Academia is Failing Israel and Palestine- Again

Israel's Iron Dome Intercepting Hamas Rockets, photo from AFP via Getty Images

Academics are correct in stating that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live in peace. They’re wrong when declaring Israel as the greatest force of evil, failing to profile Hamas as the terrorist and oppressive institution that it is. Academics and Journalists continue entrenching Palestinians in perpetual marginalization when refusing to acknowledge that Hamas is the most pressing threat to Palestinian livelihood. Refraining from officially exposing the organization for failed leadership hinders the ability for more representative political parties to take shape, garner support, and enter the political playing field.  In essence, inadequately placing Hamas in the spotlight for violence is preventing Palestinians from enjoying a government that actually advocates for their rights, and forces the whole region under threat.   

Not only is Hamas incapable of governing civil society, it is unwilling. The entity time and time again has chosen personal political ideals over the well-being of its own citizens. Hamas’ unwavering relationship with Iran, at the cost of other international alliances, has secured them with aid purely in the form of weaponry, terrorist training, and encouragement of violence against the State of Israel.  The financial aid Palestinians receive, such as the recent 75 million lump sum from the Biden Administration, is not being used to further develop civil infrastructure. Rather, Hamas is robbing the population they claim to “liberate” of their finances, families, and future by funneling aid to the construction of weapons and development of violent campaigns. Hamas continues to use Palestinian people as pons in conflict, disregarding any and all calls for improving civilian society. Choosing destruction over prosperity cannot be a characteristic of sound leadership, and anyone with a powerful voice who absolves Hamas of their role in violence is doing a grave disservice to the longevity of Palestinian people, culture, and land. 

The current narrative of the Palestinians — both embodied by Palestinians themselves as well as those with zero connection to the land in question or comprehension of the complexity of decades-long violence — focus on Israel being an oppressive and imperialist regime set out to destroy its neighbors. In reality, Israel, the lone democracy in the Middle East, is the only entity that will propel Palestinians in the ways that matter. Hamas will enable Palestinians to become Islamic ‘martyrs’ by advocating for suicide bombings and ground attacks. By contrast, the Israeli Constitution ensures freedom of religion, conscience, language, culture, and education for all inhabitants. Israel allows for diversity and success, procuring individuals with valuable skills for a national or local workforce. Israel promises future, Hamas promises peril masked under rhetoric of “liberation.”  

Yet, electronic materials negatively depicting Israel, including manipulated video clips or images with misleading captions, foster the notion of Israel as a violent regime; most of the west has fallen for this characterization. I must acknowledge that reprimanding Israel isn’t necessarily a willful choice on behalf of the nation’s strongest adversaries. Rather, people who are anti-Israel have become victims of manipulation and pro-Hamas propaganda that saturates our media outlets. The vulnerable and uninformed will succumb to the barrage of misinformation and aggressive language against the State of Israel. Meanwhile, vanguards of the truth that challenge Academics and their followers are met with fierce opposition and disgusting labels, fostering a society in which truth and mainstream opinion cannot coexist. One must come at the expense of the other. In the case of Israel-Palestine, or should I say Israel-Hamas, western desires to save the ‘oppressed’ have barred any remnants of truth and accurate historical analysis from the modern-day Palestinian narrative.  

When the UAE, a Muslim country with only recent diplomatic relations with Israel via the Abraham Accords, can point out that the prosperity of Palestinians depends on Hamas’ dedication to peace, why is the west so determined to blame Israel for the land’s underdevelopment and violence? Why western Academics fail to recognize Hamas as the primary obstacle to Palestinian liberation perplexes me. Maybe it’s because the whole industry of Academia is attempting to fulfill a new mission and role: Image and activism.  

Since when did Academia become activism? Since when did we sacrifice the nature of Academia, that of performing unbiased, multi-faceted research intended to produce holistic conclusions, for some variation of self-fulfillment and self-praise? Academia isn’t about activism. It’s about informing. And what a bad job Academia is doing at informing. There are many spaces for activists to flourish in our current society. But, Academics have a specific role in our contemporary world, and being activists is not one of them. Academics are pushing complex and weighted rhetoric like ‘settler colonialism,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and ‘apartheid,’ encouraging citizens to wear dangerous language with pride. Social media influencers and average uninformed users are consistently armed with weapons of anti-semitism- weapons which its users don’t even understand its force. 

The pervasiveness of such language and the absence of its actual applications, provided to us by people whose role is to educate us, has led to the most ignorant and insulting forms of pro-Palestinian activism. To name a few examples, notions of Israel as an apartheid regime whose mission is to subordinate Palestinians and ultimately engage in ethnic cleansing has led to the lynching of Jews by Palestinian mobs, or the burning of the Israeli flag in cities parading cultural and religious diversity such as New York, Toronto, and Montreal. Across Europe, citizens expressed their dissatisfaction with the apparent ‘ethnostate’ by calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews, chanting “Death to Jews” around the capital cities. From these acts of ‘peaceful protests,’ as Academics and Journalists would label them,  claiming the State of Israel as an apartheid regime or a vehicle of ethnically cleansing Palestinians is just a socially acceptable way of being openly anti-Semitic. 

