As the recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israel shows, academic and other groups are buying into the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement in growing numbers. Like most such organizations, the ASA imagines it is taking a moral stand and is almost certainly unaware of the ultimate goal of the movement’s Palestinian organizers, for whom the campaign to delegitimize Israel is not an end unto itself. As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote: “Slander is the prelude to murder.” Israel’s enemies demonize Israel as a necessary prelude to her annihilation. Stated simply, their goal is genocide.
What, after all, does Hamas intend in calling for the “obliteration” of Israel, in its charter? Aren’t the continual chants of “Death to Israel” by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his supporters a call for genocide? What else does former Iranian President Ahmedinijad’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map” mean if not genocide against its Jewish inhabitants? Unmasking the Palestinian goal of genocide is the key to preventing its actualization.
We undermine the moral certainty of those who parrot Palestinian demonization of Israel by asking: What is the moral difference between Nazi genocide against 6 million Jews and Arab attempts at genocide against the 6 million Jews of Israel? That the Palestinians have not succeeded in their ultimate goal of exterminating the Jews of Israel does not make their attempts any less heinous. Every time Israel’s enemies call for her destruction, we need to point out that they are in essence calling for genocide.
Nor should we accept the characterization of such calls for genocide against the Jews of Israel as mere hyperbole. Israel’s enemies have gone well beyond advocating genocide against Israel. Palestinian Arabs have murdered 3,000 Israeli civilians and wounded 25,000 in a campaign of terror lasting well over a century. Since 1948, the armies of their Arab supporters have killed 20,000 and wounded 100,000 Israeli soldiers. Is there any doubt that every Jew in Israel would have been murdered had Israel lost the war in 1948, 1956 or 1967, or any of the wars of annihilation launched against her? There is no question but that the Palestinians and their allies would have fulfilled their vows of genocide against the Jews, as they in fact did on overrunning Hebron in 1929 and Gush Etzion in 1948. Every future Palestinian atrocity against Israel hands us an opportunity to point out that mass murder of Jews is not merely their tactic, but their goal.
Not only do the Palestinians practice and preach genocide against the Jews but, in a demonically cleaver twist, they also accuse the Jews of genocide whenever we defend ourselves against them. Many, especially in endemically anti-Semitic Europe, have proven all too ready to accept such transparent Palestinian slander against Israel at face value. European anti-Semites assuage their guilt by imagining that Jews in a position of power behave as wickedly as their forebears did during the Holocaust.
A Palestinian movement identified with its genocidal goal will not be so readily embraced by misguided intellectuals in the media, academia and the arts. In doing so, European elites would no longer assuage their guilt over the Holocaust, but compound it. Their self-righteous hectoring of Israel would be replaced by the extreme discomfort of having to explain their support of a movement bent on genocide and they would soon find themselves a new cause célèbre.
The campaign to delegitimize Israel has succeeded until now because it follows the cardinal rules of propaganda: Boil the essence of your idea down to a simple, powerful, memorable slogan (in this case a single word: “occupation”), stay on message and repeat it at every opportunity.
I once observed Yasser Arafat’s response to an uncharacteristically difficult question in a TV interview. Ignoring the question completely, Arafat turned directly to the camera and simply said, “Occupation, occupation, occupation!” This slogan had nothing to do with the question nor is “occupation” the root cause of the conflict, but the consistent repetition of this slogan by Palestinian spokesmen over decades has been an extremely effective tool in demonizing Israel.
Occupation has become the lens through which most of the world now views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the root cause of Israel’s pariah status and ever-increasing isolation. Acceptance of the false portrayal of Jews as foreign occupiers in their ancient homeland is the reason that Jewish settlements there are viewed as a violation of international law. Occupation is the original sin justifying every Palestinian atrocity, in the minds of their apologists, as the understandable rage of an occupied people.
Israel’s supporters have been spectacularly unsuccessful in attempting to counter this simple and effective slogan by resorting to necessarily more complex explanations of the historical facts. A far more effective tactic would be to encapsulate the true cause of the conflict into a simple, memorable message of our own: The ultimate goal of the Palestinian movement and its supporters is, and has always been, genocide against the Jews of Israel.
Accepting the enemy’s false definition of Jews as foreign occupiers, we lose the argument going in. We win the public debate by reframing the conflict around its true cause: the Palestinian campaign of genocide against the Jews of Israel. If we continue to allow the Palestinians to frame the conflict as a struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation the delegitimization of Israel will continue apace and ultimately lay the groundwork for their genocidal goals. If we remain apathetic in the face of Israel’s delegitimization, the next step will be genocide.
If Jewish history teaches us anything it is that we ignore at our peril those who advocate genocide against us. To paraphrase Hillel: If we don’t state our case who will? It is time that Israel’s supporters took a page from our Palestinian enemy’s campaign against Israel and boil our message down to a single, but in our case true, and even more emotionally powerful word, and repeat it at every opportunity. The answer to “Occupation, occupation, occupation” is “Genocide, genocide, genocide!”
Devin Sper of Scottsdale lived in Israel for 10 years and has a degree in Jewish history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.