Wednesday, March 11, 2020

  • Wednesday, March 11, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
An incredibly disturbing story, on multiple levels, from JNS:

 The student government at the University of Michigan has passed a resolution condemning its president for remarks critical of the Palestinians he made as a high school senior.

The final vote of the Feb. 25 resolution rebuking Central Student Government president Ben Gerstein was 25 in favor, zero against and four abstentions.

“There should be a test for what type of people deserve a state and what type of people don’t. I think the Palestinian people, with rejecting constant peace deals, with their financing of terror, with their raising kids to hate people purely because of their religion,” said Gerstein on the TV show “North Town News Magazine” in 2017. “I don’t think that people deserve a state at this point in time. Until we see a significant change in the Palestinian mentality and a significant change in the Palestinian leadership, I don’t think they deserve a state at this point.”

The resolution stated that Gerstein’s 2017 comments are “Islamaphobic and racist, and we formally condemn these comments,” and “we recognize the international plight of the Palestinian people, some of whom are constituents of this government.” It also stated: “We recognize that more work needs to be done to uproot racism and Islamophobia at the University of Michigan.”
Here is the portion of the video, on a small Jewish public affairs program, that the university is so upset about:


The resolution calls his words "Islamophobic." Yet Gerstein didn't once mention or imply anything about Islam or Muslims.

The resolution calls his words "racist." Gerstein certainly described Palestinian mentality - but his description was entirely correct based on well-respected polls done by Palestinians themselves.

There is no rule in international law that every people, especially a people who did not identify as such until the 1960s, deserve a state automatically. Surveys consistently show that Palestinians are always in the top three of peoples who are antisemitic. Their rejection of peace deals is a matter of record. Their support of violence has hovered in the 50% range when asked that question in the abstract, but when they are asked if they support specific acts of murdering Jews they have been consistently supportive by a large margin.

Gerstein's words were 100% accurate. It is not racist to point out that during the "knife intifada" in 2015, 80% of Palestinians supported stabbing and running over Israeli Jews in cars and a huge number were angry at Mahmoud Abbas for condemning the murder of four rabbis in 2014.

There is also no contradiction between pointing out how Palestinians have consistently chosen supporting terror over peace and noting that they really do suffer under Israeli control. One can and should be sympathetic towards anyone who is in pain. But being in pain does not change facts, and does not justify censorship of those pointing out the facts. Gerstein's 2017 comments do not lose their validity because Palestinians are suffering to some degree.

The truth must never be censured.

There is a second disturbing aspect of this story.

Even if Gerstein's words were bigoted - if, let's say, he had said that black people were lazy -  the thought that his words from when he was a high school student must be censured by his current university is still chilling. Gerstein issued an abject apology - one that I do not believe was warranted:

A video recently surfaced of an interview I participated in when I was in high school. In this video as well as an op-ed, I made statements that erase the history of the Palestinian people. I made racist statements, including the denial of the right to self-determination, that were ignorant of Palestinians’ struggle under occupation. I am sorry beyond words--both for my actions as well as not coming forward with the video sooner and seeking remedy for it. I accept total and complete responsibility for the harmfulness of my language, the offensiveness of my words, and the active role I played in the silencing of Palestinian voices.

I have grown considerably since I made those statements, and the repulsive views I expressed in the video no longer reflect my current understanding. I am devastated to see them reappear and be defended today. I know an apology is never enough and I am complicit in the oppression of Palestinians through my past actions.

When I arrived at Michigan, I was introduced to the real lived experiences of Palestinian students and an understanding of the legacies of colonialism and settler violence I had not heard before. My education had only consisted of Israeli narratives and I committed myself to learning new perspectives and being empathetic to the Palestinian community. I feel my deeper understanding of history and multiple narratives now allows me to work as a stronger ally to others to dismantle the systems of oppression that perpetuate the suffering of the Palestinian people--but I also know that I have much more learning to do and am committed to continuing that work.

As Student Body President, I hope that the work I have done is representative of my commitment to moving past my former opinions, and further, representative of my dedication to supporting marginalized communities on campus. But this experience and the recognition of the pain my past language has inflicted on others helped me realize I can--and must--do much more. There is a toxic environment across the country that invalidates Palestinian narratives. I hope to further commit myself to working to uplift those who continue to struggle for their dignity and humanity. I look forward to working with SAFE and Palestinian students on campus to have a crucial conversation about how I can be a partner in promoting an inclusive campus. In my last weeks as President, I intend to use my role to address how the culture of CSG and campus at-large needs to be more responsive to the needs of Palestinian students. This is only one step in an apology that demands action, further learning, a genuine commitment to allyship, the pursuit of justice, and collective liberation, not empty words.

I can only imagine the pressure Gerstein was under to issue this apology. But, as always, it wasn't enough. The censure was passed anyway.

A statement censuring him for something he apologized for is the modern equivalent of a lynching. If a teenager can't evolve in his viewpoints, who can? No matter what side of the issue you are on, this sets a precedent that deep-freezes freedom of expression for everyone.

And nothing he said can remotely be considered "silencing Palestinian voices." That is absurd.

Finally, compare this story with the last one that I posted. An actual Palestinian government official said words that are antisemitic by any yardstick - claiming that the Jews aren't a people, that Jewish self-determination is a form of racism. This isn't a random 17-year old student, but a representative of the Palestinian government.

There is no censure for him. There is no anger. There is no pressure for him to issue an apology. Journalists ignore the story.

The world is dismissive of real, explicit antisemitism from a Palestinian official but there is outrage over the words of a 17 year old kid three years ago that happened to be true.

This isn't just a double standard. This is institutionalized and accepted antisemitism.  Proud Jews who express their opinions must be silenced - but Palestinian officials can spout actual lies and hate without any concerns about backlash from the media or their colleagues.

(h/t Andrew)


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون



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