence.
There was no context. There was no mention of the ongoing terror war or the thousands of Israeli civilian casualties that resulted in security precautions that continue to save countless lives. Inconvenient facts were deliberately ignored. Israel’s Supreme Court was described as " headed by a settler", with no mention that there is also an Arab Justice. Talk of the "desecration" of the ancient Mamilla cemetery neglected the salient fact that the years ago Grand mufti of Jerusalem had issued a religious decree declaring the abandoned cemetery was no longer considered sacred ground. In 1929 Arabs removed many graves and built the Palace Hotel on its grounds.
Truth, history and language itself were all sacrificed in this hagiographic tribute to Palestinian victimhood. Ignoring the rapid population growth, low infant mortality and high life expectancy of the Palestinians, the situation was instead labeled "a genocide". For those aware of the history of the region, the repeated references to Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr were particularly offensive, as both men were committed to the security of Israel and to its recognition as the state of the Jewish people. The panelists seemed unaware of the internal contradictions within their own presentation- claiming local Greeks and Armenians were Palestinians, while maintaining the Palestinians as an "indigenous" people.
Years ago, Sigmund Freud presented "projection" as an immature defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects their own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to others. There was a pervasive air of "projection" perpetuated by this panel. Photos from an Israeli art colony Ein Hod flashed on the scene, with the claim that art in Israel was an "attempt to create a folkloric cultural history". Historian Barbara Tuchman has stated that "Israel is the only nation in the world that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and same language as it did 3,000 years ago." A rich historic, liturgical and archaeological history of the Jewish people in their homeland already exists, and has for thousands of years. Can we say the same thing about the Palestinians?
Rabab Abdulhadi , Joanne Barker and Jaime Veve should heed the words of African American Pastor and Israel Advocate Dumisani Washington, who has written:
"I do not spurn the Palestinian fight for self-determination. Every fight for justice is a righteous struggle. I would just say that, what made the Black historic struggle effective was our remembering who our enemy was — and who it was not. In the interest of defending Palestinian human rights, one may want to start with the main perpetrators: The Palestinian Authority and Hamas."