thrives at a level unseen in over half a century. This modern incarnation of a
2000-year-old hatred manifested this summer against the Jewish state
following a necessary war in the Gaza Strip. During the 51-day-long war between
Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, people ranging from journalists to
students of the Claremont Colleges decided to approach the conflict in an
explicitly bigoted way.
this trend firsthand while working for two organizations that fought hard to
disseminate the facts about Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s
counteroffensive against Hamas, following relentless, indiscriminate rocket fire
at Israeli civilians. Over the summer, I attended pro-Israel rallies where we chanted slogans like “Israel wants peace, Hamas wants war!” while the “pro-Palestinian” side called for Israel’s destruction. I got physically assaulted while asking questions to people
holding signs comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. However, seeing some students of
the Claremont Colleges writing anti-Semitic posts on social media about the war disappointed me
those posts anti-Semitic rather than just being “anti-Israel?” The U.S. State Department defines anti-Semitism as holding Israel to double standards,
demonizing the Jewish state, and delegitimizing its existence. This includes
using anti-Semitic polemics, such as blood libel, to describe Israel’s
policies and actions. Some examples of such polemics include charges of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being “thirsty for Palestinian blood,” as well as
falsely claiming that the Israel Defense Forces commits “genocide.”
propaganda not only has no standing in facts or in international law, but also perpetuates an unbalanced view of a conflict and a lopsided understanding
of the Middle East. Unfortunately, a few students of the Claremont Colleges,
past and current, used such language over the summer.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs attracts the attention of the world. However, facts get lost in translation when critics claim that Israel commits “apartheid” and “occupies Palestinian land.” The media bias against Israel remains so poignant that media watchdogs, such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), worked harder than before to determine the truth in the vast pool of misinformation and omission of facts. Since the media heavily influences public opinion, it comes as no surprise that members of the Claremont Colleges community lose sight of the truth about the conflict in the midst of emotional accounts of these supposed human rights violations.
In the three years that I have attended this consortium, very few Claremont students seem interested in discussing facts; instead they make false accusations using buzzwords that elicit emotions. The term ‘occupation,’ for example, should not be used to explain the situation of the Palestinian-Arabs in either Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) or the Gaza Strip. To summarize the Fourth Geneva Convention definition of an occupation, it is when an occupying power possesses the territory of a legitimate power. Such accusations would not hold in a legal argument because a legitimate state of Palestine neither existed nor controlled Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip before 1967.
How do we
discuss the situation where Palestinian-Arabs do not have a state without
resorting to straw-man fallacies? It helps to understand the history of the
Arab-Israeli conflict and its most difficult points in history. Such obstacles
would include the Jewish and Arab refugee crises in 1948-1949, continuous Palestinian-Arab genocidal incitement against Jews from high-ranking religious figures, and
the consistent Arab refusal to coexist with the Jewish state. However, the
Arab-Israel conflict only scratches the surface of the vast amount of issues
within the Middle East.
To properly understand the region,
one cannot ignore the human rights violations within Arab countries. Honor killings against women within the Palestinian-controlled territories doubled from 2012 to 2013, yet such issues are not discussed in the Claremont
Colleges. The African slave trade within the Arab world does not cause Claremont students
to write articles outright condemning the former reality of former slaves like
Simon Deng. Christian persecution in the Middle East never arises as a critical talking point within most social justice-oriented groups
in the consortium.
being a community that preaches liberal values of tolerance and equality, the Claremont Colleges rarely discuss such
violations of human rights within the Middle East and Africa. By not highlighting true violations
against women and people of color, or even the genocidal actions of Islamic State
within Iraq, we accept a double standard that should not hold in a liberal arts
environment. I call upon the Claremont community to start discussing these
The disturbing reality of war always comes down to those who did not deserve to be caught in the crossfire or used as human shields. No innocent life, Israeli or Palestinian-Arab, should have been lost in this conflict, and I continuously mourned for each civilian killed as the war progressed. However, every nation-state has the right to defend itself from terrorism targeting its civilians, and though it is true that the war caused a great deal of damage within Gaza, it remains critical to understand why it happened in the first place.
We must move forward to look into the
best possible way to address this war in a compassionate way. But if we, as a community, decide
to hold discussions about Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs, we cannot espouse Jew-hatred
against the only free democracy in the Middle East. I am all about respectful, fruitful
dialogue, and I sincerely hope that we do so in a way that does not promote
bigotry and racism against the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Hamilton PZ ’15 is an economics major and a politics minor. He is a
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
Fellow and Co-President of Claremont Students for Israel.