Leonard Grunstein
Leonard Grunstein

Revive light and truth; eschew night and fog

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The Yale University emblem is inscribed with the Hebrew words Urim V’Tumim, which it translates into the Latin motto Lux et Veritas (Light and Truth). It’s a noble sentiment that appears to have been profaned.

On Sunday, June 27, 2021, Yale’s undergraduate student government, the Yale College Council (YCC), by a vote of eight to three, with four abstentions, adopted a statement falsely accusing Israel of being an apartheid state and committing genocide and ethnic cleansing[i]. As if this hyperbolic and bogus statement was not enough of a mockery of truth, the YCC also took a swipe at the US. It baselessly asserted “connections between the US’s (sic) domestic racial oppression and its imperial oppression of people of color worldwide”. It went on speciously to claim that Israel’s military enforces the alleged apartheid system just like the US police enforce the system of white supremacy against Black Americans.

In yet another fatuous display of misplaced piety, it was noted that the condemnation was not political, because they felt compelled to call out injustice wherever it may occur[ii]. Curiously, there is no similar condemnation of Hamas’ attacks on Israel, with over four thousand rockets targeting civilian areas or use of children as human shields. Nor, has the YCC passed a resolution condemning the PA’s recent killing of an outspoken critic and violent response to protests, including brutalizing women protestors[iii]. Indeed, where is the outcry about the deep rooted, endemic and rampant problem of physical and mental abuse against women in the home in Hamas and PA controlled areas, including honor killings? Why do they not call out Hamas’ and the PA’s systemic discrimination against women, both civilly and criminally? Women are blatantly mistreated and exploited, including in matters of economic access and inheritance and there is no equal protection for women under the law in the Hamas and PA controlled areas[iv]. Why is there no outrage about the Hamas terrorist training summer camps for children[v]? I also didn’t see any condemnation of the human rights violations by the CCP against the Uighur people nor by the terrorist Iranian regime. It would appear that the selective focus on Israel and obvious double standard falls plainly within the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

I also can’t help but wonder why the YCC did not hold a fact finding hearing to try to ascertain the truth, instead of just cavalierly making such outrageous pronouncements. Where is the healthy skepticism, intellectual curiosity and intensive and independent research, which are the hallmark of university level study? Wouldn’t it have made sense to visit Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza to ascertain the actual situation on the ground first-hand? Had they done so, they would have quickly realized their folly. Indeed, how could such serious and slanderous pronouncements be made solely on the basis of a mere set of talking points, in the form of baseless accusations from a clearly bias source, without any semblance of proof offered? Is our time-honored tradition of not presuming guilt and demanding proof not a part of the YCC proceedings? Furthermore, are serious legal accusations just thrown around with abandon, like some propaganda exercise, with no thought given as to their applicability to the circumstances at issue? It would appear so, because there is no factual or legal basis for invoking the explosive and chilling terms of apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing as to Israel.

Israel is not an apartheid state and it is patently absurd to claim otherwise[vi]. The term apartheid was the Afrikaans name given by the Nationalist Party, composed of members of the minority white community then ruling South Africa, to the country’s harsh, institutionalized system of racial segregation, in 1948. It came to an end in the early 1990s in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994[vii].

Israel is a democratic and diverse country where all citizens, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and others have the right to vote. There are no public toilets, benches or other public spaces, buses, trains, hospitals, public schools or universities segregated by race or religion. The professions, businesses and jobs are open to every citizen. There is no racism institutionalized by the Knesset, enforced by the police and legitimized by the courts. Thus, for example, Muslim citizens serve as Justices of the Supreme Court of Israel, members of the ruling coalition of Government, attorneys, doctors and other medical personnel, university professors and students and patronize restaurants and shop at stores of their choice. As Mesola Lekota, President of the Congress of the People party, former South African Defense Minister and senior African National Congress official, is quoted as saying, ‘I tried to find a comparison between how we lived under the apartheid regime and the situation in Israel and I could not find one’. In a recent post[viii] on the subject of apartheid, Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, noted: “The new diverse government truly makes a mockery of the absurd ‘apartheid’ label. A devout Muslim and adherent of an Islamist ideology is now Israel’s Joe Manchin- a dealmaker at the center of a 50/50 legislative chamber with enormous clout. Anyone who chooses to look objectively can plainly see Israel as the bastion of diversity and democracy that it is.”

Israel is not committing genocide[ix]. That would require Israel to intend to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. There is no such intent and census data belie any such claim. Indeed, the Muslim Arab population of Israel, the PA controlled areas and Gaza has grown not declined. Consider the population statistics of ethnically diverse Jerusalem, Israel’s most populous city, as a pertinent example. Over the years since 1967, when the City was reunified, the population has grown; but the increase in the Muslim population has been proportionately greater[x].

