Under the hashtag #SolidarityWaveBDS, activists promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel have recently called for an “international wave of action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” for this weekend. The call takes for granted that Palestinians have the inalienable right to attack and kill Israeli Jews, whitewashing the current wave of murderous violence as an “ongoing, youth-led Palestinian uprising,” which is presented as “a response” to a long list of unspeakable Israeli atrocities, including “ethnic cleansing … theft of Palestinian land … racist attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound … the siege on Gaza and … new racist measures against Palestinian citizens of Israel.” In addition, “Israel and its fundamentalist settler terror groups” are accused of “savagely attacking Palestinian protests [and] executing Palestinian children and youth in the street.”
It is of course entirely expected to hear such rhetoric from activists devoted to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as the source of some of the world’s most terrible evils. However, it is arguably still somewhat shocking to see a professor from one of America’s most respected universities blithely echoing this demonization of Israel. Prominently displaying his position as the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University, David Palumbo-Liu devoted his recent Huffington Post column to the effort of justifying Palestinian violence as a perfectly understandable response to appalling Israeli brutality. Already the cumbersome title of the post gives a glimpse of Palestinian righteousness and Israeli evil: “What’s Behind the Explosions of Violence in Palestine? — The Destruction of Religious Sites and ‘Extrajudicial Executions’ of Palestinian Teenagers.”
After elaborating on these and other charges against Israel, Palumbo-Liu again emphasizes in his conclusion:
“When people’s schools, hospitals and mosques are purposefully bombed, when an illegal blockade strangles their economy, when they are deprived of electricity and water and when their homes and places of worship are taken over brutally, it is no wonder they will resist and fight against those committing those acts.”
Note that in this paragraph, Palumbo-Liu accuses Israel of “purposefully” bombing and destroying Palestinian schools, hospitals and mosques, and as with all the other accusations he lists, Israel seems to commit these evils without any reason. Israel sadistically torments innocent Palestinians, inflicting terrible suffering on them, and therefore, it is obviously “no wonder they will resist and fight against those committing those acts.”
It is instructive to see what sources Palumbo-Liu cites for some of his accusations against Israel. If you just check the first few links given in the opening paragraphs, you will be sent to some of the major sites advocating the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, including the “hate site” Mondoweiss, Ali Abunnimah’s notorious Electronic Intifada, the Hamas-friendly Middle East Monitor and a site called Intifada. Since I wasn’t familiar with the last site, I checked out their Facebook page and immediately noticed a photo displayed in the sidebar.
When you click it on and then follow the link to the article that it illustrates, you will find an excellent example of one of the newest antisemitic conspiracy theories which holds that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is a creation of “Washington and Tel Aviv.” Refreshingly, the author, himself a known promoter of Holocaust denial and antisemitic conspiracy theories, openly credits “an article on David Duke’s website” for some of his insights.
A quick look at some of the other contributors to the site indicates that there’s more of the same; take e.g. Stuart Littlewood, whose writings are also published by Veterans Today, which the Anti-Defamation League describes as “a U.S.-based website that presents anti-Semitic conspiracy theories as news.”
Just as readers who got their news about Jews from Der Stürmer would have found it hard to doubt that “the Jews are our misfortune,” readers who get their news about Israel from the sites cited by Palumbo-Liu will find it hard to doubt that “the Jewish state is our misfortune.”
Based on a review of Palumbo-Liu’s Twitter timeline in recent weeks [archived here], he indeed seems to rely regularly on sites like the Electronic Intifada as news sources and retweets activists with well-documented bigoted views and sympathies for Hamas, like e.g. Ali Abunimah and Ben White. Palumbo-Liu is apparently also an ardent admirer of Omar Barghouti, the prominent BDS advocate who once diagnosed Zionism as “intent on killing itself” and declared: “I, for one, support euthanasia.”
In this context it should be noted that Palumbo-Liu recently tackled the question if “being a critic of Israeli state policies [is] the same as being an anti-Semite.” He firmly opposed the adoption of the State Department definition of antisemitism, which includes examples “of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel” and lists “[d]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” as one such example.
Of course, all the above-mentioned sites Palumbo-Liu cites are devoted to denying Israel’s right to exist; likewise, the activists he seems to be friendly with have dedicated their lives and careers to making the case that the Jewish state is too evil to be allowed to exist. They will of course claim they are just criticizing Israeli policies, but they are doing not much else in life, and the only remedy they recommend for Israel’s endless failings and wrongdoings is its elimination.
It would seem that Palumbo-Liu agrees with them; he apparently also agrees with them that working to undo the establishment of the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t be called what it is.
Indeed, Palumbo-Liu insists he is taking antisemitism very seriously:
“We all should seriously think about why we are, and should be, especially firm in our condemnation of anti-Semitism … We condemn anti-Semitism not only because bigotry is wrong; we condemn it because of the terrible effects anti-Semitism has had historically, and continues to have today. Anti-Semitism must be challenged swiftly and decisively by each and every one of us.”
If Palumbo-Liu is serious about the need to condemn antisemitism, it is astonishing that he would choose to perpetuate a lethal libel first used by the man who later became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti” – and who was, incidentally, an ardent advocate of the BDS of his day. As Jeffrey Goldberg has also pointed out, there is “a tragic continuity between the 1920s and today” that reveals, as his title puts it, “The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada.”
But while Palumbo-Liu is mightily worried about “Jewish extremists” and full of sympathy for Palestinians fighting what they see as “brutal theft of their religion and culture,” he seems unconcerned about the well-documented and frequent incitement of Jew-hatred and intolerance by Muslim preachers in Palestinian mosques, including Al-Aqsa.
And if Palumbo-Liu is serious about the need to “challenge” antisemitism “swiftly and decisively,” how come he justifies a “resistance” that is glorified with widely shared antisemitic cartoons? What about the antisemitic libels spread openly on social media even in English by long-time prominent advocates of a “third intifada” like the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh?
If Palumbo-Liu is serious about the need to condemn antisemitism “because of the terrible effects anti-Semitism has had historically, and continues to have today,” what effect does he think the Hamas charter with its toxic mix of Islamic and western Jew-hatred has? Indeed, Hamas has tried very hard to fan the flames of the current violence – which Palumbo-Liu is trying so hard to justify.
To be sure, Palestinian educators also work hard to teach children that they should substitute “Zionist” for “Jew” whenever they fantasize about killing all those people who have to be killed in order to end the “occupation” of Palestine from the river to the sea.
As Professor Palumbo-Liu rightly emphasized, Jew-hatred has had “terrible effects” historically, and it continues to have such effects today – even if today’s Jews are called Zionists. Just like the Jews of bygone times, the Zionists of today are presented as symbols of monstrous evil, and those who take it upon themselves to rid the world of this evil were and are seen by their fellow Jew-/Zionist-haters as admirable and worthy of solidarity.
And just as I’m finishing this post and checking Twitter to see if there were any new stabbings attacks, the first tweet I see is the one pictured below.