Anti-Israel’s Annual Pilgrimage & A How-To Response

As the waft of anti-Israel rhetoric makes its annual pilgrimage to university campuses, we return, once again, to this season of discontent. Given that many students may be overcome by the vitriol to engage the movement or may lack the stats to back it up, this post will be a straight-forward, point-by-point, response to its claims. By the end, readers should feel confident in their ability to counter the basic arguments levied against them and respond both factually and academically. Here we go:

1) “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

  • Firstly, UN Resolution 194 is without legal force, non-binding, and unambiguously conditional.
  • Secondly, we must distinguish between the political ‘recognition’ of the right of return and its actual implementation. This has been raised formally and informally previously during the peace process as a legitimate alternative, for one big reason.
  • Thirdly, the Arabs states unanimously rejected the resolution.
  • Fourthly, given the nature of the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) formula which extends refugee status to descendants of refugees, the implementation of such a right implicitly translates into the elimination of Israel as a state for the Jewish people. To lend some precision, their formula (on legally dubious grounds) enlarges the approximately 700,000 people who fled or we expelled in 1948, to the modern-day inflated number of 5 million ‘refugees’.
  • Lastly, the majority of the aforementioned counter-points were made by Noam Chomsky, among Israel’s harshest and most vocal critics! That’s right, Chomsky does not support the anti-Israel movement.

2) “Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”

  • Firstly, Arab-Israeli citizens enjoy a higher standard of living in Israel than Palestinians.
  • Secondly, this stipulation fails to consider the far more repressive regime of the Palestinian Authority (PA) within the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
  • Thirdly, this represents a gross negligence and double-standard. The current Palestinian administration in the West Bank has been charged with unlawful detention and arrest, torture, and repression of freedom of expression and assembly. Needless to say, venturing into the realm of gender equality or LGBT rights is equally fruitless.
  • Lastly, the current President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas does not support the anti-Israel movement. This second motion poses a direct threat to Abbas’ conduct and supervision of the West Bank. If the anti-Israel movement is more concerned about Israeli citizens than Palestinians, isn’t that problematic?

3) “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall”

  • Firstly, this motion imposes Israel, unilaterally, with the faults and responsibilities of the peace process. This runs contrary to the historical foundations of bilateral Arab/Palestinian-Israeli negotiations documented in William Quandt’s Peace Process.
  • Secondly, this contradicts the claims that the movement is ‘by Palestinians, for Palestinians’. This proposition will directly affect Syria. Evidently, this should not be a concern for Palestinian self-determination.
  • Thirdly, the leader of the movement, Omar Barghouti, has repeatedly expressed opposition to Israel’s right to exist and its basis as the state for the Jewish people even within the 1967 borders.
  • Fourthly, the ‘wall’ is a blunt mischaracterization of the security fence. If assessed in its entirety, 90-5% of the barrier is a “multi-layered fence system”. Again, this is a rather telling misrepresentation by the anti-Israel movement to cognizantly distort statistics.
  • Fifthly, there was no wall prior to terrorist attacks. Not until a string of terrorist attacks occurred under Yitzhak Rabin in the 90’s did a fraction of the wall begin to be built. Moreover, the Second Intifada precipitated the construction of a comprehensive barrier between the West Bank and Israel. And guess what? It has been enormously successful in preventing terrorist attacks. Following 73 suicide bombings from 2000 until July 2003, killing as many as 289 people in one year, such attacks have dramatically diminished.
  • Finally, Norm Finkelstein, “a rock star of the pro-Palestinian movement” has disavowed the initiative. Finkelstein has called the movement “a cult” and loathes their “disingenuousness”. “They [the anti-Israel movement] don’t want Israel [to exist].” Chomsky has defended Finkelstein’s condemnation.

I just have a couple closing remarks. To start off, the anti-Israel movement is inherently biased and applies double-standards. To suggest that consumers must refrain from buying Israeli products whilst turning a blind-eye to the far more egregious human rights abuses in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt is nonsensical. How can you justify the targeting of a liberal democracy while ignoring the oppression of women, religious minorities, LGBT rights, and secular forces throughout the majority of the Middle East. Secondly, the claim that the movement is ‘by Palestinians, for Palestinians’ is dubious. Aside for the fact that its measures will have ramifications on countries outside of Israel and Palestine, the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people (i.e. the PA) reject the movement. The sentiments are prevalent amongst Palestinians living in the territories. 500 Palestinians recently lost their jobs to the closure of Soda Stream’s last West Bank manufacturing facility. Who is the movement serving, again?

To sum up, the movement has many inherent faults, alienated long-time supporters of Palestinian self-determination, and often does not represent the wishes of Palestinians themselves. With that being said, there are genuine grievances which should be addressed, albeit bilaterally. Both sides should work together to improve the peace process; more care should be given to Arab-Israelis within Israel; settlement construction is a devastating initiative to the peace process and only makes Israel’s position more inextricable; and, the PA should strive to ameliorate the living conditions and human rights of Palestinians within the West Bank and curb rampant corruption. The road to peace is a two-way street and driving as if it’s a one-way is bound to cause an accident. Let’s clear the road, tow the wreckage, and make way for cooperation.

Sadat, Carter, and Begin signing the Camp David Accords (c. 1979). (Credit: Photo by Government Press Office)
Sadat, Carter, and Begin signing the Camp David Accords (c. 1979). (Credit: Photo by Government Press Office)
About the Author
Ari is a Masters of Global Affairs student at the University of Toronto's Munk School. Previously, he received an MA in History from Western University. As well, he blogs for The Jerusalem Post.
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