Academia and the Dehumanization of Jews

November 19 saw a virtual gathering of notable Jew-haters and terrorist apologists to discuss “resistance across borders.” The webinar was purportedly a response to Israel’s terrorist designation of six “nonprofits” linked to the U.S.-designated Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist Palestinian terror group known for hijacking planes full of Jews and murdering teenagers.

The event instead turned into an exposé of the dangerous and violent bigotry of anti-Israel extremists on campuses. Featuring university professors, students, and alumni – and even representatives of terrorist-linked groups – the virtual event illustrated a growing trend of academics attempting to normalize antisemitism and even terrorism.

The Participants

The event was sponsored by notorious anti-Israel groups like National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Adalah, Samidoun, and Within Our Lifetime.

Most notable among the participants, perhaps, was David Miller, the disgraced Bristol University professor who used his academic position to weave fantastical conspiracy theories about how Jewish students were really just agents of Israel.

Some of the materials Abdulhadi’s students were provided, as well as the image of Mohammad Hamad, a graduate student Abdulhadi served as faculty advisor for at San Francisco State University, wielding a knife on social media with the caption, “I love this blade…it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier” and publicly threatening SFSU Jewish students.

Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa, who also spoke, are two SFSU professors  best known for trying to host an online event featuring PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled (whom Abdulhadi calls an “icon”). Abdulhadi has also called “welcoming Zionists on campus” a “declaration of war,” and her program once hosted an event in which students could make posters that read “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers” along with pictures of Khaled.

There was also Omar Zahzah, of the Palestinian Youth Movement and Eyewitness Palestine, who likes to call for the destruction of Israel “from the river to the sea.” He also holds dissonant beliefs, like labeling Zionism a “European colonial movement” while simultaneously accusing Zionists of “minimizing” the struggle of “Jews of color.” Perhaps he prefers we just outright erase Mizrahim and Sephardim – who form a majority of the Israeli Jewish population – like he does.

Most egregiously, the event included Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator for Samidoun, a “human rights” nonprofit that was designated by Israel for its connections to the PFLP terrorist group. In 2016, she was one of a three-member “delegation from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” including known terrorists Muhammad al-Khatib and Khaled Barakat (who also happens to be Kates’s husband), to lobby a diplomat in Brussels. It’s hard to imagine how that’s not unlawful “material support” to a terrorist group.

Kates regularly appears internationally under the cover of Samidoun while advocating for the PFLP. She regularly refers to PFLP terrorists such as Omar Nayef Zayed, who stabbed an Israeli student to death in 1986, as “political prisoners.” Articles about her work feature regularly on the PFLP’s website. Elsewhere, she’s often praising PFLP terrorist leaders like Ahmed Sa’adat (who was involved in the murder of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi) for “leading” the Palestinian “struggle,” or stressing the need to support terrorists like George Ibrahim Abdullah, a terrorist leader involved in the murder of both Americans and Israelis. She praises the “cultural value” and “exceptional struggle” of the terrorist Ghassan Kanafani, who was killed by Israel following the PFLP’s Lod Airport Massacre attack, which killed 26.

Also in the panel were: Ayed Abu Eqtiash, representing another PFLP-linked NGO, DCI-Palestine; Nerdeen Kiswani, a CUNY Law student and co-founder of Within Our Lifetime with her own lengthy history of supporting violence; and Roua Daas, representing Butler SJP.

The Worldwide Zionist Conspiracy

The main thrust of the conversation was a comically inflated sense of victimhood. Abdulhadi and Kinukawa were prevented from spreading the Leila Khaled’s violent hatred. Kates’s ability to fundraise and glorify terrorists was impeded by Israel’s decision to designate her organization for its connections to the PFLP. Miller can no longer use an academic imprimatur to accuse Jewish students of being Israeli agents.

Who do they perceive as their “victimizers”? A vast, international Zionist conspiracy, of course. Consider a few of their claims during the webinar:

Miller: The activities of the Zionist movement, the Zionist state, yes, but also importantly, the Zionist movement in this country, in the United Kingdom, the Zionist movement is very well networked and organized. It’s not nearly as big as the Zionist movement in the U.S. of course, but it’s a huge set of organizations. Uh, I’m not sure that anyone has actually, even in the U.S., done a calculation of how many organizations there are which are formally, you know, members of the Zionist movement… And those organizations are engaged strategically in alliance, in coordination with the [Israeli] Ministry of Strategic Affairs, abolished in May this year. But, that’s a set of activities, which are coordinated from Israel through the UK, France, Germany, the U.S. and other places.

Abdulhadi: The Israel lobby industry, and it is an industry. They come about. They are well-funded, they are well connected. They are connected to the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Very much connected to the Israeli Ministry of Security. They are connected to the Shin Bet. They’re connected to the Mossad.

Daas: …these universities are very clearly tied to these corporations, these imperialist, orientalist, racist organizations or corporations, and they are funded by these right-wing Zionist organizations.

