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March 22, 2022 10:15 am
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Debunking Anti-Zionist Misinformation Campaigns at US Colleges

avatar by Amir Grunhaus

Opinion

Poster held by a protester at a UC Berkeley student senate meeting on Feb. 3, 2020. Photo: Moi Stern Weisleder.

I am a Jewish student at UC Berkeley, who is proud of my origin and my identity. And like most American Jews, Israel is central to my Jewish identity.

As the great-grandson of Holocaust survivors, I grasp the importance of a strong, independent Jewish state, and not just anywhere, but in our ancestral homeland — Eretz Israel.

Since the Babylonian exile, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land, along with a Jewish religious and cultural yearning to return to Zion. In 1948, this yearning was materialized through the creation of the State of Israel. Zionism is the right to self-determination of the Jewish people in their historic land. For me, and for many fellow Jews, Zionism is a prerequisite for our continuity as a people.

Anti-Zionist campaigns have become widespread on university campuses across the country, and UC Berkeley is no exception.

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For instance, last Fall, Berkeley’s student senate passed SR 21/22-019, a blatantly anti-Zionist resolution, by unanimous consent. The resolution states there are communities on campus that have been “detrimentally affected by Islamophobia, Zionism, and anti-Palestinian rhetoric.” This conflation of Zionism with Islamophobia and “anti-Palestinian rhetoric” is just one of the many misconceptions that compose the onslaught of misinformation campaigns against Israel and Zionism on university campuses. These misconceptions ostracize Jewish students, like me, who identify as Zionists.

One common misconception is that Jews are not native to the land of Israel. This revisionist narrative is featured in course materials for UC Berkeley’s “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” DeCal. An assigned reading from historian Victor Kattan alleges that “Jewish nationalism never existed historically in the land,” and that Jews are not from the Middle East.

Such claims erase thousands of years of history. The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people — genetic studies and archeological evidence reveal this. Jews achieved sovereignty in the Land of Israel through the consolidation of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, before being conquered by the Roman Empire and forced into exile for thousands of years. The Romans called the land “Syria Palaestina” following the suppression of the Jewish revolt led by Bar Kokhba. And since then, there has been a continuous Jewish presence there.

Another misconception is that in 1948, the state of Israel was created at the expense of a Palestinian state. In 1947, United Nations Resolution 181 formally proposed the partition of the land into Arab and Jewish states. While the resolution was approved by the UN General Assembly and by Zionist leadership, it was rejected by Arab leaders, who instead of declaring Palestinian independence, launched a genocidal war against the fledgling Jewish state.

Moreover, it is inaccurate to claim that Israel was established on stolen Arab land. Besides land already owned by Jews living in Mandatory Palestine, substantial lawful land purchases were made by the Jewish National Fund, the Palestine Land Development Co., and other enterprises.

Finally, one of the most common lies spread by anti-Zionist campaigns is that Zionism is a settler-colonial genocidal ideology, and that Israel is an “apartheid state” This lie has been debunked repeatedly (see here and here). There is no such thing as Israeli “apartheid” — Arab Israelis serve in the ruling government coalition, in the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and in every facet of public and private life.

Zionism and Palestinian autonomy can coexist side by side. You can be supportive of Palestinian rights without being anti-Zionist — yet most anti-Zionists never even acknowledge Palestinian terror, violence, and rejection of opportunities for a Palestinian state.

There are many ways to fight for Palestinian rights, including supporting initiatives and organizations that foster economic and social development for Palestinians, or calling out the injustices committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Is the delegitimization of the national movement of the Jewish people the path to Palestinian independence?

Anti-Zionism is not only antisemitic — as it denies a basic right exclusively to Jews — but it is also detrimental to Palestinians and their efforts at self-determination; it diverts attention from their cause and instead focuses on the demonization of the Jewish people, our history, and our legitimate rights.

Zionist students need to stand for the truth; we cannot allow Zionism to be redefined in such a libelous manner.

Amir Grunhaus is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, and the president of Tikvah: The Zionist Voice on Campus at UC Berkeley. 

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