“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” It’s a popular mantra, but have you thought about what it really means? What seemingly is a progressive call for the respect of Palestinian rights is rather a statement of intolerance calling for the complete destruction of the Jewish state. With progressive intentions, criticism of Israel often seamlessly transforms into its own form of hate with far-reaching consequences for the Jewish people as a whole. It is, therefore, important to differentiate between constructive criticism of Israel, which is encouraged, and that which leads to bigotry.
The role anti-Zionism has had in proliferating anti-Semitism cannot be justifiably ignored. Researchers from the nonpartisan AMCHA Initiative revealed campuses that experience greater anti-Israel protest are much more likely to experience anti-Semitism as well. So while not all protesters who shout for the destruction of Israel are anti-Semitic themselves, they nonetheless are facilitating a cause that contributes to rising anti-Semitism.
Criticizing Israel’s policies is reasonable, but it is important to recognize when criticism is rooted in anti-Semitism. Acclaimed human rights advocate Natan Sharansky created a “3D” test to determine when criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic. The first “D” is demonization, which includes blowing Israel’s abuses out of proportion, such as by comparing Israel’s policies to the genocide carried out by Adolf Hitler. The second “D” stands for double standards, which the United Nations is culpable of due to repeatedly singling out Israel for human rights violations, while despicably ignoring those by countries such as Syria, China, Iran and Russia, which are numerous and much more egregious than anything even Israel’s worst enemies have accused it of doing. The third “D” is delegitimization. It is anti-Semitic to still question the existence of Israel, while accepting the existence of other states with similar foundations.
Depicting the conflict as one-sided is misguided, as both Jews and Palestinians have a strong connection to the land. While Israel is constantly derided as colonialist, this is far from the truth as Jewish connection to the land is undeniable. Just last week, an ancient stone weight straight from the Torah with the inscription “beka” was unearthed in Israel. Israel is filled with historical artifacts of Jewish heritage, and there is little doubt that Jews had a rich historical presence there. Ironically, Muslims colonized the land for several centuries after conquering it and building the Dome of the Rock on the site of the ancient Jewish Temple. Nonetheless, after over a thousand years, both these peoples have a right to self-determination on this land.
Furthermore, while criticism of Israel is encouraged, blame must be equally shared. While Israel accepted a U.N. resolution to partition the land in 1948, Arab leadership did not and instead went to war. Moreover, Arab nations have to this day refused to integrate Palestinian refugees into their societies. Speaking volumes, Palestinians are the only refugees whose status passes hereditarily. In addition, Israel twice offered — in 2000 and 2008 — to establish Palestinian sovereignty in almost the entirety of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as international rule over the Old City. However, the Palestinian Liberation Organization rejected these offers, and in 2000, the group turned a chance at peace into a spring of violent attacks against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s response was significantly influenced by the damage inflicted on their popularity for engaging in peace talks with Israel. Palestinian leadership indoctrinates its citizens with hate while simultaneously denying them basic human rights. Therefore, while criticism of Israel is important, ignoring the failures of Arab leadership is both dishonest and unproductive.
In the past few months, anti-Semitic crimes have occurred seemingly every day. A report last month revealed that hate crimes against Jews in Canada have spiked by 60 percent since last year. The link between anti-Israel protests and the rise is anti-Semitism in undeniable. So while intersectionality stands for solidarity among all disenfranchised groups, many fail to realize that they are supporting one marginalized group at the expense of another.
Michael Harel is a senior majoring in political science.