By Zeyu Wang || Contributing Writer

In response to the recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza against civilians and continued land theft (“Nakba”) in Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories, twenty-four F&M professors signed a faculty statement [1] published by TCR on 22 June. Soon it has sparked off controversy [2, 3, 4, 5], especially with the use of the term “Jewish supremacy” describing the principle and practice of the Israeli state: “The brutal system … is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy” (emphasis added). Three days later, a different faculty response [2] finds this term “libelous”, and an alumni response [3] finds it rooted in antisemitism as the statement “mimics antisemitic tropes”. People making these responses may be entitled to their opinions, but not to their facts. 

As recently as last week, on Thursday 8 July, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a ruling that upheld the Nation-State Bill, denying the claims of minorities discriminated against by the Bill [6]. The law was passed and enacted by Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) in 2018, and makes clear that “The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” (clause 1b) while also claiming a “unified and complete Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel (clause 3) – against UN Resolution 181 [7]. Then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the passage of this law, said it is “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel;” “We enshrined in law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, which respects the individual rights of all its citizens. This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag” [8] (italic emphasis added). It is important to know that Israel came to Palestine with military occupation, not vice versa. 

Both statements [2, 3] on 25 June have also referred to the threat of Hamas, a Palestinian militant group recognized by some countries as a terrorist organization. It is, without doubt, a fact that Hamas has indeed used violence to some extent as a tact in dealing with its geopolitical dilemma and, in doing so, harmed civilians on both sides. I do find Hamas’s actions unacceptable. However, as Noam Chomsky noted [9], “if we compare the positions of the two sides, all are unacceptable, but those of Hamas are the least unacceptable;” further, the policies of Hamas are “more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel”; Hamas has always called for a long-term, indefinite truce on the pre-June-1967 border “with minor and mutual modifications”, as in the original phrase. Israel is not willing to even consider it. 

We should understand that Israeli atrocities are committed based on the widespread ideology that Israel is uniquely above international law. In November 2005, the Palestinian Authority reached an agreement [10] with Israel regarding Israeli disengagement from the occupied Gaza. The Palestinians – including Hamas – lived up to the agreement, not firing a single rocket, whereas Israelis broke it [11]. It is Israel that showed more aggression and breached every ceasefire agreement, the most recent one being last month [12]: on 15-16 June, Israel launched airstrikes again in Gaza, after the ceasefire agreement reached in late May. 

“To ask the resistance to disarm while they are under brutal attack is not a very serious proposal” [13]; noting the absurdity of the bilateral negotiation, Chomsky further highlights that Hamas’s policies are represented by, for example, forming a unity government with Fatah in 2014 [14] and agreeing to, within that unity government, accept every demand by the quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia). This shows great willingness and compromise – on the part of Hamas – for the sake of peace and order. This peace agreement led to a “violent reaction on the part of the Israeli government” [13]. Despite its use of violence, Hamas is proven technically more reliable and thus preferable than Israel. How can we reach an agreement if one party will never live up to any of its promises? 

Reciprocity and common sense are essential to foster a rule-based international order. Let’s look at some of US and Israel’s core demands on Hamas in their negotiations: 

1) recognize the state of Israel; 

2) renounce the use of violence; 

3) accept international agreements. 

Hamas has apparently complied with the first in its various attempted agreements with Israel, but will Israel recognize the right of Palestine to exist? Hamas can’t renounce the use of violence under constant Israeli bombing; or if it can renounce, is Israel also going to renounce all violence? Thirdly, Hamas has shown its will to accept international agreements, while Israel breaks them. How is there going to be peace without a rule-based international order? The answer is simply enforcement of an authoritarian police state and extermination of all dissident discourse, as Israel has been doing. 

Speaking of a rule-based, fair international order, Israel has always called for nuclear disarmament of Iran, Israel’s fatal enemy (as it claims). Iran has joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), complied with all IAEA rules and international sanctions. Israel, on the other hand, never joined the NPT in the first place and dismissed all criticism thereof. As the British-Jewish historian Avi Shlaim noted, “Israel poses an existential threat to Iran,” and not vice versa [15]. The UN Resolution 487 (1981) “calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Nuclear Energy Agency” [16]. Israel has kept its nuclear facilities in secret to this date [17, 18]. Does Israel not think it is above all international law? 

Danny Ayalon, former Israeli politician and diplomat, when asked “did you say Israel has no terrorists”, says “there are, but not as a culture” whereas Palestinians have “a culture of terror” [19]: having their kids sent to school to learn suicide-bombing is “a culture of terror”, while Israeli children watching live TV streaming of Gazan houses and families bombarded are not “a culture of terror”. It is this racist slur against Palestinians that circulates so widely within Israeli and Zionist discourse and justifies their continued bombing, occupation, and systemic discrimination against Palestinians. 

Critics [22, 23] of the 22 June faculty statement claim that Jewish students will be concerned of their “safety” on campus. This false, absurd conclusion is predicated upon the erroneous idea that criticism of Israel is equivalent to “anti-Jewish sentiments” [23]. As if it hasn’t been clear enough, Zionism (a modern political agenda) is not equivalent to Judaism (an ancient religion), or Jewry (an ethnic construct, however defined); likewise, under any circumstances, Anti-Zionism does not equal Anti-Semitism [24, 25]. As much as we can express criticism of Hamas, calling it a terrorist group, without jeopardizing or discriminating against Palestinian students on campus, we are also entitled by freedom of speech to call Israel a terrorist state without targeting any race, ethnicity, or religion solely on the basis of that race, ethnicity, or religion. Reciprocity is the precondition for respectful conversations, and no race should be above all other races, just as no nation should be above international law. I stand in firm support of Palestinians who “continue to resist physical removal and existential erasure” [1].

Zeyu Wang ’23 is a contributing writer, and can be reached by email