The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) loudly condemned Israeli Apartheid Week events, and last weekend’s One State Conference at Harvard.
With its latest smears, it is trying to conceal the fact that its fearmongering is failing to intimidate students, including Jewish students who attended and participated with open minds:
I was amused to read the ADL effort to distort my appearance at Brandeis University on 29 February. On their blog, the ADL wrote in a “A Round-Up of Israeli Apartheid Week Events”:
Brandeis University: Ali Abunimah delivered a talk in which he discussed his support for a one-state solution and described Israel as a “sectarian government.” Abunimah was quoted saying: “The claim that Israel should be a Jewish state can be asserted, not defended–not legally, politically or ethically…Israel has reached a moral, political and ethical dead-end. The notion that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic violates the rights of Palestinians, which is fine if you don’t see Palestinians as humans, but, if you do, it is wrong.” He also offensively compared the Holocaust to the “Nakba,” a term Palestinians use to describe the 1948 War of Independence and the establishment of the state of Israel. He said, “We must condemn Nakba denial as strongly as we must condemn Holocaust denial.”
Notice how the ADL managed to imply that condemnation of Holocaust denial is somehow “offensive”? It must be very disappointing for the ADL that I am not a Holocaust denier. Tough luck, Abe.
The overall tone fits with the ADL’s pattern of smearing Palestinians, Palestine solidarity activists and academics who dare to think freely. Per its usual practice, the ADL did not provide links or sources for its quotes – presumably to make it difficult for readers to see the context.
But what did students and media, including Jewish students and Jewish community media say about my talk? Were those who were actually present or reported on the lecture as horrified as the ADL? Let’s take a look.
In The Forward, Naomi Zeveloff reported:
At Brandeis, the Abunimah speech went off without controversy. Like their pro-Israel counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania during last month’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions conference, Brandeis’s Zionist groups opted not to protest the Israeli Apartheid Week events.
The report adds:
A few members of the Brandeis Zionist Alliance appeared at Abunimah’s speech. They sat in the back row, shaking their heads when they disagreed with a point. Aside from a few terse words regarding the events surrounding Israel’s founding in 1948, the conversation was a picture of civility.
In his speech, Abunimah praised Brandeis for having him speak.
Even students who strongly disagreed with me came to the event and argued their corner. They didn’t need the ADL telling them what they can and can’t hear.
Jewish student voices
On the New Voices Blog of the National Jewish Student Magazine, Dafna Fine wrote a straightfoward account, quoting my speech at length – rather than snippets and insinuations taken out of context, in a post entitled “The one-state solution comes to Brandeis [Israeli Apartheid Week].” From Fine’s post:
“We’re in this situation today where Abe Foxman and Jeffrey Goldberg and Alan Dershowitz are whining that we’re having these discussions about the single state. This is recognition of the reality that there is already a single state,” Abunimah said. Abunimah described a single entity with 12 million people, half Israeli Jews and half Palestinians, but all ruled by a sectarian Jewish government.
And she noted:
Abunimah’s speech was followed by a Q&A discussion, with questions from both his longtime followers and pro-Israel supporters, including students from the Brandeis Zionist Alliance and members of the right wing pro-Israel Hasbara Fellowship who disagreed with many of Abunimah’s points.
Coverage in campus media
The Brandeis student newspaper, The Brandeis Hoot carried a report on my speech headlined, “Speaker raises efficacy of ‘one state solution’.”
The report mentioned that I spoke about the “One State Declaration” and then goes on to say:
Abunimah explained that upon writing the declaration he “looked for principles that were reasonable and universal.” He went on to say that “these are all things that people in [the United States] have fought and died for”: such protections Americans now have such as habeas corpus, laws against voting disenfranchisement, separation of church and state, etc.
The separation of church and state is the most galling for Abunimah, who argues that it is impossible for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic. “The claim that Israel should be a Jewish state can be asserted, not defended–not legally, politically or ethically,” Abunimah said. “Israel has reached a moral, political and ethical dead-end. The notion that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic violates the rights of Palestinians, which is fine if you don’t see Palestinians as humans, but, if you do, it is wrong.”
A report in The Justice, the “independent student newspaper of Brandeis University since 1949,” included quotes from Noam Lekach, one of the organizers of Israeli apartheid week:
“We were worried before that people would be too alienated from this and not want to listen … and we would not be able to deliver our message because of the word [apartheid],” Lekach said in an interview with the Justice. Students in support of the term “apartheid,” as well as those opposed, commented on the Facebook pages for the Israeli Peace Week.
“Compared to last semester when we did Palestine Awareness Week there was higher attendance and there was more debate.
The question is why the ADL doesn’t ever provide links to the sources of quotes it uses to try to smear people? Is it because the ADL is afraid that people will learn that students, including Jewish students don’t buy into their scaremongering and defamation and media coverage doesn’t reflect the kind of atmosphere they hope to convey?
Scaremongering about Harvard One State Conference also fails
The ADL had been one of the shrillest voices condemining last weekend’s One State Conference at Harvard.
The organization’s National Director Abe Foxman wrote to the Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government which hosted the conference demanding that the school “denounce” it and implying that it should be prohibited.
But one participant who was swayed by the fear-mongering participated the conference and apparently had a complete change of heart. Itamar Mann spoke on a panel titled “What are the obstacles to the realization of a one-state solution?” Mann wrote in a blog post for +972:
Last week, I experienced some discomfort surrounding the One State Conference at Harvard, in which I participated this past weekend. As allegations that it is “anti-Semitic” or “seeks the end of Israel” surmounted, I felt my intestines gradually transforming into an angry knot. To try and relieve that, I resolved to air my indignation in an inevitably crass and self-righteous blog post (which I wrote in my mind only). Luckily, a good friend with a track record of Palestine campus activism told me to chill. “You might want to see what the conference is really like before making judgments,” he said.
But as the conference came closer and it gradually became clear that everyone on campus had something to say about this event, the advice got me even more worried. I thought maybe the friend was implying that there might be a grain of truth in these claims of delegitimization. The last thing I wanted was to end up being associated with positions that I would not be able to defend; or worse yet, being labeled a “soft eliminationist” - the term of the day to describe those who supposedly use rational arguments to destroy Israel.
In reality, the conference housed one of the most informed, nuanced, creative, and responsible discussions on Israel-Palestine I’ve recently participated in. It was by no means only academic, but rather a political event, aimed to mobilize and encourage sophisticated thinking about a place I care for.
So there, Abe. You’re not scaring anyone any more.