On October 13th., a restaurant in Columbia Missouri called the, “Cafe Berlin,” hosted a play called, “There is a Field.” The advertisement for the auditions at the cafe describes, “The play is about Aseel Asleh, a 17-year old Palestinian citizen of Israel killed by police in October 2000.” The play was co-hosted by a performance group called, “The Collective Uncomfortable,” and, “Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine (MJP).” Before the event I emailed the owner of the cafe and requested that he not partner with MJP for the following reasons: “MJP makes the maxim claim, which is that Israel has no right to exist and that all of the land belongs to the Palestinians.”
I also explained, “No one on earth defines criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. However, the US state department defines calling for the destruction of Israel to be anti-semitism. MJP has stated at numerous events that the goal of their group is not to advocate for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state, and thus to allow both groups to express their self-determination, but rather to destroy the Jewish state as the solution to the conflict.” I also wrote, “perhaps we could arrange a dialogue where both sides are allowed a chance to explain their views.” The owner of the cafe did not respond.
Finally, I called the cafe and spoke with a manager. He informed that he had received my email, he had spoken with the members of MJP, and supposedly I was misrepresenting MJP. In response, I sent the following email to the owner, “According to the manager, MJP does not oppose the two-state solution… So, I looked up several quotes directly from MJP. In June of 2017, the members of MJP published a group letter in the Columbia Tribune. The group included the main leaders of MJP: Nancy F. Browning, Jalal El-Jayyousi, Rose Marie Muzika, George P. Smith and Jeff Stack. They stated, ‘The two-state solution is dead. Nor is it a solution.’”
Unfortunately, the owner did not respond to any of my emails, and the cafe hosted the play. Before the event I stood on the sidewalk in front of the cafe distributing a one page leaflet, which read, “The death of Aseel is tragic and controversial. The play has been performed in many states. Sadly, the play has gone beyond the bounds of the death of Aseel and is being used to promote anti-zionism among the African American community.” While I was handing out the leaflet one of the members of MJP, Jeff Stack, approached me. I had written about Stack in a previous article in the, “Algemeiner,” newspaper.
Stack is also a member of, “Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation (MMFR),” who were also listed as a lesser co-sponsor on the play. In my previous article I had explained, “I sent a letter to Jeff Stack, a director of MMFR, noting that all three of the speakers they’d sponsored since 2014 had called for the destruction of Israel.” I asked, “Does MMFR recognize the U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism?” In the article I wrote, “Mr. Stack responded that he was too busy to answer the questions.”
Outside the cafe, Stack asked me about the details of my leaflet. He also said that I was welcome to attend. I told him that I only had planned to ask one question during the Q&A session and that my question would only take five seconds. Stack responded that the event would not have a Q&A, but I could ask him the question. Thankfully, Stack finally had time to answer. I immediately asked, “Does, ‘Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine,’ recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination expressed as the Nation State of the Jewish people?” Stack did not hesitate, “No, see, the Jewish state, that is where we have a problem.” Of course, his answer raises the question: why do seemingly nice people call for the destruction of the Jewish state?
I want to answer that question by stating that people rarely say that they just want to destroy the Jewish state because they hate Jews and want to murder them. Clearly, that would sound terrible. No, rather, they have to create some moral justification to call for the annihilation of the Jewish state. So, they justify themselves by arguing that the idea of a Jewish state is an inherently racist concept, or that a Jewish state and democracy are incompatible. So, if a Jewish state is a racist concept, then calling for the destruction of a Jewish state is the same thing as calling for an end to racism. In fact, on the pamphlet for the play, MJP used this same justification to oppose the existence of a Jewish state: “The definition of Israel as ‘the Jewish State’ or ‘the State of the Jewish People’ makes inequality a practical, political, and ideological reality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.” (Although, it should be noted, this claim is false propaganda, the organization, “Freedom House,” has consistently ranked Israel as a free democracy, which means that the idea of a Jewish state and democracy are not incompatible.)
But, these people often claim that they are opposed to nationalism in general. There are no differences between human beings so why should we have different nations? Nationalism is holding us back, we should try to obtain a world without borders and nationalism based on any forms of ethnicity. And, that is fine. The problem is that MJP does not advocate that we should get rid of ethnic-nationalism in general. On the contrary, they are hardcore advocates for ethnic-nationalism. In fact, their own mission statement declares that they support ethnic-nationalism.
At the event, Professor Nancy Browning read the mission statement of MJP, “We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian… right to self-determination.” In reality, Palestine was never a country in history, but MJP also distributed fliers with a propaganda map of Palestine existing as a country in 1947. This image is followed by an image of the Jews destroying this imaginary country. The Jews never destroyed the country of Palestine, because it never existed. But, the flier explicitly advocated that the UN was morally obligated to grant the Palestinians the right to self-determination in the territory shown on the map. In addition, the Palestinian, “territories were supposed to become a state.” Also, during the play one of actors proudly proclaimed that he is a member of the Palestinian nation. So, how is the Palestinian nation defined? Well, the “Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO),” charter declares, “Palestine is an Arab homeland bound by strong Arab national ties to the rest of the Arab Countries.” However, in case someone argues that the PLO charter does not define Palestinian nationalism, then this claim is simply false. Palestine has already obtained the goal declared in the charter, Palestine currently has a non-member observer state status in the UN, but it is a full member of the Arab League, which has a goal to develop the, “interests of the Arab countries.”
According to the PLO charter, “The Palestinians are those Arab citizens who were living normally in Palestine up to 1947, whether they remained or were expelled. Every child who was born to a Palestinian Arab father after this date, whether in Palestine or outside, is a Palestinian.” The charter explicitly defines Palestine as an Arab ethnic state, and declares that a Palestinian can obtain citizenship based on having Palestinian ancestor, which means that Palestinian citizenship laws are based on having Palestinian blood ancestry. In other words, MJP are raging hypocrites: MJP’s official position is that Jewish people do not have the right to self-determination expressed as an ethnic Jewish state, but Palestinian people have the right to self-determination expressed as an ethnic Arab-Palestinian state.
Now, this is not a surprise, because members of MJP have been screaming it from the rooftops in Columbia, Missouri. However, the main reason I have continued to document what has already been documented ad nauseam, is because MJP has been continually allowed to host events at the University of Missouri. In fact, they are partnering with the, “Mizzou Students for Justice in Palestine,” to host a new event in November.
This is why there is a need for an objective definition of anti-semitism, but thankfully it already exists. Even if a person claims that a Jewish state is a racist concept, don’t worry, the US State Department has already heard the argument. This is why they define anti-semitism as, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” The Cafe Berlin is a private business and they are welcome to partner with groups who seek violence against the Jewish state. However, shouldn’t we expect higher standards from the University of Missouri?
MU is a state run institution, so you would assume that they would adhere to the the US State Department definition of anti-semitism. But, you would be wrong. MJP has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel at MU events, even declaring at one event, ““Zionism is doomed.” Thus, it is time for the University of Missouri to finally adopt the US State Department definition of anti-semitism.