The “blame-the-Zionists” conversation included disdain for America, law enforcement and capitalism. And, of course, no progressive conversation taking aim at Zionists is complete without advocating the demise of Israel.
To understand the thinking behind the event, it’s important to understand who was hosting the conversation. Verso Books is a self-described “radical publishing house” that regularly hosts speakers that, to put it mildly, don’t think too highly of America — or anything remotely aligned with Western democracy. Verso’s authors page includes Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong and Leon Trotsky.
Among the Verso authors who are still breathing is Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the current leader of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is funded and supported by Iran and Syria, and has slaughtered countless Israelis and Westerners.
For example, the Brookings Institution reports: “Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group before 9/11. Even today, it is still far ahead of the Islamic State on this score.” And the group’s 1985 manifesto states, “Our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no ceasefire, and no peace agreements.”
Nasrallah’s hatred for Jews is undeniable. In 2002, he told the New Yorker that, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”
So it comes as no surprise that on this particular spring evening, Verso Books welcomed two prominent voices that happen to be fiercely anti-America and anti-Zionist.
The first was Omar Barghouti.
Barghouti is the co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state. Born in Qatar and raised in Egypt and the United States, he moved to Israel after marrying an Israeli-Arab woman. Barghouti enjoys Israeli permanent residency status, and despite advocating for the international boycott of Israeli academics, he holds a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University.
While Barghouti exemplifies the hypocrisy of “do as I say, not as I do,” the BDS campaign he promotes has served as a catapult to the growing antisemitism crisis that exists today in academia, on college campuses and across the world.
The second speaker was Nyle Fort — a PhD student at Princeton University, and a prominent organizer of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. Fort’s contempt for Israel and Zionism began as early as 2012 when he stated, “Zionism has become a euphemism for conquest and colonization and removal, that is, of Muslim land and its people. And thus, Zionism and Islamophobia share a symbiotic relationship. Islamophobia feeds Zionism and Zionism reinforcing Islamophobia.”
During the Verso Books event, Fort talked about his work with the Black Lives Matter offshoot “Dream Defenders,” and their 2016 trip to the Palestinian territories. A December 2016 investigation by the Haym Salomon Center exposed the Dream Defenders’ embrace of antisemitism, and its collaboration with a State Department-designated terror group.
During their tour, Fort and his Dream Defenders were led around east Jerusalem by convicted terrorist — and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — Mahmoud Jedda. Jedda served 17 years in Israeli prison for planting bombs. In 2015, PFLP claimed responsibility for a killing spree in a Jerusalem synagogue, in which four Jews were viciously slaughtered. This is the repository of wisdom from which Fort and his fellow Dream Defenders learned about “resistance.”
During the trip, Dream Defenders produced an educational curriculum that lionized the PFLP. The curriculum, titled “Blacked Out History — Rebellion Curriculum Toolkit,” justifies violence and terrorism under the euphemism of “struggle.” The “common core-compatible” curriculum mentions various violent PFLP strategies such as “hijackings, assassinations, car bombings, suicide bombings, paramilitary operations against civilian and military targets.”
Considering the perspectives and alliances shared by Barghouti and Fort, it’s only natural that the vitriol spewed during the nearly two-hour event in Brooklyn bore little resemblance to the sermons of Dr. King.
For example, “People grow. Two years ago, I would say stuff like: ‘I am not anti-police, I’m anti-police brutality.’ Umm, I don’t believe that anymore. I’m both anti-police and anti-police brutality!” Fort declared.
Fort also compared modern-day Israel to slaveholders of ancient Egypt. Comparing Israel and Zionists to those who have murdered Jews is part of the social justice warrior’s playbook.
If there was ever a doubt that the anti-Zionists’ goal is not a two-state solution, but rather the eradication of Israel, Barghouti dispelled it. Asked about Israel’s right to exist, he said, “Does a slave-owner have a right to exist? As what? As a slave-owner? No! Hell no! No they don’t have a right to exist!”
That remark was also consistent with his past statements. “I do not buy into the two-state solution,” Barghouti said in 2009. “It is not just pragmatically impossible, it was never a moral solution. The first issue would be the right of return, but if the refugees were to return you cannot have a two-state solution like one Palestinian commentator remarked, you will have a Palestinian state next to a Palestinian state rather than a Palestinian state next to Israel.”
Fort cited “injustice across the board” such as “what is happening in Syria, and what’s happening in Libya and what’s happening in Flint [Michigan].” But, curiously, he never mentioned the atrocities committed against Middle East Christians by Islamic extremists and ISIS, or the subjugation suffered by women in Saudi Arabia or the torture and executions of the LGBTQ community in Iran.
Why not? Perhaps because he couldn’t blame that on Zionists.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on twitter @pauliespoint.