Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 27, 2020

Anti-Zionism is damaging to Arab-Israeli relations

By HOWARD SENIOR | May 4, 2017

A recent diplomatic spat between the German foreign ministry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again thrust the Arab-Israeli conflict back into international prominence. Tensions between Israel and foreign governments and organizations seeking to ingratiate themselves with ostensibly “progressive” groups intent on, above all, the heavy-handed elimination of Zionism through brute-force methods (see: Boycott, Divest, Sanction) have soared over recent years.

The growing prominence of this “BDS” movement on college campuses across the United States, for instance, is just one symptomatic expression of the growing uptick of anti-Semitism across the entire political spectrum, manifesting itself primarily in opposition to Israel’s right to exist.

Thus, a heightened Israeli defiance of such myopic, virulently anti-Semitic policies is completely justified given what exactly is at stake. I therefore stand completely behind Prime Minister Netanyahu in his decision to cancel the scheduled meeting with German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

To explore the roots of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict and provide a bit of context for the rest of this article, we can invoke the 1947 report generated by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) and the subsequent Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The UNSCOP partition plan called for two states, conjoined by an economic union, with borders allotted based on legitimate Jewish land purchases and Arab population centers.

The resounding Arab rejection of said plan, the instigation of a civil war and the intervention of six neighboring Arab powers due to dissatisfaction with the Palestinian Arabs’ performance in a war they started resulted in the situation we now have today: the Palestinian citizenry, bearers of a refugee status they can never shake, caught in the crossfire between bitter Arab states and Israel over a parcel of land they forfeited by starting a war they thought impossible to lose.

Back to BDS: Enumerating the many inconsistencies with which BDS is rife would greatly exceed the length of one opinion piece and bore any reader to tears, so I will attempt to abridge such a dissertation and hit the main points.

A salient characteristic of the BDS movement and those who support it is the branding of Israel as an “Apartheid state,” a moniker which, while deeply racist, stands to overtly whitewash the legitimate plight of those who suffered for decades under Afrikaner rule and the struggles of the African National Congress against an inherently unjust and racialized system. The Palestinian issue has no such origins, and to suggest so would be tantamount to invoking “Alternative Facts.”

Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel are granted all the same rights Jewish citizens; They serve alongside Jews in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), they vote in Israeli elections and serve in the Knesset, they use the same facilities as Jews and they’re permitted to marry whomever they’d like — all features noticeably absent from Apartheid in South Africa.

Some, however, may not be referring to the institutionalized “separateness” that defined Apartheid but to the notion that Israel and the Palestinian Authority exist as semiseparate yet cohesive entities.

Juxtaposing the superposed state of the Palestinian Authority within Israel with the level of overt racism and disenfranchisement experienced by black South Africans not only betrays an acute level of ignorance, privilege and hyperbole but also a profound inability to consult either a dictionary or an encyclopedia.

Another argument for divesting from Israeli civilian institutions is to end the so-called Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinian territories. Little do proponents of BDS seem to know (or choose to ignore), but the IDF has been disengaged from the Gaza Strip since 2005; In the West Bank, Israeli forces continue to work with the blessing of the government in Ramallah (Fatah) in order to ensure the security of both Israeli citizens in Israel proper and Palestinians living in Areas A and B.

The depiction of the presence of Israeli security forces as some heinous “occupying power” has, simply put, no basis in fact; The ever-bountiful supply of rockets fired into Israel from Gazan UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) facilities by Hamas stands both as a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention and a potent testament to this fact.

We must also consider the existence of BDS in the context of other BDS-lacking calamities that far exceed the scope and scale of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Not one BDS activist to which I’ve had the displeasure of speaking has mentioned starting a campaign to address the ongoing legitimate military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by India and Pakistan; nor have they mentioned the necessity of a campaign against the government of Myanmar for their continued engagement in ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in the Burmese Rakhine state.

Darfur is forgotten, Nicolás Maduro’s flights of fancy are swept under the rug and Kurdistan is all but ignored. Lo and behold, the Arab-Israeli squabble, one that has resulted in fewer casualties in its entire duration than the Syrian people sustain in one year, has the largest cult following such a dispute has ever seen. The only explanation for this fanaticism, directed at the world’s only Jewish state (mind you, in a sea of Arab states), is anti-Semitism.

It is time for all self-respecting members of the progressive movement to shirk the toxic spectacle known as BDS.

Just about every reason for such a crusade’s existence is rooted in deep-seated prejudice against Israel’s right to exist, Judaism and those who practice it (a true global minority). It is our duty as champions of those who struggle against tyranny on the international stage and in the United Nations to do everything we can to mitigate it.

Those who seek to delegitimize and ridicule Prime Minister Netanyahu and dismiss his rejection of the German Außenminister as an overreaction to something seemingly minute but simultaneously purvey the concepts of microaggression and privilege should be called out on their hypocrisy and closeted anti-Semitism and disallowed from adopting the well-worn façade of self-righteousness.

Howard Senior is a freshman majoring in applied math and statistics, International Studies and  political science. He is from Miami, Fla.

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