To add, not once has any Israeli governing official ever sought, explicitly or implicitly, to wipe the ethnically Palestinian population from the map. The reason for the relatively high Palestinian death count — and I say relatively because compared to actual acts of cultural genocide, such as the Rwandan or Armenian genocide, ethnic groups were murdered in the thousands — is because Hamas chooses to put its citizens in direct crossfire, stationing rocket launchers in city centers and forcing violent leaders into schools and hospitals for protection.  In the cases of Rwanda and Armenia, there were loud calls for governments across the world to declare that a genocide was taking or has taken place. In the Palestinian case, there are no such calls because even those who propagate that narrative know that the argument does not stand- the facts just don’t add up. 

Another one of my personal favorite attacks on Israel by western Academics and its gang of misinformed followers is the application of the systemic racism framework. One cannot utilize American social justice approaches to the Middle East, or any other conflict for that matter. Borrowing arguments from one society and blindly applying them to another not only ignores their complexities, playing right into eurocentrism, but is flat-out lazy. It is lazy to take advantage of the charged race relations in the United States in order to rally more people around your case for an entirely different population with entirely different circumstances.

Those who adopt Academics’ language are also lazy. Those who refuse to devote time and energy to understanding the complexities of the conflict and just succumb to the media status quo, are lazy. Not to go unmentioned, an indicator of this laziness comes from the lack of race relations between Israelis and Palestinians, yet the choice to throw the “systemic racism” argument into the mix because it sounds alarm bells in people’s heads. There is no systematic racism between Israel and Palestinians. Mizrahi Jews and Arabs are visually indistinguishable and share the exact same ethnicities. Mizrahi Jews come from Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, among all other countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. Framing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of race is akin to describing an argument between a white Democrat and a white Republican as a race-motivated conflict. Mizrahi Jews share the same culture as Arabs, we even share regional history. Western Academics also fail to realize Israelis and Palestinians are more alike than they are different. Actually, both populations stand together, in complete contrast, to western behavior and culture. For one, Middle Easterners will openly disagree with one another. The west will take the minority opinion and shut it down. 

Under the narrative of oppression, Academics and Journalists have pointed out that the current war in the territories and Israel is not actually a war. In the words of an Instagram warrior, the Palestinian side is a “defenseless people, armed with their faith in their cause.” The individual goes on to ask: “Have you ever seen the uniform of the Palestinian army, a Palestinian tank?” Actually, I have. Their army, Al-Quds Brigades, proudly waves around a green flag reading Shahada, and each individual wears a green military uniform with a Kalashnikov resting on their chest. They also recently produced a Hollywood-esque film of their newest rocket launcher, funded by money intended to better civilian lives. You probably read this paragraph with pure anguish, ready to scold me for associating all Palestinians with Hamas. But here’s my point: Palestinians, Gazans in particular, cannot be conflated with their government. Academics, Journalists, and Instagram warriors in every attempt to cast blame on Israel, in every attempt to suggest that Israel is partaking in ethnic cleansing, are reinforcing a relationship between average Palestinians and Hamas that just doesn’t exist. Champions of research must find the courage to first separate Palestinians from Hamas, and then call out Hamas for the damage it does to the population it claims to act on behalf of. The Instagram warrior was right- Palestinians don’t have an army. They have a government that appropriates their cause. But that government is definitely not defenseless in the face of a 30 million dollar a month allowance from Iran.  

I hope Academia takes away an important lesson from the ongoing Middle East massacre; failing to call out the authentic perpetrator of violence, even when they explicitly cast themselves as such via proclamations to obliterate the State of Israel, empowers them. By diverting blame to another group, Hamas becomes absolved of all responsibility and is allowed to continue their violent campaigns resting on the belief that they have the everlasting loyalty of the international community. This pattern is incredibly dangerous for a region already battling grave political instability, the susceptibility to terrorism, and the vulnerability of civilians.  

I used to love Academia- I wanted to become a professor in Middle East studies writing ethnographies on nuanced communities. Now I want nothing less than to have my name and work associated with an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel group of people who knowingly pledge their allegiance to an entity they are aware is the most significant impediment to the liberation of the oppressed. I miss the Academia that fostered free thought and valued conflicting opinions as opposed to the one that emboldens one-sided thinkers and champions of “cancel culture.” I miss the Academia that made me want to be an Academic, and allowed me to be honest about my political and cultural affinities in the process. 

About the Author
Jordan Royt is an undergraduate student at McGill University and a visiting student at Columbia University. She is a writer and editor for International Relations Journalism pertaining to the Middle East at a number of publications, both print and online, at McGill and beyond. Her interests include the intersection of religion and politics, how historical legacies influence our current realities, and terrorism and insurgency in the Middle East.
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