We are writing in response to an inflammatory, fallacious, and anti-Semitic opinion piece published by the Duke Chronicle Editorial Board. As part of the Jewish community, we belong to a group that spans all corners of the world and encompasses all skin colors, nationalities, and sexual orientations.
While Jews have lived continuously in the Land of Israel for two millennia, global anti-Semitism and massacres necessitated that the Jewish people exercise their right to self-determination and become an equal amongst the community of nations. Legitimate criticism of the Jewish state’s policies has, and always will be, acceptable—one must look no further than internal Israeli politics to see this. However, the delegitimization, mischaracterization, and dehumanization of the Jewish state and its citizens with reckless disregard for facts separates the Jewish people from all others. The mischaracterization of any group to smear the existence of their political entity is unacceptable, and Jews are no exception.
The opinion piece by the Editorial Board is extremely troubling and crosses a "red line."
The Editorial Board attempts to draw a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. As a board without a single Jewish member, the Editorial Board has no right to define anti-Semitism. While criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, the Editorial Board, nevertheless, engages in hurtful anti-Semitic tropes. By labeling Israel a “settler colonialist project,” the Editorial Board denies the right for a Jewish State to exist and crosses the line into anti-Semitism. The label of “settler colonialism” disregards Jewish history, including the fact that Jews have had a continuous presence in the Land of Israel and the Middle East for two thousand years. Currently, 61 percent of Israeli Jews are Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern rather than European origin. Further, nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel occurred under duress and was not an attempt to “colonize” a foreign land.
The Editorial Board further characterizes Israel as engaging in “genocidal policies,” a false and misleading statement. We lament the death of any civilian. It is also true, however, that most fatalities in recent flare-ups were individuals actively threatening the lives of Israelis and later claimed by terrorist organizations as members. The Editorial Board fails to note that, while Israel goes to great lengths to avoid civilian death, Israel’s enemies actively target civilians. By ignoring the intentions of countless groups in the region to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth and by falsely accusing Israel of genocide, the Editorial Board warps an extremely complex political situation to seem simple and one sided.
AIPAC is not a political action committee as the Editorial Board writes, but rather a public affairs committee. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is powerful because 74 percent of Americans stand with Israel. American citizens are speaking out on an issue that matters to them. This is the ultimate expression of American democracy. AIPAC does not fund or donate to any politicians, nor does it work for a foreign government, as an article cited by the Editorial Board claims. Additionally, recent legislation has not attempted to criminalize boycotting Israel. A look at the actual law shows that this is another false claim.
The notion that AIPAC’s role in politics is “outsized and damaging” further engages in anti-Semitic tropes. The trope of “Jewish power” has been used for millennia to “punch upwards” against Jewish bankers, store owners, and “racial infiltrators,” and has led to some of history’s worst instances of oppression.
We would like to talk with the author about the hurt caused by their words and fallacious statements and begin to build a better understanding for each other’s perspectives and the nature of 21st century anti-Semitism.
Max Cherman, T ‘20, and Ezra Loeb, T ‘22
Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee
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