By Megan Lee
As the tension between Palestinians and the Israeli government increases, political institutions, governments, and advocates are identifying the injustices that Israeli institutions continue to commit against Palestinians. Israel stands as the only established Jewish nation in the world, and considering the past treatment of Jews, many people find it uncomfortable to speak against the actions of a Jewish nation.
But Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians is not unknown by the public. To acknowledge that the activities of the Israeli government are harmful and perpetuate acts of ethnic cleansing towards Palestinian people is not anti-semitism, it is accountability. In fact, to label organizations and institutions as anti-semitic for identifying the many injustices and human rights violations disrespects the history of true anti-semitic behavior faced by the Jewish community.
The government of Barcelona, Spain has cut ties with the Israeli government with the intention of highlighting the systemic human rights abuses against Palestinians. The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, decided to suspend Barcelona’s sister city relationship with Tel Aviv to avoid seeming complicit in the injustices happening in Israel, but her decision was immediately criticized by right-wing government officials and institutions as anti-semitism. The erasure of Palestinian culture and the intentional violence toward Palestinians in Israel is ironic in light of the history of anti-semitic acts that have garnered the present-day support for Jewish communities across the world. But being a historically mistreated and underrepresented community does not give one the right to mistreat and disregard another community.
The labeling has gone so far as to name daughters of Holocaust survivors, Jewish refugees, Human Rights Watch, and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic as anti-semitic because of their reports highlighting how Israeli practices are damaging and harmful to Palestinians. The concern that an increase in reports of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians will lead to increased anti-semitism and hate crimes is understandable – but silencing the voices of Palestinians and advocates will not erase the chances of anti-semitic behavior. The movement of neo-nazis across the United States is a legitimate concern for many Jewish and activist communities, but that does not mean the issue is the reports. The animosity should not be directed at the reporters and institutions highlighting Israel’s crimes of apartheid, but against the individuals and groups that use these sources as reasons to fuel their hate for Judaism and the Jewish community. That hate exists aside from reports of Israel’s wrongdoings, and that is the problem. Advocates for Jewish rights and safety should focus on the true source of harm instead of misidentifying institutions as anti-semitic, as that label is very harmful in today’s society and has a large social cost.
The point of highlighting the crime of apartheid is not to demonize the Israeli people, but to raise awareness and potentially prevent the threat of genocide against the Palestinian people. All countries have the duty to protect the human rights of those living in their territory. Therefore, the government’s participation and leading in acts of violence and terrorism against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories is a violation of human rights. To be an advocate against human rights violations is to raise awareness of all acts of violence, regardless of whether the community committing the act of violence is also a group that faces discrimination and violence. Palestinians deserve to have land they call home without facing acts of violence and identity erasure. In fact, no people should be terrorized on the land they call home and to have their identity erased. History complicates these relationships, but nothing is complicated about respecting human existence and dignity.
Megan Lee studies International Affairs and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University and is an intern at MAPA.