In front of a gathering of roughly 20 people in Kairos on Monday, April 24, Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine kicked off “Palestine Awareness Week” with a teach-in regarding the so-called Israeli “occupation.” Feeble attendance did not hold SJP back from using the “Palestine Awareness Week” to spew dangerous misconceptions and falsehoods that justify terrorism.
During the “teach-in,” SJP espoused the widely discredited claim that Israel is comparable to apartheid South Africa. Since, the presenters argued, Israeli policy represents an “ongoing settler colonial project,” apartheid South Africa provides a useful basis for comparison with Israel. This line of attack could not be further from the truth. In Israel, Arabs have full citizen and voting rights, unlike in apartheid South Africa, where blacks enjoyed none of these rights. Arabs are well-represented and treated equally across the professions in Israel. Whereas South Africa imposed a rigid system of legal inequality based on race, Israel imposes laws designed to maintain its security. Israel is not perfect; no country is. However, to compare it to South Africa’s apartheid government, one of history’s most repressive regimes, is irresponsible and inaccurate.
SJP further demonized supporters of Israel by using extreme phrases such as “ethnic cleansing” to characterize the agenda of “Zionists”. SJP’s depiction of Israel as racist is a view far outside the mainstream. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) defines Zionism as “the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel” that is “rooted in the liberal principles of freedom, democracy, equality, and social justice.” The notion that Zionists support “ethnic cleansing” is often based on an apocryphal quote by early Zionist David Ben-Gurion, expressing plans to “expel Arabs” from the region. In reality, Ben-Gurion said the opposite, explicitly stating: “We do not wish and do not need to expel the Arabs.” SJP’s rhetoric engenders hatred against a people fundamentally seeking a home and a right to self-determination. Claiming that such people advocate “ethnic cleansing” is slanderous.
SJP’s refusal to consider more moderate positions continued when presenters began advocating Palestinians’ “right of return” to Israel. The presenters disregarded how Israel has repeatedly demonstrated interest in helping Arabs return to the region gradually. The Arab states declined to consider such compromises. In 1949, Arab states refused Israel’s offer to take in 100,000 Palestinians, as doing so would mean negotiating with Israel and thus recognizing its legitimacy. Israel has continually provided compensation to Arabs who lost property in Israel.
The BDS movement’s founder Omar Barghouti has explicitly stated that the organization’s goal is to destroy Israel using the “right of return”: “If the refugees were to return you cannot have a two-state solution… you will have a Palestine next to a Palestine rather than a Palestine next to an Israel.” This blatant admission that the SJP/BDS agenda seeks Israel’s destruction, and therefore does not recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, validates National Director of the ADL Abe Foxman’s assertion that, “the BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” However subtle it may seem, SJP foments anti-Semitism by advocating for a policy that would lead to the obliteration of Israel as a Jewish state, a goal shared by the terrorist group Hamas.
When the discussion turned to Hamas, SJP, unsurprisingly, did not condemn Hamas or its genocidal agenda, but went as far as to dispute Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization. In framing Hamas as simply a “resistance” movement, SJP tried to legitimize one of the biggest barriers to peace in the region. SJP contested the United States’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist group, arguing that the United States should not be trusted to determine what is or is not terrorism due to a handful of controversial inclusions and omissions to the list. This claim is asinine. By this logic, does the US have no right to condemn Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State as terrorist organizations? Hamas launches rockets into Israel, targets Israeli civilians through bombings, uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, and inspires Palestinians to kidnap and stab Israelis. It is impossible for a rational person to evaluate Hamas’s actions and not conclude that it is a terrorist organization. SJP’s refusal to condemn Hamas and its perverse attempts to justify it are disgusting. One wonders why SJP would scramble to defend Hamas. Could it have to do with their sources of funding and external support?
In closing, SJP compared the challenges faced by Palestinians to the historic and contemporary struggles of black Americans. This argument was based on flimsy reasoning: a collaboration between the NYPD and Israeli police. But the interactions of these two law enforcement agencies clearly fall short of proof that the challenges faced by Palestinians and black Americans are similar, exposing SJP’s blatant attempt to hijack the Black Lives Matter movement. Nevertheless, Stanford’s SJP’s exploitation of the struggles of black Americans to further their radical agenda is shameful.
SJP concluded “Palestine Awareness Week” with a presentation at Terra on Friday, during which one of the presenters falsely attributed the prevalence of breast cancer in Gaza to Israel’s supposed targeting of local hospitals. Even those on campus not invested in the Arab-Israeli conflict should find statements like this disturbing. Introducing outrageous myths into our discourse normalizes dishonesty and hatred on our campus.
Ultimately, the faulty reasoning, dangerous insinuations, hateful rhetoric, and legitimization of terrorism that characterized “Palestine Awareness Week” served as yet another reminder of the special place that SJP occupies on our campus. Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine operates far more like a hate group than a student group.
The Stanford Review received a comprehensive rundown of the “Palestine Awareness Week” events at Kairos and Terra from a source who attended both of those meetings.