Elliott Hamilton

Removing Political Correctness from the Arab-Israeli Debate

A dangerous trend plagues college campuses when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict. In environments where “liberal” opinions flow predominantly through the veins of the community, specific topics on this issue are silenced under the premises of political correctness. Most of the time, buzzwords kill debate, claiming that certain topics should not be discussed in fear that it will “offend” people. In doing so, it destroys the opportunity for intellectual conversations on how the conflict should be solved.

The premise of political correctness stems from the implausible theory that if we can find ways not to “offend” others, then we can have a truly respectful, fruitful conversation. That means choosing our words carefully, omitting various talking points, and in some cases, not saying things that will “generalize” an entire group of people. Though the intentions seem to come from a good place, its practicality results not only in a lack of honest debate, but it also condemns various opinions as preposterous and unacceptable. If they tend to hurt people’s feelings, then it should not be given the right to have a podium.

Many examples exist of how political correctness limits debate and kills intellectual pursuit. For instance, it kept Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Brandeis University last spring. It improperly labels Bill Maher, who aptly condemned radical Islam for its barbaric and illiberal nature, as a “racist.” It led to various conservative voices being silenced on college campuses simply because student bodies got “offended” by their commentary.

But when it comes to the Arab-Israeli debate, it results in true friends of Israel undergoing condemnation for being “bigoted” and “Islamophobic,” especially when criticizing Palestinian governments and terrorist organizations. When discussing issues of Hamas, a genocidal terrorist group that kills both Palestinian-Arabs and Israelis, pro-Israel students may have the dubious pleasure of talking to people who ask if it is fair to call Hamas a “terrorist organization” rather than a “rebel group against an occupation.” Instead of taking the stance of the rest of the international community, these politically correct agents choose to refer to Hamas by what their kleptocratic leaders refer to it as.

Political correctness also emerges when discussing the Jew-hatred that the Palestinian media emits on a regular basis. If a pro-Israel student shows the disturbing cartoons that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah publishes celebrating the latest “car intifada,” the “politically correct” crowd screams that “not all Palestinians believe this.” Though they are correct that not all Palestinian-Arabs agree with these rounds of violence, that crowd automatically assumes that any time a Zionist highlights the genocidal nature of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that it refers to the population as a whole. It is never conducive when anyone makes generalizations about another people, yet it is not “politically correct” to make any criticism of the Palestinian governments.

The worst instances of political correctness come from discussing the facts about the illiberal nature of Palestinian leadership. For example, nobody likes to talk about how Hamas killed children to construct the terror tunnels entering sovereign Israeli territory. In addition, nobody likes talking about how 94% of the Palestinian-Arabs in the territories see homosexuality as “morally unacceptable.” Furthermore, nobody wishes to discuss the honor killings taking place in places controlled by the Palestinian Authority. According to the politically correct crowd, one cannot discuss these abhorrent violations of human rights without discussing the “power dynamics” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This contradicts the very values they claim to peddle, while it simultaneously claims that the pro-Israel crowd should not discuss these problems.

If it is not “politically correct” to discuss the genocidal nature of the Palestinian governments, the illiberal policies of those governments, or how Hamas is a terrorist organization, then how can we discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict in a manner that is socially acceptable? The answer is simple: We should discuss how Israel is causing problems and how Israel should make concessions to create peace. According to the “politically correct” crowd, it is easier to discuss the “sins” of the Jewish state and to ponder how the only free, liberal democracy in the region should put itself in danger of annihilation. It is more “acceptable” to look inwards instead of looking outside of the 1949 Armistice Lines to see what the other “peace partners” should do. Not only is this completely asinine, but it is a blatant double standard that stifles one side of the debate.

If the pro-Israel community claimed that every critique of the Israeli government was “anti-Semitic” in the same way that any critique of the Palestinian governments is “Islamophobic,” then the rest of the world would denounce and belittle us for “crying wolf.” It is completely absurd that political correctness allows room for denouncing Israel but leaving the Palestinian governments untouched from honest, intellectual criticism. If we are not allowed to discuss the Palestinian Authority’s failures to uphold liberal values and its anti-Semitic incitement, then we cannot discuss some of the major factors that prevent a viable peace between Palestinian-Arabs and Israelis.

To ensure an honest conversation about the facts, political correctness must be removed from this debate. Doing so will not only open discussions within college campuses, but it will also allow people to discuss the sensitive topics that plague peace negotiations between both peoples in a respectful setting. The reality is that the truth hurts, and it is impossible not to hurt people discussing this emotional debate. But if people continue to suppress one side under the premise of not “offending” people, then nothing will be achieved to mitigate the animosity between both camps. Let the facts speak for themselves, and let the conversation flow freely without any reservations.

About the Author
Elliott Hamilton is a JD/MPH candidate at Boston College Law School and Tufts University School of Medicine. He was credited as a researcher in the 2016 film "Hate Spaces: The Politics of Intolerance on Campus."