Is Antisemitism Causing No Free Speech for Palestinians?

Is Antisemitism Causing No Free Speech for Palestinians? December 17, 2023

ChrisO’s modification of 2004 UN Map of Israel

Due to the Israel-Hamas War that was sparked by the radical Islamist group Hamas, which governs Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, U.S. universities are caving into pressure exerted by wealthy donors and politicians to prevent pro-Palestinian students from demonstrating or having conferences on campuses that claim to adhere to free speech. The reason for this pressure is that pro-Israel people are accusing pro-Palestinian folks of being antisemitic. In some cases that likely is true; but there is a necessary nuancing of language here since everybody doesn’t have the same definitions of words and phrases being used.

But first, why does everyone talk of antisemitism without mentioning anti-Palestinism? I never even see this word in print. I think that is atrocious. The modern State of Israel has always been both anti-Palestinian and anti-Palestine, with the latter meaning that Israel has been against the creation of a Palestinian state.

Regarding nuances of words, pro-Palestinians are using this rallying cry against the State of Israel–“From the river to the sea.” They usually mean by it that Israel has no right to continue to “occupy” the West Bank and Gaza Strip which are located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Many pro-Palestinians only mean by it that Palestinians are entitled to establish their own state in these two separated territories. Radical Islamists, on the other hand, often mean by this expression the abolishing of the State of Israel and the scattering of Jews out of The Levant (the land between the Jordanian Depression and the Mediterranean Sea).

Furthermore, being pro-Palestinian is not antisemitism. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that Palestinians are just as entitled to their own, independent state in The Levant as Jews are with their State of Israel therein without being antisemitic.

Also, being critical of the State of Israel is not antisemitism. I’m sometimes critical of my own nation, the USA; yet I still always support its continuing existence.

Furthermore, being anti-Zionist is not necessarily being antisemitic except that it depends on how Zionism is defined. I believe it is only when a person denies the right of Jews to have their own state, which is how Zionism used to be generally defined, that that person becomes anti-Zionist. Yet, there is something interesting about this.

Prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel, and even for several years after its creation, Orthodox Jews were anti-Zionist. That is, they were dead set against the creation of a Jewish state anywhere in the world, including in their ancestral land. There reasoning was that only when Messiah comes will it be God’s will for there to be a Jewish state again. But in the 1950s, when the new, modern Israel was prospering, Orthodox Jews abandon their religious opposition to it and became supporters and citizens of Israel. Nowadays, they control Israel way more than their numbers justify.

So, let’s get some definitions straight before we even discuss antisemitism and Zionism. And if we’re going to use the words antisemtism and anti-Zionism, how about balancing our conversation by adding to it the words, and thus their concepts, anti-Palestinian and anti-Palestine?

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