Wednesday, November 22, 2023

By Andrew Pessin

5. On “Decolonization” (and Other Lies)

The “no” answer to (Q) drove us to understand how so many might come to answer “yes,” as a result of years of propagation of a series of lies about Israel further amplified by CRT and DEI. The next logical step would be to debunk each of these lies and perhaps even that amplifying ideology, but while doing so is not actually very difficult it would require more space than is available here. But since those who’ve answered (Q) affirmatively are largely citing “decolonization” as the political aim or ideology that justifies Hamas’s massacre, we shall focus on that one. We’ve already noted both the hypocrisy and the falseness of the justificatory claim, but here we will dig a little deeper.

The main point is that even if one did somehow accept that “decolonization” justifies such slaughter in general, in fact it has no application to the Jews in the Land in the Israel. Applying “decolonization” here is based on the assumption that Israel, or Zionism, is a “settler-colonial” project, along with the affiliated claim that some or all of the State of Israel “occupies” Palestinian territory or the “State of Palestine.” But this entire narrative, on which the “yes” answer to (Q) is based, is actually false, a lie, a willful lie aimed (as we’ve seen) to dehumanize Jews in support of a long-term genocidal campaign against them.

(1) Technically and legally there is no “occupation” at all: Israel is a legally recognized U.N. member state with a legal basis (in the League of Nations and the subsequent U.N. charter) for controlling Judea and Samaria, and even the Palestinians acknowledged that the Oslo Accords ended the “occupation” of what they call the “West Bank.” (Gaza is discussed below.) Certainly the people massacred in the south of Israel were living within the internationally recognized borders of Israel and were by no legal measure “settlers.” And it literally doesn’t make sense to think of Israel as “occupied Palestine,” as there never previously existed an Arab state called Palestine. You may wish the land belonged to the Palestinians, but that doesn’t make it so.

(2) More generally, Jews are the original indigenous inhabitants of this land. Jews had sovereignty or autonomy in this land for 1300 years until the 1st century Roman conquest, maintained their connection and claim to the land forever afterward, and in fact still lived there continuously for the subsequent 2000 years. Islam and the Arabs swept in in the 7th century nearly 2000 years after Jews had established themselves there, colonizing the region. The establishment of the State of Israel was in fact the first and perhaps only case where an indigenous people reclaimed the homeland that others had colonized. Those promoting “decolonization” should be siding with the Jews.

(3) The masses of Jews who immigrated there from the late 19th century onward were not colonists but refugees, fleeing both persecution and massive pogroms not just across Europe but also the Middle East and North Africa, including the pending, then actual, Holocaust. Jews were nearly entirely ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and North Africa and literally had nowhere else to go but to their indigenous homeland. There was no “mother country” sending Jews out to colonize the land to establish its presence and advance its own purposes. The war of 1948 was not between colonizer and colonized but between a people who had survived one genocide and were now defending themselves against another. Those seeking to aid refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing should be siding with the Jews.

Those who counter that these immigrants, even if refugees, should count as colonists anyway would have to grant both (1) that the large-scale immigration of Arabs into the region during the same period constituted continued Arab colonization of the land and (2) that contemporary Muslims are currently colonizing Europe due to their mass immigration there. Stating the latter on a campus today would have you instantly branded a racist—as you indeed would be if you held that Jewish refugees, and Jewish refugees alone, should not have been allowed to flee to their indigenous homeland.

(4) Jews didn’t arrive in Mandate Palestine with an army and conquer it. They bought the land they came to live on and develop, as even the Arab leadership acknowledged at the time to the 1937 Peel commission. If you believe that Jews and Jews alone should not have been permitted to purchase land then you are simply a racist.

(5) The Jews, and Zionism, displaced and occupied or colonized nobody. In fact just the opposite: as just noted there was large-scale Arab immigration into Palestine during the decades of modern political Zionism, as the Jewish economic development of Palestine drew them in. There was room enough for everyone. As of the 1947 U.N. partition vote there were zero Palestinian refugees. The Jews accepted the partition; had the Arabs accepted it there would have been two states and zero refugees. Instead the Arabs immediately commenced violence, beginning first the civil war followed by the invasion of multiple Arab armies in May of 1948. Those wars created refugees, as every single war on earth has created refugees. Had there been no war, instigated by the Arabs, then there would have been no refugees, and not a single person displaced.

To be sure there was much horrendous behavior during these wars, including massacres and expulsions—by both sides. But absent the war, Jews, and Zionism, themselves displaced nobody. It was not a colonial movement. After the war, as is well known, Israel offered repatriation of refugees in exchange for peace agreements and the drawing of permanent borders. The Arabs refused.

