Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a disgraced academic who was denied tenure at DePaul University, attended a panel at Boston University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event titled “Zionism & Judaism: Separating Political Ideology from Religion” on December 10th at BU’s College of General Studies. Alongside him were a transgender rabbi Ari Lev Fornari and a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) member Lina Morales, a self-proclaimed anti-Israel and anti U.S political activist. The point of the event, supposedly, was to deconstruct Zionism away from Judaism to prevent conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The event coincided with the fourth night of Chanukah, but even this holy observance intended to unite the Jewish people was hijacked by the panelists’ narcissistic fetish for selective moral purity by displaying a deep hatred of Israel. Rabbi Fornari explained that the candles she used were bought to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an anti-Semitic and immoral movement singling out Israel for supposed human rights violations against the Palestinian-Arabs.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Fornari and Lina Morales alluded to “progressive” values as to their hatred toward Zionism while maintaining their commitment to Judaism. Much of their rhetoric focused on opposing what they consider European based “colonialism,” even going so far as having Morales saying, “as soon as we decolonize Israel, we should decolonize the United States.”
Sitting between these radical leftist activists, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, who coined the deeply offensive term “Holocaust industry,” sounded like a relative voice of reason. He critiqued the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement because of its selective approach towards international law. He said that if this movement wanted to base itself on the premise of international law, then it has to acknowledge the fact that Israel has a right to exist under international law. However, the BDS movement refuses to accept this truth despite the existence of the 1920 San Remo Conference, the 1922 League of Nations resolution, and UN Charter Article 80, which set the legal backbone to the existence of a Jewish homeland in the region called “Palestine.”
Much to the chagrin of his fellow panelists and much of the audience, Finkelstein toed the line between recognizing Israel’s legal right to exist and to pro-Palestine movement’s denial of a Jewish state and a Jewish homeland.
This event exemplified a disturbing trend by Students for Justice in Palestine. A secular offshoot of the Muslim Student Association, SJP promotes itself as a “social justice” group to end the oppression of Palestinians. However, it selectively focuses on Israel while actively ignoring oppression by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries. Even though the United States State Department defines various forms of “anti-Israelism” to constitute anti-Semitism, including holding the Jewish state to a double standard, SJP has a prolonged history of blurring this line andintimidating Jewish students on campus.
In an attempt to whitewash their Jew hatred, SJP aligns themselves with Jewish anti-Israel organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and Open Hillel to give the impression that it cannot be anti-Semitic if it works alongside Jews. Thus, it uses fringe Jewish organizations to prop up their credibility as an anti-racist social justice group. This would be the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan admitting black people into their ranks to demonstrate egalitarian values.
Students for Justice in Palestine actively tries to suppress pro-Israel events by disruptions and bullying tactics. College administrations, out of sympathy, moral confusion, or financial concerns, do not properly condemn the actions of anti-Semitic groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.
At Pitzer College, my alma mater, the administration refused to censure or punish SJP for putting an apartheid wall in front of the dining hall despite the Senate’s and the administration’s rejection of the display. Furthermore, even though the student executive board called for an investigation to their violations of the organizational handbook, the senate decided to give SJP a free pass.
This is an institutional problem and both college administrations and student leaders need to understand how detrimental a hate group like SJP is on any college campus.
No principled university official would allow the Ku Klux Klan on college campuses, so why is it okay to allow hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine to use tuition money to promote hatred against Israel and the Jews?