Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has become the latest in a long line of campus nudniks seeking to tar Israel’s image and persuade their peers of the purity of the Palestinian struggle against the evils of Zionism. As their failures have multiplied, the groups have become increasingly desperate to stay relevant and provide their supporters with an effective playbook for pursuing the anti-Semitic divestment campaign.
Although it has a new name, “intersectionality,” supporters of the Palestinians have long sought to tie their cause to those of “progressives,” and to compare Israel and Israelis to whatever unpopular group they can think of. Hence, Israel has been compared to South Africa, Israelis to Nazis and the treatment of Palestinians to African-Americans. Last year, Black Lives Matter was the cause du jour; this year it is white supremacists, so, for example, the SJP at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign equated Zionism with white supremacy and fascism. In a rare instance of a university administrator responding to SJP’s anti-Semitic ravings, Chancellor Robert Jones denounced “anti-Semitic attacks hidden under the guise of anti-Zionist rhetoric.”
SJP revealed its grand strategy in the “Divestment Handbook” it distributed this year to activists. Most of the guide is a useful how-to for any student organization to pursue its interests. The specific goal of SJP is education. “Palestinian awareness grows exponentially across campuses,” it says, “as a result of divestment campaigns.” In the same sentence, the authors say only one university has divested from corporations “out of concern for Palestinian rights” and still claim “the pace and breadth of our wins thus far was once unimaginable.” In fact, the single victory they cite is in their imagination. No university has divested from Israel; moreover, officials have repeatedly said they would not do so in the cases where students approved SJP resolutions.
The divestment handbook says Israel must do three things:
- End its “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967” and dismantle the wall.
- Recognize rights of Arab citizens of Israel to “full equality”
- Allow Palestinian refugees to “return to their homes.”
To be accurate, of course, Israel does not occupy any Arab lands. The lands are in dispute and were not the sovereign territory of any Palestinian entity. Any Israeli withdrawal will only come in the course of negotiations, not from the imposition of a boycott. The security fence is rarely even mentioned today as it is now 15 years old and is not coming down absent a peace agreement. Point two simply ignores the fact that Arab citizens already have full equality except for being required to serve in the military. Finally, Palestinian refugees have no “right of return,” their original homes do not exist or are occupied, and even Palestinian officials have admitted this is a nonstarter.
While pro-Israel advocates have always believed that truth is on their side, and that telling falsehoods would quickly expose them to ridicule and undermine their cause, pro-Palestinian advocates believe in Hitler’s Big Lie tactics and rely on the ignorance of their audience. Thus, for example, SJP suggests calling for universities to divest from Caterpillar because it provides “combat bulldozers” to Israel, which have been used for “the destruction of entire neighborhoods, the razing of farms and the killing of Palestinians.” The company is accused of “knowingly” selling products “that violate human rights” and profiting from “Palestinian oppression.” The kernel of truth in this series of accusations is that Israel has used Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish illegal structures and the homes of terrorists.
The handbook illustrates the authors’ sensitivity to political correctness on campus. For example, they warn students to be wary of race when organizing an SJP group. They advise students to ask: “Are there more White students than students of color in your organization? Are the opinions of pro-divestment Jewish students valued over those of Palestinians? Are you tokenizing the struggles of Black, Native, or Latino students, instead of carefully engaging them?”
Similarly, as good leftists, the authors are concerned with class issues as well. “Maybe you’ve never had to worry much about where your next meal is coming from,” they write. “But there’s a good chance that some of the people you organize with do; many students receive no financial support from their families.” Hence, they suggest avoiding “scheduling too many meetings at restaurants or by requiring members to chip in financially for divestment swag or food for meetings.”
The handbook stresses the importance of “establishing solidarity with fellow student organizations,” which brings us back to intersectionality. The authors encourage students to “talk about the Palestinian struggle, divestment and existing efforts to build intersectional campaigns between Palestinians and other oppressed groups.”
The handbook suggests using the militantly anti-Israel Quaker organization, American Friends Service Committee, as a source for information on what companies to target for divestment. AFSC’s website lists companies related to only two human rights issues – prisons and Israel/Palestine. The authors also helpfully recommend choosing “corporations that best bring to light your school’s complicity in the occupation.”
If SJP wanted to be relevant, the group would end the futile campaign against Israel and focus on improving the lives of Palestinians. Alas, SJP members refuse to accept that Israel will not disappear, and their demonization of Jews has a very limited audience. Hence, like the anti-Israel student organizations that came before them, SJP will ultimately end up in history’s dustbin.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.