Below is a letter I wrote to Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick. I did so because the Zionist Organization of America has accused Rutgers of violating federal regulations by allowing a campus environment that is “increasingly hostile, anti-Semitic, and even includes violent threats against a Jewish student.” ZOA alleges that activities organized by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice have “demonized Jews in Israel” and have attempted “to delegitimize the Jewish state.” Although I deplore discrimination in any form I am familiar with the tactics of groups like ZOA. Their common practice is to call anyone who supports human rights in the Middle East or calls for an end to an illegal occupation an anti-Semite. This is hysterical and self-destructive thinking and must be countered.
It also appears that Pamela Geller and her group, Stop the Islamicization of America, recently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have been recruited to intimidate Rutgers University’s Muslim community with threats of physical violence.
BAKA is an Affiliate of SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). Among its activities, it organized a US to GAZA Flotilla fundraiser last fall, and the Never Again for Anyone tour in early 2011. Not only did neither activity demonize Israeli Jews or delegitimize Israel, both had a prominent Jewish presence.
April 15, 2011
Dear President McCormick,
As a Jew raised in New Jersey, with numerous relatives having graduated from Rutgers, I appeal to you to issue a statement making it clear that the administration of Rutgers will not tolerate discrimination in any form. And furthermore, that it deplores the use of any tactics that are intended to provoke, misrepresent or slander any student or group of students.
I am a former member of AIPAC and have been involved in human rights and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis for a number of years. I am author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. While writing this book, I conducted voluminous research into the history of Israel-Palestine, mostly from Israeli sources, many of them governmental and, like any competent and objective historian, was compelled to conclude that a significant number of claims made by organizations such as Hillel and ZOA are not based in reality. They are, at best, recycled myths intended to portray Palestinian society as inherently violent and irrational while hiding the truth that the greatest violence has always been a deliberate strategy meant to dispossess the Palestinians of their indigenous homeland.
Likewise, claims that groups such as the sponsors of the Never Again For Anyone tour or the courageous individuals who’ve formed the Gaza Flotilla Movement are anti-Semitic, attempting to delegitimize Israel or existential threats to Israel are equally irrational, if not hysterical. Both in Israel and the U.S. there has been an increasingly vicious and hateful backlash against the growing revelation of the inhumanity and violence of the Israeli occupation. Throughout humankind’s history there have always been periods of potential growth and more enlightened education that have been interpreted as grave threats to the existing order, which often responds emotionally with fear and tactically with repression.
As the truth of the occupation becomes more manifest its defenders become even more frightened – and more dangerous. Although they express their fear by slandering their “enemies” as misinformed and anti-Semitic, the truth is that they are afraid to investigate the actual history of the conflict out of fear for what they might discover about Israel and about themselves. Throughout college campuses their tactics are the same: to portray any who criticize Israel as the enemy. They define an anti-Semite as someone who challenges Israeli policy or who believes that Palestinians are entitled to the same basic rights as Israelis. By that definition David Ben-Gurion was an anti-Semite for acknowledging that “we stole the land” from the Palestinians. I define an anti-Semite as someone who attacks a Jew because of his or her commitment to human rights and equality for all people. Since many Jews are appalled at Israeli treatment of Palestinians who is implicated by that reasonable definition?
The truth is that the tactics of groups such as ZOA are not meant to defend or protect Israel or the Israeli people. Their tactics are meant to defend and protect their self-image as individuals or a people who have not lost their humanity. By painting the Israeli governments’ critics as irrational and anti-Semitic they can deny any authenticity to the criticism of Israel. And they can deny their lack of humanity despite their support for an oppressive and dehumanizing Occupation.
Please do not allow those who narcissistically favor one group at the expense of another the power to intimidate, threaten or suppress the dawning of knowledge and awareness that eventually will lead to freedom for the oppressed and a more humane perspective for the oppressor.
Many white Southerners, freed from dehumanizing beliefs, are far more moral and humane than they were during segregation. At some point leaders in all walks of life must take a stand for equality and common human decency. I urge you to do so now. Sincerely, Richard Forer