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On Monday, April 11, Colorado State University’s Office of Inclusive Excellence hosted Naomi Greenspan of the Academic Engagement Network. The Academic Engagement Network lists its mission as seeking “to oppose efforts to delegitimize Israel, to support robust discussion, research and education about Israel in the academy, to promote campus free expression and academic freedom and to counter antisemitism when it occurs on campus.”
Greenspan advocates that opposition to Israel is inherently antisemitic. Against this backdrop, it is important to remember why Israel is so often a target of criticism: Israel is a racially segregated state that continues to engage in deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Just like the history of the United States is a history of ongoing genocide of Indigenous people, so too is the entire history of the Zionist project inextricably linked to the dispossession, murder and oppression of the Indigenous peoples of Southwest Asia.
The formation of Israel by Zionist settler militias in Palestine led to horrendous bloodshed. Massacres, bombings and the destruction of settlements have displaced over seven million Palestinians to this day. To this day, Palestinians who have fled their home are forbidden from returning to their home by Israeli law.
The legal formation of Israel followed the Holocaust — which saw more than six million Jews murdered and countless communities destroyed — and Zionists argue Israel is the strongest defense Jews have from further antisemitic violence.
Norman Finkelstein, the son of two survivors of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and of concentration camps, argues the suffering of the Jewish people cannot justify the violence against the Palestinian people.
“The Zionist insistence that Israel is the universal embodiment of a Jewish desire for political power leaves Jews around the world on the hook for the violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people; if anything, this position is antisemitic.”
It is important to remember Zionism is not solely a project of Jews wishing for a homeland but also one with strong support from antisemites around the world. Antisemitic politicians were often supporters of Zionism, and the removal of those Jews from their communities was an important means to “cleanse” their polities.
Past and current Israeli governments have pursued warm ties with antisemitic governments around the world. Contemporary white supremacists like white nationalist Richard Spencer look to Israel as a model for their brand of white separatism. Don’t be surprised: Those still living under Israeli occupation are separated from their colonizers by immense border walls and military-controlled checkpoints.
The conflation of Israel with the Jewish experience neglects the harm Zionism has committed against Jewish people. Zionists frequently deride Jews who do not wish to resettle in Israeli-occupied lands, often parroting antisemitic phrases in the process.
It should not be a surprise, then, that fewer Jews living in the United States have strong positive opinions about Israel (and younger Jews in the U.S. report even less support for Israel), and 10% support campaigns like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — the very campaign that Zionists consistently decry as fundamentally antisemitic — that seek to limit the capacity for the Israeli state to receive funding. Many Jews in the U.S. also affirm that criticism of Zionism isn’t antisemitic.
Hiring a stalwart defender of Zionism, the University, through its office, which purports to work toward a “vision of an inclusive University community that welcomes and affirms diversity of people, perspectives and ideas,” is affirming its support for Zionism.
From its inception, Zionism has justified the genocide of the Palestinian people and is a friend of far-right and antisemitic regimes the world over. In this and in the ways Zionists degrade Jews, it is clear that opposition to Zionism is nothing approximating antisemitism.
The Zionist insistence that Israel is the universal embodiment of a Jewish desire for political power leaves Jews around the world on the hook for the violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people; if anything, this position is antisemitic. It is essential to understand that downplaying genocide as Zionists do is an effectually denialist position. In a few words: The University is denying genocide.
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