An anti-Palestinian event at SOAS, University of London led to ugly scenes Wednesday as Zionist scholars on the panel shut down Palestinian voices and denied the events of the Deir Yassin massacre. One of the two speakers, an Israeli academic, also called on Jews not to intermarry insofar as they want to be seriously taken as Jews.
The event was ostensibly organized by the “No” campaign, which argues that Israel should not be boycotted. Students and staff at SOAS have been voting all week in a referendum on the academic boycott of Israel. The results will be announced on campus later today.
A member of the audience who was present at the event provided these recordings. They expose the blatant racism of the Zionist ideology and the arguments of the “No Campaign” against boycott, divestment and sanctions measures against Israel (BDS) and academic boycott specifically. It is noteworthy that at least one of the two speakers, Gabriel Noah Brahm, was brought to the event by the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland as he admits in minute 1:01 in the second track.
Interestingly, the “No” campaign has said nothing about its ties with the Zionist Federation, thus misleading students into believing that the event was merely put together by fellow students at SOAS who wanted to provide an “alternative view.”
The Zionist Federation is an influential right-wing Zionist lobby group which had previously sent out racist emails attacking “Palestinian Moslems” in the UK.
During the event, students critical of Israel were bullied and silenced as is clear throughout the third track. Indeed, a Jewish anti-Zionist student was told that he has to “marry a Jew in order to remain a Jew” (minute 18:51 – Track 3).
The speaker, a Tel Aviv University professor named Yossi Shain, also called Jews a “tribe” and lamented that “Jewish life in the diaspora is becoming very tough” because Jews are not “intermarrying and not continuing the tribe” (minute 19:13 – Track 3).
It is horrifying, but definitely not surprising, to see a university professor disregard all self-identified Jews who simply happen to be married to non-Jews.
During the talk, one audience member questioned Israel’s massacres of the Palestinians, but Shain shamelessly claimed that using “massacre” is “rubbish” and a “corrupt word.” Referring to the latest Gaza massacre, which claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians (mostly civilians), another audience member asked, “How about last summer?” But Shain ignored the question and went on to deny the atrocities of the Deir Yassin massacre of 9 April 1948, when the village was ethnically cleansed by Zionist gangs who slaughtered dozens of villagers, wiping out entire families.
Indeed, Shain dismissed the whole massacre when he imperiously lied about the figures, saying that “sixty-four people were killed in Deir Yassin” and therefore it does not qualify as a massacre. “How many people when you say massacre, Israel is committing a massacre?” he sneered (minute 16:13 – Track 3).
But this is not it. Referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement’s demand of ending the occupation, the second speaker, Gabriel Noah Brahm (co-editor of The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel), had the audacity to state that an “end to the occupation of all Arab land” means “an end to the State of Israel” (3:38 – Track 2). Brahm is an Associate Professor of English at Northern Michigan University, an academic who glaringly advocates Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
What is hilarious is that right after Brahm makes this statement, he claims to be in favor of the “two-state solution.” Brahm does not tell us how he advocates such a solution, itself dependent on ending the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as per the UN paradigm, when he simultaneously defends Israel’s colonial expansion on Palestinian Arab land.
Brahm is an academic who is supposed to uphold the principles of academic freedom. What he stands for, however, is Israel’s expansionist policy and occupation of Palestinian land. That occupation inevitably restricts Palestinian students’ access to academic institutions both in Palestine and abroad does not seem to be of interest to Brahm.
Vote “Yes” on BDS
Ironically, the “No Campaign” event only highlighted why SOAS students and staff should vote “Yes” in favor of an academic boycott of Israel.
Academic boycott is imperative if we are to protect academic freedom. The two speakers’ remarks demonstrated how academia can foster racism and be an effective tool in the service of settler-colonialism. So many Israeli academics are complicit in justifying the crimes of Israel and allowing a space for racist and Islamophobic views on campus.
It is the responsibility of every academic institution to cut institutional ties with Israeli academia until it withdraws all forms of involvement in settler-colonialism.