Bassem Eid

UMN college Dems silence Palestinian voices

The University of Minnesota College Democrats says they want to provide a voice for Palestinians. So why did they censor the voice of this actual Palestinian?

It all started when they issued a statement on Instagram opposing the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism that passed on that campus in a referendum vote by a wide margin. Their argument states that this definition “silences” Palestinians. I was saddened to see them put out misinformation, so I commented on the post, “I’m a Palestinian living in East Jerusalem. You’re trying to speak on behalf of Palestinians, which is lies. I care about my Jewish brothers and sisters. I support IHRA because it is the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism”. When they saw my comment, they immediately deleted it and blocked my account. Does this sound like a group that cares about Palestinian voices? The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism does NOT silence Palestinians; only the UMN College Democrats do that.

The original Instagram post is glaringly ignorant. The UMN College Dems are not even attempting to hide their prejudice towards Jewish students. They need to do their homework! Former President Barack Obama was the first to adopt this definition at the U.S. State Department, Prominent Democrats including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Kamala Harris, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all support it. And of course, President Joe Biden strenuously endorsed the IHRA just a few weeks ago. We already know UMN College Dems ignore Palestinian voices. Apparently, they ignore the Democratic Party as well.

The false claim that the IHRA definition will silence Palestinians by banning criticism of Israel is completely unfounded. The definition makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” If anything, it should make it easier to criticize Israel because there is a clear distinction between what does and does not cross the line and constitute antisemitism.

Only Jews can make that determination. Could you imagine if the vast majority of Black people agreed on a definition of anti-Black racism and then white people told them it was wrong? The IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism was written by well-respected scholars and has been widely accepted by dozens of countries, state and local governments, and international institutions.

The idea that this definition is “weaponized” to silence Palestinian voices is ridiculous. For decades, antisemitism has itself been wielded as a weapon against the Jewish people. Defining antisemitism helps people better understand and combat it — it does not prevent anyone from exercising their right to free speech, which is protected by the United States Constitution.

I challenge the UMN College Dems to really take a look at the facts of the IHRA definition. Their position is at odds with Palestinian voices like my own, contradicts the position of the Democratic Party, and will negatively affect Jewish students at their university. It is easy to take the simple route, but much harder to look at all sides of the debate and acknowledge that what you stand behind will not guarantee equality on campus and could promote a volatile and dangerous atmosphere. I urge the student body to vote YES on the IHRA definition and inspire a positive and welcoming experience for all students!

About the Author
Bassem Eid (born 5 February 1958) is a Palestinian living in Israel who has an extensive career as a Palestinian human rights activist. His initial focus was on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but for many years has broadened his research to include human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Palestinian armed forces on their own people. He founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996, although it ceased operations in 2011. He now works as a political analyst for Israeli TV and radio.
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