It is, of course, a conspiracy theory antisemitic to its core. Believers consider all Palestinian advocacy to be composed of genuine and grassroots activists. Meanwhile, all “Zionist” (i.e., Jewish) advocacy is seen only as a sinister, centrally-organized plot. Jews aren’t allowed to have genuine beliefs and emotions – only evil designs. There is no difference in intent and effect between antisemitic conspiracies like those Abdulhadi and Miller espouse and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Which brings us to the dangerous crux of their rabid antisemitic conspiracy theories. How does one deal with a people that are viewed as evil masterminds manipulating world order? Take Miller’s suggested solution:

Miller: [W]hat needs to happen is Palestine needs to be free… And we do that, not just by the resistance in Palestine… It’s not just the, we, we do Palestine solidarity work, but that we have, in order for Palestine to be free, the Zionist movement in general needs to be dismantled. Not just in Palestine, but in Britain and in the U.S., every single Zionist organization needs to be dismantled… [W]e have to be thinking about how each one of these organizations is ended or is de-Zionized… I think, you know, the enemy haven’t heard that enough from us and perhaps they need to hear it a bit more… [T]hey will be punished…

This is what dehumanization does. You can’t simply accept that your target population are human beings with equal rights, with their own perspectives and histories. Before long, dehumanizing reaches the inevitable conclusion that the target population must be rooted out and removed from society or, if one feels generous, be allowed to continue existing but only under unequal terms. Jews will need to abide by only Miller-approved Judaism. No self-determination. None of this “next year in Jerusalem” nonsense. They must learn their place again as dhimmis.

Glorifying Terrorism and the Destruction of Israel

It is thus unsurprising that the panel saw nothing wrong with violence and terrorism against Jews and Israelis. After all, according to Abdulhadi during the webinar, the phrase “I oppose the killing of civilians” is just “Zionist language.”

Samidoun’s Charlotte Kates at an event in April 2018 with the flag of the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) raised above her head.

Kates spent much of her time telling viewers that the purpose of designating Palestinian terror groups is just “to divide us from one another.” Things like the U.S. “definition of what is a terrorist organization” is just a device to get them to “give up on the vision of Palestine from the river to the sea.”

To Kates, the U.S. imprisonment of the “Holy Land Five” (who were convicted of raising millions of dollars for Hamas) is a matter of “Palestinian political prisoners…because of the same kind of criminalization and the use of the terror label to criminalize Palestine activism.” Outrage over naming an event after the terrorist Ghassan Kanafani is ridiculous, according to Zahzah, because he’s just a “world-renowned writer.”

While praising the “resistance in Palestine” as key to ending Zionism (and thus, Israel), Miller was almost giddy while talking about a leak of personal information of Israeli soldiers and coordinates of Israeli military bases. Miller was watching “with bated breath” what “the resistance” might do with such information.

Meanwhile, Abu Eqtaish expressed indignation that Israelis might object to a Palestinian curriculum that denies the existence of Israel. After all, Palestinian kids “should understand that Palestine, it’s not just Ramallah and Bethlehem Palestine – it’s Haifa, Yaffa, and all parts of Palestine.” How proud Abu Eqtaish must be of that young student of the recent Hamas terrorist behind the recent murder in Jerusalem, who praised his terrorist teacher for never cursing anyone “except the Jews…may god burn them.”

Antisemitism? Never heard of it.

Finally, the participants provided a demonstration of how their brand of “anti-Zionism” (read: antisemitism) seeks to reclassify victims as victimizers. Not only do they feel open to promote dehumanizing, antisemitic conspiracy theories and justify violence against Jews, but they want to label Jews who object to such antisemitism as the real criminals.

Miller himself provided a masterclass. It didn’t take him long to: (1) deny antisemitism is really a problem; (2) call claims to the contrary an Israeli conspiracy; and then (3) label himself the true victim.

He began by claiming “the alleged rise in antisemitism” is “entirely a fabrication,” and stating “of course [there] is not” an “overwhelming surge of antisemitism.” Who created this “fabrication?” “The Israeli state.” Even those Jewish organizations like the Campaign Against Antisemitism expressing alarm over antisemitism are really just “directly participating in the [Israeli] Ministry of Strategic Affairs.”

Then, in his coup de grace, Miller slid right into the victim role by claiming all those groups that objected to Miller’s antisemitic behavior were really just a nefarious “set of organizations” set up as part of a conspiracy to “dig up statements and articles and write mendacious accounts with them and distort them and lie about them in order to complain about people.”

Miller even claimed that Jewish students subjected to his antisemitic rantings were “simply reversing power relations” by pretending to be “hurt and upset” by his comments. Rather than seeing them as actual people with actual feelings, Miller reduced the students to being a “part of…a much wider movement.” In other words, those pesky Jewish students are just cogs in the Zionist conspiracy. I’m not sure if it was better or worse than how Kiswani belittled concerned Jewish students by claiming “they just want their free merchandise or Birthright trips or whatever…”

Conclusion

The openness with which academics like Abdulhadi and Miller espoused their hateful rhetoric painfully demonstrates just how normalized antisemitism has become in academia today. Professors like Abdulhadi are being allowed to teach a generation of students that proud Jews, including their fellow students, aren’t like everyone else, but rather conniving creatures incapable of genuine beliefs and feelings.

The ease with which such individuals maneuver between promoting dehumanizing conspiracy theories on the one hand, and justifying violence and terrorism on the other, is even more disturbing. While Miller was mercifully removed from his professorship in the United Kingdom, here in the U.S., radical professors like Abdulhadi remain in their positions of influence. Academic freedom is crucial for any democratic society. However, as history has shown us, academic freedom must not include the dehumanization of and incitement against religious, ethnic, and national groups.