Why Peace Week makes war

Example of Israel Apartheid Week on a UK campus (Jewish News)
Example of Israel Apartheid Week on a UK campus (Jewish News)

Every March for the last 15 years, Palestinian societies and groups within universities in this country and around the world, run Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). The official twitter page of Apartheid Week summarises it in the following way: “#IsraeliApartheidWeek (IAW) aims to educate about apartheid Israel and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.”

This week proudly proclaims its support for BDS, a movement that is unwavering in its commitment to delegitimise and vilify Zionism and Israel. During this week, it is not an unusual sight to see mock check points around campus, a plethora of hate speakers and antisemitic literature . This is a week of vicious Jew hatred. This week is about attacking the one and only Jewish state. It isolates the Jews, and subjects them to a false and grotesque double standard.

How then are Jewish students responding to this?

There are two responses to this week that I would like to explore – the first is Peace Week.

This is a StandwithUs and Union of Jewish Students sponsored campaign. It is run in order to “foster dialogue, build bridges and reform the campus culture by creating a space for students to engage in a proactive discussion about peace in a positive way.”

The Peace Week Facebook page says about the week, “While their [Palestinian orgs running IAW] movements promote separation between Israelis and Palestinians, we will promote reconciliation and togetherness. While they stand against dialogue & negotiation, we will promote understanding and discussion. While they stand against peace, we will fight for it.”

Promoting dialogue is a noble idea. Reconciliation and togetherness is a noble idea. Peace is a noble idea. But it has its time and place.

At Nottingham University, Peace Week 2020 activists have been handing out leaflets entitled as`Why It has to be Two States for Two Peoples` or #PIECETOPEACE`.

These leaflets demonstrate that Peace Week puts the maxim of `Kumbaya` before Jewish self defence. Their task is first to promote peace, without any form of reclaiming Zionism and debunking the false narratives as pre requisites to this détente . So whilst IAW activists are defaming our civil rights movement and nation state, Jewish students are looking to compromise on their Zionism in order to appease antisemites.

This is just like how the Jews in the story of Purim, Chanukah, Spain in the 15th century and many of those in post emancipated Europe or Maskilim compromised their Jewishness for the sake of being liked and accepted. Were those Jews who abandoned Jewishness safe? Indeed their compromise only exacerbated anti Jewish hostility. And the same is bound to happen with those that compromise on their Zionism.

It is incontrovertibly clear that IAW activists will not settle for anything less than the dismantlement of the Jewish state, so why do peace week activists insist on ignoring them and telling them that they think otherwise? Why do they ignore the patriotism of IAW activists by handing out leaflets promoting an Israeli disengagement from Judea and Samaria, when those IAW activists believe TLV, Haifa, Ber Sheeva etc are all part of the Palestinian homeland? Where can one compromise with an ideology that regards the land entirely belonging to them?

There is no room for compromise with these students. And therefore our principle objective must be to expose the malicious falsehoods behind this cause – and exposing the morally indefensible position of these students – not to try and make peace with activists that are unabashed in their Jew hatred.

The following conversation should provide a useful framework for responding to an apartheid week activist:

IAW activist :

The Birth of Israel was responsible for hostility towards Jews and Arabs.

How should we respond?

Why in one day in 1929 were 67 Jews massacred in Hebron? Why between 1936 and 1939 were 415 Jewish men, women and children massacred? There was no state then to impede peace – what could have possibly been the justification for killing those Jews? Was it the 1949 armistice lines? They did not exist then? Could it have been the post 1967 borders? Well they didn’t exist then. Remind me again, why a Jewish state blocks peace?

IAW activist:

For sure, but the occupation stops peace.

How should we respond?

Firstly, what do you regard as occupied? Is TLV a settlement to you? Or is it just Jewish neighbourhoods in Judea and Samaria that are such a stumbling block to peace? If it is just the `West Bank` that upsets you, how peaceful was 1966 when there were no settlements or occupation? Clearly not peaceful. Indeed why is it in those first 19 years of Israel’s existence, under Jordanian rule, did we not have peace with our Arab neighbours? Could have it been an Israeli `occupation`? There was no `occupation`! Moreover, if the birth of a Palestinian state has always been the objective of the Arab world, why did Jordan not establish a Palestinian state in those years?  Why does the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria block peace?