(6) Gaza isn’t occupied in any sense. Israel withdrew from there in 2005 at great financial and emotional expense, uprooting 8000 people, as part of an experiment to see if the Palestinians could create a peaceful state of their own beside Israel, a test of the two-state solution. Instead Hamas took it over, began firing rockets, started 5 wars, massacred 1200 mostly civilians, now forcing Israel to go back in there to protect its citizens from Hamas’s avowed genocidal aims. Israel did not occupy Gaza but gave it away, and doesn’t want it.

(7) The various measures Israel-haters object to are not mechanisms of occupation but of security, starting with the blockade on Gaza. As part of the global Islamist campaign (as we’ve seen) the Arabs of this region have been trying to murder the Jews here for over 100 years, and the Jews take various measures to defend themselves. Those who (for example) cite the blockade as if it’s a justification for the massacre are either misinformed or liars who support the mass murder of Jews. The blockade was instituted as a defensive measure only after Hamas, whose charter declares their war on all Jews, came to power and began acting on their goals. As we saw, it can’t retroactively be turned into the motivation for Hamas’s violence.

Or to put that differently: those justifying October 7 say things like, “Well it didn’t happen in a vacuum—the context is 56, or 75 years of occupation” (depending just how deep their hatred of Israel is). But they are very selective about the “context.” The “context” also includes literally 100 years of Arab violence toward Jews including the genocidal ideologies of Hamas and the P.A. Again, as with the blockade, most Israeli policies are a defensive response to the violence perpetrated by Arabs and cannot retroactively be turned into a justification of the violence. There is no “occupation”: there are only Jews defending themselves from genocidal violence.

(8) Finally, the entire narrative ignores the multiple peace offers Israel has made that would have established a Palestinian state and ended even any pretense of “occupation.” Israel didn’t merely withdraw from Gaza but withdrew from most of the West Bank and subsequently made massive concessions to the Palestinians to reach a final status two-state solution. The Palestinians rejected this every time because their goal is not two states but to destroy the Jewish state. Even if you think that “occupation” still remains, then its doing so is entirely due to the unwillingness not of Israel but of the Palestinians to end it.

Put all this together:

Jews have as much right to live in this land with sovereignty and with security as do the Palestinians. The narrative that attempts to portray them as “colonialist occupiers” who have no business being there and who kicked out the “indigenous” inhabitants is simply a malicious lie designed, as we’ve seen, to mark them for murder.

You don’t see this any more clearly than in the latest repulsive practice: activists not ripping down the hostage posters but instead replacing their headings of “Kidnapped” with the word “Occupier.” So you have a photo of a sweet little kidnapped 3-year-old girl labeled as an “Occupier.” A 3-year old who was born in this land, very probably to parents who were born in this land, very probably to parents who were born in this land, and so on, possibly even stretching back centuries.

In contrast consider how refugees and immigrants are considered in pretty much any other country in the world. Someone moves to Canada, and maybe in time becomes, feels, is a Canadian; but their children are largely raised as and feel Canadian, and certainly their grandchildren. Three of my own four grandparents immigrated from Russia to the United States, and already my parents, and I myself, feel as American as American can be.

Those who put the word “Occupier” on the photo of a 3-year old are saying that no matter how many generations her family has lived in this land, even if her family is one of those whose roots trace back two or three thousand years, then she can never belong there.

They may as well put a target right on her head.

Exactly as Hamas did.


6. Campus Responses

We turn to one last point that follows from answering “no” to (Q): we obtain some clarity on how administrators should respond to what’s happening on their campuses. It’s as simple as the yes-no question with which we started: to answer “no” is to acknowledge that October 7 was a terrorist atrocity, and to acknowledge that is to acknowledge that supporting it has no place on a university campus, no matter what one’s political orientation. Even a pro-Palestinian activist ought to be able to answer “no,” in my opinion.

To be sure, campuses are in principle dedicated to the ideal of “free speech.” If they were truly and consistently dedicated to that principle, then fine, people should be able to advocate for anything they want, including hate and violence. But (1) even free speech absolutists recognize that violence sets a limit to acceptable speech, and surely does on a campus: one may not openly advocate for, celebrate, or incite violence. And (2) in practice most campuses actually show quite limited commitment to free speech insofar as, over the past decade or more, they have become dedicated to opposing “hate speech.” Just try to bring a conservative thinker to most campuses, or someone critical of Black Lives Matter, or someone who has moral doubts about the LGBTQ+ movement, or someone opposed to liberal immigration policies or to abortion rights, and that often gets shut down quicker than someone falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

That the campus rallies concerning October 7 violate both (1) and (2) seems clear. With respect to (1), as we’ve seen, they found the violence “exhilarating” and “awesome,” they celebrated it, they justified it, and, in calling to “Globalize the Intifada!” and bring “the resistance” to campuses they called for more of it. With respect to (2), which is perhaps a bit more subtle, let me just ask some questions.

