Coming face to face with Zionist fragility Mondoweiss – Mondoweiss

Posted By on June 18, 2021

As college students, weve certainly been in some chaotic situations, but we never would have expected to have found ourselves trapped in a small room on campus with an ex-IDF soldier, as he hurled false insinuations of antisemitism at us while simultaneously declaring that our attitude was the reason people will continue dying in Gaza.

Adam (to avoid any legal issues, we chose to use a fake name), the Israel Fellow for both the Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh Hillel chapters, probably meant well at first, but I also have no idea what he expected when he decided to reach out to both the Carnegie Mellon Muslim Students Association (MSA) and FORGE, Carnegie Mellons refugee service organization, advertising a free spring break trip to the Middle East, entitled Carnegie Mellon Fact-Finders 2020, billed as an unbiased presentation of both sides of the conflict.

Upon investigation, we found out that the trip was organized by Authentic Israel, a travel agency whose website made no effort of acknowledging the existence of Palestine in any capacity whatsoever and had partnerships with Birthright Israel and other Zionist agencies. The trips itinerary also only featured one Arab speaker, Khaled Abu Toameh, a reporter who is famously critical of the PLO and American collegiate anti-Zionist activism. In other words, his voice does not represent the majority of Palestinians, and instead toes the Israeli governmental line. We talked to an anonymous student who went on the trip who told us that Abu Toameh told trip participants that if Palestinians didnt like their life, they could simply move to Germany.

After this research into the trip, we felt, as both Muslims and student leaders, that it was a disrespectful attempt to hide blatant propaganda and Adam reaching out to us was to gain token Muslim support for this propaganda (something that would no doubt help in the trips promotion). As a result, we chose to politely decline any endorsement, promotion, or association with the trip.

Zionist propaganda (euphemistically known in Israel as hasbara) exists in several forms, including associating the existence of Palestine with antisemitism, connecting Muslim resistance efforts to terrorism and jihad, and, more recently, promoting a positive image of Israel through tourism. In the last few years, several college campuses have fallen victim to predatory tours like the one that was presented to us. These trips prey on university students genuinely interested in learning about geopolitical issues by offering a self-proclaimed cheap, fun, unbiased, and educational once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The trip provides an elaborate portal into a fantasy world while glorifying Israeli war crimes and silencing Palestinian voices, deceiving hordes of well-intentioned students with a jam-packed itinerary of distracting activities like camel-rides, all while Palestinians are unable to return to their homeland and ruthlessly separated from their families. These trips paint a picture of Israel as a near-utopia, the only democracy in the Middle East, the country that made the desert bloom, a beacon of peaceful coexistence in a troubled region, and a just fulfillment of Jewish demands for self-determination. Of course, this Potemkin village of Israel has never existed. The reality of an explicitly settler-colonial project which violently expelled over half of the indigenous population and then built a brutal Apartheid system to oppress and dehumanize the remainder is kept well hidden from the participants view. Jewish-American journalist Aaron Freedman highlighted the danger of similar trips best in an article published in Jacobin stating, Birthright Israel pretends the occupation does not exist and manipulates Jewish heritage and identity into support for an apartheid state.

Once Adam saw our response, he reached out to set up a meeting with us, face to face. We agreed to meet and ended up in a small room in the campus university center with Adam and a student representative from Hillel. The meeting started off cordially with Adams friendly attempt at a traditional Arabic greeting followed by some introductions. He began the discussion by telling us how valuable a Muslim endorsement would be to promote this trip and asked us what he could do to earn our support.

We responded firstly by thanking him for the opportunity and then voiced our concerns. We calmly told him that the trip lacked significant representation for the Palestinian cause, that trips like these should not advertise themselves as unbiased, that these trips should not exist while Palestinians are unable to return to their homes, and that we could not morally support such trips.

After some back and forth, Adam realized we would not budge and the conversation took a hard turn. He began to yell at and berate us, calling us ignorant fools who knew nothing, railing about how he never killed a single Palestinian child while in the Israeli military (despite none of us mentioning anything about his time there), and hinting that if we were to escalate anti-Israeli activism on campus, he would push for the dissolution of our respective organizations and our suspension on grounds of antisemitism. Adam then told us that our stubbornness and unwillingness to excuse Israels crimes is why there will never be any progress, and people like us are directly to blame for the death of Palestinians (claiming once again without provocation that he never killed anyone).As Adams rage escalated, we decided to excuse ourselves citing an urgent event to attend to. On our way out, the student representative apologized to us profusely claiming that he had never seen Adam in that state and we told him that we appreciated his apologies and would be happy to engage with him and his organization in the future.

Adams behavior serves as a microcosm of Zionist behavior and attitudes as a whole. Since Israels foundation during the 1948 Nakba, the Israeli government has fed its people a constant barrage of messaging about existential threats, impending genocide, and Arab aggression, while simultaneously pushing a narrative of an Israeli David bravely and miraculously standing up to these Goliath dangers.

This narrative was a lie in 1948, where, in private correspondence, Israels first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion acknowledged that the Zionist militias were stronger than the Arab armies and would have no issue taking control of the entirety of Palestine; and it is also a lie now, when neither Palestinians, nor Hezbollah, nor Iran pose much of a threat to Israel and certainly not an existential one (as Israeli historian Avi Shlaim notes, the nuclear power that is Israel, poses an existential threat to Iran, and not the other way around). This inundation with fear-mongering propaganda has produced an Israeli society (and Zionist community in the diaspora) that is, in many cases, paranoid, fearful, and focused on security to the exclusion of all else. Given this pervasive attitude, it is not surprising that many Zionists buy into simplistic narratives and Islamophobic hate or, in Adams case, grow vindictive and spiteful when faced with pushback. Their anger and hate is driven by fear.

As people are finally beginning to see the war crimes of the IDF for what they are, Zionists are beginning to express fear more openly. The Israeli military is doubling down on attacks and Israels official Twitter account is spiraling. As more people take to the streets to protest the Israeli government, counter protests are happening, and Zionists online are desperately trying to regain control over the narrative. At a protest in Pittsburgh, we watched some counter-protesters come up to a high school girl with a Palestinian flag, taunting her by shouting, youre mad because youre losing! In response to challenges to a worldview which has been almost universally accepted in the US until quite recently, many Zionists respond, as Adam did, with rage and furious displays of machismo. The mask comes off.

Until Zionists can see Palestinians as human beings, with the right to live, people who only wish to live in their homeland peacefully coexisting with their surroundings; and Islam as a religion of peace not represented by terrorists, peace will never be achieved. Until people like Adam stop letting their fear get the better of them, lashing out instead of engaging in peaceful discourse, taking time to hear the stories of their neighbors instead of only hearing what they want to, the violence will never end. Until Zionists can unlearn their insecurities and prevent reactionary, propaganda-inspired fear from controlling them, Palestine will never know peace.

So where are the Palestinian voices in mainstream media?

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Coming face to face with Zionist fragility Mondoweiss - Mondoweiss

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