IAW activist:

Okay, well I concede maybe they are not the reason for this war, but certainly the birth of a Palestinian state would resolve this issue and bring peace.

How should we respond? 

Why does appeasing an aggressive force lead to peace? Gaza and Oslo demonstrate exactly what the Arabs set out in 1974 in their Stragedy of Phases – why should Israel make the same mistake? Indeed, it is like saying to an abused wife if you make your husband’s dinner earlier, or clean the house better he won’t abuse you anymore. This is of course a nonsense. The more you try to appease his aggression, the more aggressive he is going to be. So why should we give an aggressor land with the hope that they will be peaceful?

IAW activist:

But regardless, the Palestinians are victims of Israel’s aggression.

How should we respond?

Why is the side that called for a Mongol massacre in 1948, or the side who is led by a Holocaust denier, or the government of the people who in 2018 gave over NES 1.24 billion to a Martyrs Fund, which incentivises terror against Jews[3] suddenly the victim? There is without doubt Arabs who suffer, and many of those are innocent. But this is war. And every nation in the world is entitled to battle, and so are we. It is a revolting double standard to suggest otherwise. But why should those who have been in favour of war at every at every opportunity for peace, be seen as the victim?

Because it is our land.

No amount of justifying or explaining will ever be able to defeat this central precept in their ideology. It is an immutable position. As you can see, in this model argument above, we have exposed the real intent of this cause – to destroy the Jewish state. Like historical antisemitsm, antisemites create myths in order to provide a justification for their real cause and represent their real cause as something that is rational, and thus legitimate – they create a scapegoat – it used to be that we poisoned wells, or a blood libel, and today, it is that we are an apartheid state. This is a trap.

Our job isn’t to fall into this trap; it is to expose what they are not saying – namely that they want the destruction of the Jewish state.

Why should we do this? Because we have self – respect. We are not going to appease falsehoods for the sake of peace. We are going to stand up for what is honest and true because this is the only way we can achieve respect ourselves.

Last month I received a letter from the United Arab Emirates, her family are Arabs that are from an Arab city in Judea and Samaria, and I met her whilst she was doing a semester here in the UK. She had never heard or seen Zionism in a good light. I was the first Jew and Zionist she met. She was asking questions about the subject, and I answered with sensitivity and compassion, but never did I legitimise things which are not true or compromise on my Zionism for her to like me. I remained true to myself. And she consequently respected me. And on her card she spoke of her desire to educate her family and friends on the importance of peace. This demonstrates the power of self- respect.

Unfortunately, this is not the way for Peace Week’s `Zionism`, which employs a `I love Israel, but method. It fails. And this excerpt from Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s essay, Instead of Excessive Apology in 1911, said:

“We do not have to apologize for anything. We are a people as all other peoples; we do not have any intentions to be better than the rest. As one of the first conditions for equality we demand the right to have our own villains, exactly as other people have them.”

Peace Week Activists – we are no different to others – we have flaws, enemies and challenges – don’t fall into the trap of holding Israel and Jews to a different standard. No one would say Britain has racism, and thus it can’t exist. And similarly we do not have to apologise for having bad in our society. It is what makes us normal. To try and refute such a position denormalises Israel and thus plays into the hands of antisemites.

In conclusion, and the second response is Herut UK’s Zionist Pride Week – where we will be reclaiming Zionism, bringing Jews closer to Zionism, celebrating Zionism and going on the offensive in our activism. If you want to get involved, please email: info@herutuk.com or contact me!

Dialogue? Yes. Debate? Yes. Understanding? Yes. Appease falsehoods for the sake of being liked? Never.

[3] https://www.timesofisrael.com/think-tank-terrorists-to-be-paid-as-pa-allots-nis-1-2b-for-inmates-martyrs/

About the Author
National Director of an educational Zionist movement, Herut UK. Writing a book on Jewish responses to antisemitism. Spoken at Limmud, overseas and regularly speaking at university Jewish Societies.
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