Again, is there any other identity group about which it would be acceptable to celebrate their mass slaughter? Is there any other identity group about which it would be acceptable even to respond to their mass slaughter by asking to “learn more,” by providing “context,” insisting on “nuance,” wanting to hear the “other side”?

When nine Black people were gunned down in South Carolina in 2015, did anyone say, “Wait until we get the gunman’s point of view”? Or ditto when 49 people were massacred at the Pulse gay nightclub in 2016? Or ditto again at the 2019 mosque shootings in New Zealand in which 51 Muslims were murdered?

If this isn’t hate directed toward an identity group, then what is?

All the years of dehumanizing lies have blinded all too many to the fact that it is hate that drives the campaign against Israel and the Jews, and that hate now drives these rallies and these campus behaviors. If campuses are justified in condemning and curtailing hate speech and hate actions, then they should be condemning and curtailing what is now going on. Free speech is important, essential even to the traditional mission of the university (to pursue “truth”), but on today’s campuses hate rallies are not permissible: no campus would allow a Ku Klux Klan rally, an anti-LGBTQ+ rally, anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim rallies, and so no campus should allow these current rallies either. All the more so when they go beyond speech, as they almost consistently do, when the rallies turn physical: there have been disruptions, sit-ins and occupations of campus buildings, bullying, harassment, death threats and physical assaults targeting Jews, vandalism against Hillels and Chabad Houses and Jewish fraternities, and so on.

To answer “no” to (Q) is to understand that none of this is acceptable. No campus celebration of violence, no justification of violence, no support of terror, period, and it is the administrators’ obligation not to be silent about not merely October 7 but about the hate that has descended upon their campuses. What’s therefore necessary is to shut it down. To discipline the community members who perpetrate it. Suspend or expel them, if they are students and the infraction is serious enough or repeated. Suspend or fire them if they are staff members and the infractions are serious enough or repeated. Suspend them, even revoke their tenure, if they are faculty members. 

It is simple. Administrators must enforce the Codes of Conducts they already have in place for all members of their community and for all other matters, and suspend, expel, fire, or terminate anyone who violates them. Jewish campus members have the right to pursue their education and profession, to advocate for Israel and or Zionism and for Jews if they wish, in the same safety and security as everyone else has for their identities and causes.

Perhaps the tide is turning slightly, one month into the affair; perhaps some administrators are coming around to fulfilling their actual responsibilities. At several institutions, faculty members who were filmed behaving badly have apparently been disciplined, for example here and here. At Harvard, a student filmed harassing a Jewish student is reportedly being evicted from his campus housing. There is some nascent pushback against the behavior of SJP and an affiliated group, Jewish Voice for Peace (which despite its name is a fringe group whose members include many non-Jews, and in fact isn’t for “peace” but for the elimination of Israel as its post-October 7 behavior clearly revealed). Several years ago Fordham University refused to allow an SJP chapter to form, citing the organization’s tendency to disrupt the rights of other groups (i.e. Jews and Zionists); that decision survived a journey through the courts. In the aftermath of October 7 Brandeis University deregistered its SJP chapter due to its open support of terrorist violence. Columbia University soon followed suit, suspending both SJP and JVP for violating numerous campus rules. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed that SJP, in declaring itself “part of” the “resistance” movement, had thus declared itself part of a terrorist movement, which put it in violation of various federal statutes including those against belonging to and providing material support to terrorist organizations. By the way, Hamas is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, which itself ought to be an important clue that supporting it or its agenda on campus is not acceptable—because what has been going on on all too many campuses is indeed open support of, the provision of material support to, a terrorist organization, exactly what the “no” answer to (Q) would proscribe.

To answer “no” to (Q), then, is to recognize that SJP and its affiliates have crossed the line from permissible free speech and political advocacy into support for terrorism.

Enough, then, of tolerating this madness. Enough of the flimsy administration statements that suddenly “refuse to take a position on political matters” (despite years of taking many political positions), that decry violence “on both sides” without recognizing the distinctions between cause and effect or between justification and lack thereof, that lament the “loss of life” in a generic way without distinguishing direct targeting from collateral damage. It is time for administrators to answer (Q) with a firm “no,” which entails openly identifying the perpetrators and the ideology of the October 7 massacre, i.e. Hamas and its Islamism, identifying that massacre as a mass terrorist attack and atrocity, and then committing themselves to everything that follows from the “no” answer: recognition of the genocidal nature of the Palestinian movement, support for Israel’s right to defend itself within the ordinary norms of international law, recognition of and then pushback against the campaign of lies that has served to dehumanize and delegitimize the Jew, support for those ready and willing to demonstrate the falseness of each of those lies, and, finally, the enforcement of their campus conduct codes and the actual discipline of those who, in their actions and their speech, openly support terror and undertake to attack Jews.

It's a simple yes or no question.

But everything follows upon how you answer it.

Answer it now.

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