Israel is not ethnic cleansing. Although there is no precise legal definition of ethnic cleansing under International Law, the term was used to describe the abhorrent conduct that occurred in the conflict that ensued among the constituent nations that emerged[xi], in the aftermath of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The UN Office on Genocide describes ethnic cleansing as ‘a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent or terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas’. A landlord/tenant dispute in a Jerusalem neighborhood, which could be cured by just paying the rent, is not ethnic cleansing, by any stretch of the imagination of an objective observer. To put this in perspective, there were two hundred thousand eviction cases pending in New York City in 2020[xii]. Employing the term ethnic cleansing in this context is not just preposterous, it’s venal and calculatingly designed to evoke unrestrained furor.

Use of these explosive and horrendous terms to vilify Israel in reference to some mythical misdeeds goes beyond merely being inappropriate and slanderous. Indeed, it might be argued that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the YCC in validating them has become nothing more than a propaganda arm of the Hamas and PA apparatus. In the days of the USSR, they might have aptly been called useful dupes. In this regard, I can’t help but note, reference should be made to both the Hamas Covenant and the PA’s National Charter, which are available online at yale.edu. Perhaps, the students should study these offensive documents before accusing anyone; let alone Israel, of these horrible crimes. It would appear like so many propaganda slogans and false narratives, the classic subterfuge of projecting unto others thine own flaws and sins may be at the heart of these meritless claims against Israel.

Consider, some of the actual misdeeds and horrifying calls to action by Hamas and the PA[xiii]. No Jews reside in the PA controlled areas or Hamas controlled Gaza. Jordan ethnically cleansed Judea and Samaria of Jews when it conquered the area in 1948. The Jordanians and other Arabs residing there (now calling themselves Palestinians) massacred or forcibly expelled any remaining Jewish residents and destroyed Jewish synagogues, cemeteries and schools. Anyone who has visited the Kfar Etzion Museum can appreciate the ruthless extermination campaign mounted against the Jews in Israel in 1948. In striking contrast, the Arabs who remained in Israel gained citizenship, equal rights and became an integral part of Israeli society.

To this day, PA law prohibits land sales to Jews. Those, breaking the law are subject to harsh penalty that the PA does not shirk from imposing. The PA and Hamas also spew classical antisemitism, incite and glorify terrorism and call for Israel’s destruction. This includes promoting hateful antisemitic rhetoric in the media, as well as, teaching their children in school to hate Jews.

The Palestinian National Charter describes the entire Land of Israel, including the land within the ceasefire lines of 1948, as belonging to the Arab Palestinian people and calls for liberation through armed struggle. Despite assurances that it would be amended to recognize the State of Israel, this in fact never actually occurred.

The Hamas Covenant is overtly antisemitic. It compares Jews to Nazis, asserts Jews were behind World Wars I and II and finds Jewish conspiracies everywhere. It requires an armed Jihad against Israel to eliminate it.

Hamas and the PA, in their own words and actions, express their professed desire, in no uncertain terms, to commit the very crimes and evil deeds with which the YCC charged Israel. In a typical propagandist fashion, they just contrive to accuse and impute their own criminal intent to Israel, in a cynical attempt to distract. How unfortunate that it appears the YCC fell for their ruse and canards.

This is not the first time university students have been in the vanguard of a sinister and abhorrent movement. It is all too reminiscent of 1933 in Germany, when students sought to boycott and expel Jewish professors and force out Jewish students from universities. This was before the notorious antisemitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Moreover, it was the students, rather than the professors and administrators, who were leading the charge[xiv]. Amazingly, a rector and law professor at Humboldt University and supporter of the Nazi party, telegraphed Hitler following his appointment as German Chancellor in 1933, to complain about the students, who he viewed as ‘immature misguided idealists’[xv]. He was concerned about the harm they might do to the German Universities as valuable German cultural assets. Among other things, he objected to the targeted shaming of Jewish faculty members and the displaying of anti-Semitic materials on campus.

The Nazis sought to clothe their evil intent to eliminate the Jews in euphemisms like relocation to the East and the Endlosung der Judenfrage (Final Solution to the Jewish Question). It was a calculating, cynical and ruthless canard to lull the Jews and make them more compliant and docile. After all, it was just about relocation not elimination. Many rationalized the threat they faced arguing how could Germany seek to kill them when there were labor shortages and they could still be productive. Even at the gates of Auschwitz, the sign at the entrance proclaimed Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes free). But it was all a subterfuge and the ultimate goal was death, either a quick one in the gas chambers for most or a slow agonizing one for some in the forced labor camps. Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) was the title of a Holocaust film we viewed in High School, as a part of Holocaust studies. The title is based on the code name for the secret extermination of people the German regime deemed enemies. The Nazi tactic of employing code words, euphemisms and other propaganda techniques to mask their true insidiously evil goals is the antithesis of Light and Truth.

We must understand the use of terms like anti-Israel and anti-Zionism in this context. Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are a majority. There is no reasonable explanation for being against only the existence of Israel and no other country in the world. Don’t be misled, it’s just a ploy to divert attention from the inexplicable animus felt against the Jews who live there or, said another way, antisemitism. Similarly, is the connivance of using the term anti-Zionism. An overwhelming majority of Jews favor the existence of Israel[xvi]. Thus, to express hatred towards all Zionists is just another way of saying that hate Jews. These terms are cleverly devised euphemisms designed to fool the naïve and cruelly give succor to those who somehow delude themselves into believing they are exempt. This was how the Nazis did it and their spiritual successors like terrorist Hamas are no different. The recent spate of murders, violent attacks and hate crimes committed against Jews because they are Jewish, in Europe and the US, speak volumes about the essential nature of the threat we are facing. It’s undeniably antisemitism[xvii].

