Misrepresentations in a Faculty-Written “Princeton University community statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people”

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As Israel and Hamas begin a cease-fire following an intense 11 days of military activity in which both Israelis and Palestinians have died, universities have published statements of support. Surprisingly, however, this support was not for the region’s only thriving democracy and American ally, Israel, but for Hamas, the designated Islamist terror group who rules over Gaza and speaks for the Palestinians and whose lethal use of over 3500 rockets raining into Israeli towns and cities with the object of killing Jewish civilians instigated the current escalation of conflict.

As a network of some 40,000 faculty members on over 3000 campuses around the world, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) has followed developments in Gaza and Israel and are very troubled by the response from a group of faculty members, graduate students, and others from the Princeton community.

In a May 18th opinion piece in the Daily Princetonian, “Princeton University community statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” some 25 Princeton faculty published a statement filled with empirically false or grotesquely exaggerated assertions, a profound lack of empathy for Israelis and Jewish lives and safety, a glaring omissions of relevant information together with a one-sided, ahistorical view of the situation, a simplistic and disingenuous account of the facts on the ground in which the Palestinian Arabs are wholly innocent, Hamas’s terror is invisible and absent, and Israel is a colonial, illegal occupier of Arab land, an occupation that includes land grabs, state-sponsored terror, militarism, and random and sadistic violence against an indigenous population. And with a caustic reference to what these faculty define as “Jewish supremacy,” the statement includes language that comes dangerously close to being anti-Semitic.

“We, members of the Princeton University community,” the statement read, “condemn the ongoing attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza by the Israeli armed forces, which represent the latest chapter of a nearly-fifteen-year blockade that has transformed the territory into a prison for its two million inhabitants . . ,” carelessly omitting the fact that Israel completely disengaged from Gaza in 2005, removing every Jew, living and dead, and leaving the Palestinian Arabs with thriving greenhouses and a base for the development of a Palestinian state. Instead, Gaza was transformed by Hamas into a launching pad for mortar and rocket fire into southern Israeli towns, so that the terror group has launched over 30,000 lethal rockets over the years with the express purpose of murdering Jewish civilians.

That is the reason for the blockade instituted by Israel against Gaza—to prevent the transport of arms and materials used by Hamas to enhance its military capability. And deadly rocket fire, each one of which constitutes a war crime by Hamas, is the cause of the current conflict and what has necessitated Israel’s meaures to suppress rocket fire meant to kill its citizenry. As for the “prison” thereby created, like accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, it stretches the use of the term beyond recognition, and is a convenient, though disingenuous way, that Israel’s enemies have to pretending that Gaza is still essentially occupied. Though Jewish bodies are gone, the blockade—and the alleged creation of an open-air prison—represent Israel’s imagined control and suppression of the Palestinians. In this analysis of the situation, the Arabs, of course, are entirely exempt from responsibility for the condition in which they find themselves.

In a weak attempt to be even-handed, the Princeton faculty contend that “We mourn all loss of life” However, below the surface it is clear that for the Princeton faculty, the tragedy lies only in the loss of Arab deaths, not Jewish ones. How do they rationalize that? Because the violence and killing of by Palestinians can be spun as resistance to oppression, and therefore noble and acceptable, while responses by Israel to terrorist is deemed part of a richly-subsidized militarism whose sole purpose is to maintain the occupation, enforce “racial apartheid,” and maintain control of territories which Israel has allegedly stolen and to which it has no legal or moral right.

So while they regret the loss of life on both sides, “We also refuse the ‘two-sides’ and ‘evenhandedness’ narrative that ignores and conceals the meaningful differences between Israel — one of the most heavily militarized states in the world that receives $3.8 billion in military aid annually from the United States — and a Palestinian population resisting occupation and oppression.” According to the Princeton partisans, there is a morality in resistance against an oppressive occupier but a democratic nation using its military to protect its citizens from being murdered is, in their progressive minds, asymmetrical, disproportionate, and unjust.

Progressives have always been fascinated by revolutionary violence even while they denounce law and order in democratic Israel, and this statement confirms that when they even acknowledge the violence and terror of Hamas meant to indiscriminately murder Israeli Jews, that brand of violence is somehow moral and just, and that Palestinian terror obduracy, and rejection of peace and the existence of Jewish self-determination are acceptable—even noble. “We salute the bravery and will-to-survival of Palestinians,” the statement reads, definitely not “even-handedly,” “as they resist the violence of the Israeli military, settler militias, and lynch mobs.”

Aggressive and violent “resistance” is not violent but a country defending its citizens is. “We recognize, as they do, that peace with justice in Palestine/Israel is not possible under conditions of military occupation and unending settler-colonial expansionism”; in other words, peace is impossible, they claim, only because of Israel’s behavior.

So confronted with a battle between a democracy and a predatory, genocidal political culture, the progressive scholars fail to recognize the regressive Palestinian culture and its obsession with martyrdom and death, ignore Hamas’s exploitation and contempt for the population they purportedly represent, tolerate Hamas’s visible and shameful strategy of using Arab human shields in conflict (including women and children), and turns with a vengeance on the only polity in the Middle East in which Jews, Christians and Muslims all have freedom of religion and genuine civil and human rights, including the right to speak and strike. On both a scholarly and moral plane this “statement of solidarity” is a travesty.

Equally troubling is the faculty’s perpetration of the “apartheid” slander against Israel, something they not only repeat in this statement, but which they further conflate with what they characterize as “Jewish supremacy.” “We stand by Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem in calling Israel’s systemic discrimination and violence by its proper name: Apartheid,” they ponderously announce, ignoring the fact that both of those rabidly anti-Israel organizations have long histories of falsely characterizing Israel as a racist, unjust endeavor.

“The brutal system that controls Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” they continue, characterizing a democracy as a malign system, “is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy, rules over the lives of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel alike . . ,” ignoring the fact that Zionism, the animating ideology of the Jewish state is Jewish self-determination only, not an expression of superiority. And the view that Israel’s policy “is practically committed to territorial theft from Palestinians who continue to resist physical removal and existential erasure” is equally disingenuous, making the false claim that Arab land is being appropriated, stolen by land-hungry Jewish usurpers and that such theft is justified by the assumption that Jewishness is superior and should be dominant.

David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader and rabid anti-Semite refers constantly to “Jewish supremacism” and uses the term contemptuously just as the Princeton faculty do here, so it is revealing that the views of Israel-haters—either behind ivy walls or under a sheet—have an unfortunate commonality.

SPME supports vigorous debate and dialogue about contentious issues, one of which is certainly the Middle East and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in particular. But academic inquiry must be informed by the airing of disparate views and a discussion of different perspectives, something clearly absent in the Princeton faculty statement about the current conflict in Gaza and Israel. Academic inquiry must be unbiased, inclusive of differing views, not ideological, and open to nuance, facts, careful analysis, and rigorous scholarship.

If those elements are absent, as they clearly are in the Princeton statement, students suffer and teaching is degraded by being overcome by opinion, bias, ideology, and bigotry, and students are being shortchanged and manipulated. The academy cannot, and should not, accommodate such undermining of academic integrity.

Misrepresentations in a Faculty-Written “Princeton University community statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people”

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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