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Vol. 79/No. 44      December 7, 2015

(feature article)

Jew-hatred, attacks on free
speech threat to working class

Left and liberal groups on campuses and elsewhere have carried out a series of thuggish actions aimed at crushing free speech and debate, combined with-not-so subtle anti-Semitism, justified in the name of support for the Palestinian struggle. This is a deadly threat to the interests of the working class, the struggle for Palestinian national rights and the fight against Jew-hatred.

On Nov. 3 two dozen protesters at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis shouted down guest lecturer Moshe Halbertal, a law professor from Israel, delaying the program by more than half an hour. The disruption was organized by Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Anti-War Committee. They claimed that Halbertal is a “war criminal” because he helped write the Israeli army code of ethics.

Halbertal has often criticized Hamas, the reactionary Islamist group that rules Gaza, for using civilians as human shields when attacking Israel. He has also criticized the Israeli government for military attacks he considers “immoral and illegal instruments of deterrence.”

“Professional combatants should err on the side of protecting noncombatants from casualties,” even if that means increasing “risks to themselves or to their cause,” Halbertal told the crowd after the lecture finally began.

Refusal to debate

“We use disruption for the same reason that Palestinian children use rocks — it’s our only option,” two of the protest organizers wrote to justify their refusal to debate the issues, unlike other supporters of Palestinian rights who spoke in the discussion period.

Similar efforts to shout down those they disagree with have been taken by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which seeks to make a pariah of Israel. The campaign has gained support on college campuses from left and liberal students and professors, who label Israel an “apartheid state.” They advocate boycotting Israeli goods and shutting down artistic, musical and academic exchanges with Israel.

At the City University of New York’s Hunter College Nov. 12, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee and Students Without Borders organized a rally that was billed as part of the national Million Student March for tuition-free universities, cancellation of student debts and a $15 minimum wage for campus workers. But they turned it into an anti-Semitic rally.

A leaflet by Students for Justice in Palestine publicizing the event attacked the university’s “Zionist administration” which, it said, “invests in Israeli companies, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education.”

During the rally speakers led chants including, “What do we want? Zionists out!” directed at the university administration and at several Jewish students holding signs that said “We support lower tuition, not terrorism against Israel” and “Pro-Israel, pro-affordable tuition.”

Palestinians, Jews will live together

“I don’t agree with all the government’s policies. But Jews are going to continue to live in Israel. Palestinians are going to live in Israel. We are going to live together,” one of the Jewish students can be heard saying in a video of the confrontation posted on the Internet.

Seeking to cut off debate, some at the rally chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free,” which was also chanted at the University of Minnesota disruption. The slogan is taken from a speech by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

“Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of land,” he said in December 2012 in Gaza City. “There is no legitimacy for Israel.”

“With their money, they took control of the world media,” Hamas’ 1988 covenant states, slandering and scapegoating the Jewish people. “They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate [the Ottoman Empire], making financial gains and controlling resources.”

“Zionist” has become a code word for Jewish, used by those who put an equal sign between the current brutal and oppressive Israeli capitalist rulers and the Jewish population. They paint Israel as the most reactionary country on earth.

Zionism is the name of the movement that was formed over a century ago to fight for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Israel was established following the Nazi Holocaust and the annihilation of some 6 million Jews during World War II. The country has existed for 67 years. Despite the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, more than 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab. There is no Zionist movement today.

In a world of deepening capitalist economic and social crisis the boss class will more and more seek to give the green light to those who blame the crisis on Jews. Growing attacks on Jews in Europe have led to a significant rise in emigration to Israel.

The European Union moved Nov. 11 to further demonize Israel and Jews there by requiring special labeling identifying goods from Jewish-owned businesses and farms in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration backed the move.

The Socialist Workers Party presents a strategy that can put an end to the cycle of violence between the Israeli state and reactionary forces like Hamas. A revolutionary Palestinian leadership would denounce Jew-hatred, recognize the existence of Israel and support the right of Jews anywhere in the world to live there, while fighting for a contiguous Palestinian state, for dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank and for combating discrimination and the second-class status of Arab citizens of Israel. Doing so it would win allies inside Israel.

This can open the road to building a mass movement of Jewish, Palestinian, Druze, Christian, Muslim and immigrant workers capable of taking power out of the hands of their common enemy, the Israeli capitalist ruling class, and the ruling rich in the West Bank and Gaza.

Shouting down political opponents and physically preventing people from speaking are a deadly threat to building such a movement. Workers and defenders of Palestinian rights require political space and wide room for discussion and debate.

Lea Sherman contributed to this article.
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