As anyone can see in the light of day, by visiting Israel and objectively viewing life there, it is not an apartheid state and it is not committing genocide or ethnic cleansing. That is the truth. As to those who would falsely accuse Israel of such unspeakable evil, they might better take stock of themselves. As the Talmud[xviii] aptly notes, those who accuse others of fundamental flaws should themselves be examined, because they likely posses those flaws. The toxic atmosphere these students are creating on the college campus is pernicious. Some misguided souls are even motivated to echo the virulent denunciations so as not to stand out and possibly endure public shaming or worse. There also appears to be a chilling effect that has taken hold, even in the academic establishment among professors and administrators, which stifles any serious discussion[xix].

It’s time to eschew the darkness of falsehoods and the contrived fog of propaganda slogans and platitudes. Let’s revive light and truth. May we merit the ultimate redemption soon and in our time.

[i] Yale student council approves statement accusing Israel of ‘genocide’, by Ron Kampeas in the Times of Israel, dated 6/29.2021 and Yale College Council adopts statement of condemnation against Israel, by Rebecca Salzhauer, in the Forward, dated 6/28/2021.

[ii] Yale Student Gov’t Resolution Accuses Israel of “Genocide,” “Ethnic Cleansing”, by Aaron Bandler in the Jewish Journal, dated 7/1/2021.

[iii] UN Human rights chief urges Palestinian Authority to allow protests, in the Times of Israel, dated 7/1/20121; As Palestinians Protest Death of Abbas Opponent, Women are Assaulted in Response, by Amira Hass, in Haaretz, dated 7/3/2021; Palestinian Authority kills and tortures dissenters while the media yawns, by James Sinkinson, at JNS, dated 7/6/2021; and Palestinian frustrations with West Bank government boil over with death of activist, by Steven Hendrix and Sufian Taha, in the Washington Post, dated 6/29/2021.

[iv] Intersectional rhapsody, by Leonard Grunstein, in the Times of Israel blogs, dated 7/3/2019, including footnoted sources.

[v] At annual summer camps, Hamas trains kids to fire guns, kidnap soldiers, in the Times of Israel, dated 7/3/2021; Hamas continues recruiting soldiers: Where is the condemnation?, by Seth J. Frantzman, in the Jerusalem Post, dated 6/27/2021; and COUGAT: Hamas summer camp trains kids to ‘commit acts of terror’, in Jerusalem Post, dated 6/11/20.

[vi] See, for example, Israel is not an Apartheid State, by Bassem Eid (a Palestinian human rights activist living in Israel), in the Times of Israel blogs, dated 6/24/2021 and Free Debate must continue, but ‘apartheid’ causes confusion, by Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein (Chief Rabbi of South Africa and PhD in human rights and constitutional law), in the Jerusalem Post, dated 7/1/2021.

[vii] US Department of State, The End of Apartheid, at state.gov.

[viii] Supra note vi.

[ix] Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide approved by UN General Assembly Resolution 260 A (III) of 12/9/1948 and entered into force on 1/12/1951.

[x] Jerusalem Facts and Trends 2019, by Michal Korach and Maya Chosen at the Jerusalem Institute.

[xi] UN Office on Genocide Prevention- Definition of Ethnic Cleansing at un.org.

[xii] Evictions on Hold until October 1, but Pre-Pandemic Housing Court Cases Forge Ahead, by Christine Chung, in The City, dated 8/12/2020.

[xiii] See Alternative Report of United Nations Watch to the 99th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for its review of the State of Palestine, submitted by Hillel Neuer and Dina Rovner, dated 7/12/19, including the extensive footnoted sources cited.

[xiv] The Role of Antisemitism in the Expulsion of non-Aryan Students, 1933-1945, Bela Bodo, at yadvashem.org.

[xv] Telegram regarding the “Action against the Un-German Spirit”, at perspectives.ushmm.org.

[xvi] 80% of US Jews say they are pro-Israel, study finds, by Jeremy Sharon, in the Jerusalem Post, dated 2/4/2020.

[xvii] See, for example, FBI Joins NYPD to Address Rise in Anti-Semitic Crimes in New York City, by Ben Chapman, in the WSJ, dated 5/29/21; US Faces Outbreak of Anti-Semitic Threats and Violence, by Ruth Graham and Liam Stock, in NYT, dated 5/26/21; and British Jews’ fear and defiance amid record monthly anti-Semitism reports, by Mary O’Connor, dated 6/29/2021.

[xviii] BT Kiddushin 70a-b.

[xix] Why academics boycott Israel, by Martin Kramer, published online at martinkramer.org on 7/7/2021.

About the Author
Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and other fine publications.
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