Central Student Government’s Lies About Israel

As a Jewish student at the University of Michigan, the last two weeks have been extremely stressful and frightening. I have witnessed the active curtailment of the Jewish voice on campus. Square boxes with acontextual information, videos of rocket explosions and burning buses, and infographics with unverifiable figures are all being used to diminish the complexity of a conflict that carries a real human toll. Student leaders are weaponizing inflammatory language to ostracize 6,500 Jewish students, almost 15% of the student body. When concerned students have attempted to speak publicly in support of Israel, they have been demeaned, harassed, and verbally accosted with anti-Semitic tropes. 

On May 10th, the Central Student Government (CSG) released a demonstrably one-sided statement parroting Hamas propaganda by labeling Israel an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Furthermore, the open endorsement of the BDS movement, which is inherently anti-Semitic–as its primary goal is to deny the Jewish people its right to self-determination– places a target on the backs of all Jewish students on campus. 

Unsurprisingly, not one Jewish student helped in its writing. Now, you may ask, how does this demagogic language help to foster a peaceful campus community where students are able to freely express their ideas? Obviously, it doesn’t. Jewish and non-Jewish students alike were rightfully outraged, and no one, not even the university administration, seems to care.

Unsurprisingly, not one Jewish student helped in its writing. Now, you may ask, how does this demagogic language help to foster a peaceful campus community where students are able to freely express their ideas?

The statement accuses Israel of perpetuating settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid. To a reader unfamiliar with the conflict, this extreme language may seem to be quite the indictment. What is the goal? To incite great hatred towards the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and to the Jewish people. 

The only hope this conflict has of resolution is unity, but this statement’s many falsehoods serve only to divide.

The only hope this conflict has of resolution is unity, but this statement’s many falsehoods serve only to divide.

Let’s begin with what Palestinians claim started the most recent conflict: evictions from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. The statement echoes the assertion of some extremists that the evictions are an act of Israeli “settler-colonialism.” This is a lie. 

The Sheikh Jarrah dispute dates all the way back to 1865 when Jews and Muslims settled in the area around the same time. Two Jewish trusts that shared a mission to develop the Jewish population in Jerusalem, purchased land nearby in 1876 and formed two Jewish neighborhoods: Shimon Hatzadik and Nahalat Shimon. In 1948, these neighborhoods were conquered by the Transjordanian Arab Legion during the Israeli War of Independence, and all Jews were expelled from this area.

In 1956, the Jordanian government arranged for the housing of 28 Palestinian refugee families in the Jewish neighborhoods, where the families agreed to pay rent. With the Israeli government in control of the area after the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish trusts requested the areas be returned to them. In 1972, these claims were accepted.

In 1982, the trusts requested the removal of the 23 Arab families that had stayed in the Jewish area of the neighborhood. The opposing sides struck an agreement: the families would become protected tenants in exchange for the recognition of trust ownership.

However, the trusts have claimed that the residents have not paid their rent since the agreement. Also, according to the trusts, some tenants have sought to destroy structures in the old Jewish neighborhood, including the synagogue. A series of lawsuits have been brought to ensure the eviction of these families, who still refuse to pay rent. Palestinians, encouraged by Hamas, engaged in rioting under the belief that the courts would not side with them. 

The case is clear: this is not an issue of Jews removing Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. It is simply recognizing the claims that the Palestinians themselves acknowledged in 1982. The CSG statement presents a gross over-simplification of the incident at the center of the conflict; in no way, shape, or form is this “settler-colonialism.”

The CSG statement presents a gross over-simplification of the incident at the center of the conflict; in no way, shape, or form is this “settler-colonialism.”

Now, let’s examine the CSG’s claim that Israel is “ethnically cleansing” Palestinians. This pejorative term is widely used amongst anti-Semites and is irrefutably false.

Ethnic cleansing is defined as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.” 20% of Israel’s population is Palestinian, and they all have full and equal rights as Jewish citizens. There is no “cleansing” happening in Israel. Instead, Hamas calls for the decimation of the Jewish state and for the murder of all Jews in their charter. Which side do you think is engaged in ethnic cleansing?

Lastly, the invocation of the term apartheid is deplorable. It’s ironic that many have become, seemingly overnight, experts in South African and Middle Eastern history to make such comparisons.

The term apartheid was coined in relation to the events that occurred in South Africa. It is defined as a “policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.” I reiterate, Arab Israelis are 100% full citizens with the same civil and equal rights as Jews. They vote, they can run for parliament, they can intermarry, and they can go to school and brunch with Jews. On the other hand, if a Muslim sells land to a Jew in Gaza, they are executed.

The intent of the CSG statement is clear: to present a one-sided summary of a conflict that has raged on for millennia in order to convince students of their lies. The statement is full of falsehoods and misrepresentations and does no justice to the numerous Israelis who have died throughout this conflict nor the many Jews that have become the victims of anti-Semitic hate crimes. There is no moral equivalency: one side is the only Jewish state in the world, and the other is an internationally recognized terrorist organization. 

Hamas fired the first rockets, and it seems that CSG has no problem with the destruction of Israel. They have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the student body. 

Hamas fired the first rockets, and it seems that CSG has no problem with the destruction of Israel. They have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the student body. 

It is scary to be a Jew in America right now. Observant men must cover their yarmulkes to not be yelled at or spit on. Women are unable to walk with their children for fear of intimidation. My family immigrated to this country as religious refugees to live harmoniously with our fellow citizens, not to live in fear. George Washington, in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport in 1790, exemplified the importance of religious coexistence in our country: “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” We must not allow these words to be erased, for Jewish Americans are in grave danger. The Jewish people have always prevailed through misery, and we will overcome these difficulties today, to triumph once more.

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