Jewish Studies Professors for Palestine

, Richard Cravatts, 1 Comment

Seeming to give credence to what wry Professor Edward Alexander referred to as the “explosive power of boredom” among some members of the professoriate, around 400 “professors of Jewish Studies in North and South America, Europe, and Israel” recently published and signed “A Letter on Annexation and Apartheid in Israel.”

The opening paragraph of this odious, virtue-signaling screed reveals that these so-called professors of Jewish Studies are either ignorant of history, law, and fact or are so biased against the Jewish state that they are unable to assess what is strategically and politically necessary for Israel to do to secure its rightful sovereignty.

When they say that they “write in opposition to the continuation of the occupation and the stated intention of the current elected government in Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, thereby formally (de jure) creating apartheid conditions in Israel and Palestine,” they use the very language of those waging a cognitive war against Israel. Only propagandists or people who are naive and ignorant of history and fact use the word Palestine to describe a factitious state that exists only in the minds of Israel’s enemies, and the fact that it is used here, along with references to an illegal occupation and a state of apartheid rule that Israel will supposedly impose after the annexation, indicates that these professors are on the wrong side of the ideological fence when they are assessing Israel’s diplomacy and politics.

The letter, specifically, claims that “the establishment of Jewish settlements in occupied territories captured in 1967 already stands in direct violation of the consensus view in international law,” but that legally-incorrect opinion is held only by a “consensus” of mistaken diplomatic, political, and anti-Israel elites in the West who have contorted international law to support their own biased interpretation of Israel’s legal rights..

In fact, these professor are still clearly promoting the faulty historical assumptions and misreading of law that have animated the settlement debate, and continue to ignore the fact that not only all of the land that is current day Israel, but also Gaza and the West Bank, is part of the land granted to the Jews as part of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which recognized the right of the Jewish people to “close settlement” in a portion of those territories gained after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

According to Eugene V. Rostow, the late legal scholar and one of the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242 written after the 1967 war to outline peace negotiations (to which the professors incorrectly refer in making their faulty argument), “the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors,” something which Israel’s intransigent Arab neighbors have never seemed prepared to do and which the professors here clearly wish to ignore, since that would mean that the Palestinian Arabs would have to also be blamed for the absence of a state of their own, not just Israel.

The Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel recaptured Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, resulted in Israel being cast in the perfidious role ascribed to it in this letter— that in addition to being a colonial usurper of Arab land, the Jewish state has become a brutal “occupier” of Arab Palestine, lands to which the Jews presumably had no right and now occupy, in the opinion of these professors and others, illegally.

But when did the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem become Palestinian land? The answer is: never. In fact, when Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza and other territories in 1967 after being attacked by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, the Jewish state gained legally recognized title to those areas. In Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, Egypt, it will be recalled, illegally annexed Gaza at the same time Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank — actions that were not recognized by most of the international community as legitimate in establishing their respective sovereignties. Israel’s recapture of those territories in 1967, noted Professor Stephen Schwebel, State Department legal advisor and later the President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, designated the Jewish state as what is referred to as the High Contracting Party of those territories, both because they were acquired in a defensive, not aggressive, war, and because they were part of the original Mandate for Palestine and not previously under the sovereignty of any other High Contracting Party. “Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully,” Schwebel wrote, referring to Jordan and Egypt, “the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-­defense has, against that prior holder, better title.”

Moreover, the fact that these professors carelessly refer to “apartheid” and “crimes against humanity” when projecting Israel’s future is ludicrous, given that Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more civil and human rights and protection under law than do their Arab brethren in any surrounding state. How folding Jewish communities in the biblical homeland of the Jews into present-day Israel can constitute a crime against humanity degrades the very definition of the phrase and contemptibly, and inaccurately, ascribes barbaric and immoral behavior to Israel.

There was, as these professors of Jewish Studies should well know, never a state called Palestine, only a territory, and only pro-Palestinian activists refer to Palestine as some type of established sovereignty. The professors refer to the settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal, something which only anti-Israel activists repeatedly do, but which is not a valid legal position, only one of propaganda and ideology. The fact is that the settlements in Judea and Samaria that Netanyahu is considering annexing into Israel proper are Jewish neighborhoods that even as early as Camp David in 2000 were destined to be folded back into Israel, along with appropriate land swaps to the Palestinians to compensate them for any lost land. The Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria that would be annexed under this current plan are distinct from the Palestinian Arab areas of the so-called West Bank that would comprise the new Palestinian state, assuming the Arabs ever actually have the resolve and desire to let such a state come into being.

In fact, Professor Emeritus Jerold Auerbach of Wellesley College has written that, protests from these professors and many in the West aside, “Israeli settlement throughout the West Bank is explicitly protected by international agreements dating from the World War I era, subsequently reaffirmed after World War II, and never revoked since . . . The [Mandate for Palestine] recognized ‘the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and ‘the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country’ . . . This was not framed as a gift to the Jewish people; rather, based on recognition of historical rights reaching back into antiquity, it was their entitlement.”

Most absurd is the letter’s facile claim that “the impact of annexation will be a destructive intensification of political polarization, hatred and mutual recrimination, and deepening wedges in Jewish society,” and, the professors ominously predict, “an inevitable spike in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia . . . .”

What is their theory here? That Israel’s re-annexation of lands over which it has sovereignty and legal rights will cause an uptick in Jew-hatred from the Arab world? That the Arabs who have been murdering Jews since the 1920s, even before the birth of Israel, and have continued that jihad with suicide bombings, rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, stabbings, ramming with vehicles, incendiary kites, and lethal stone throwing are suddenly going to hate Jews more and wish to murder them more frequently if annexation occurs?

And from where do these professors believe the dreaded Islamophobia will arise as a by-product of annexation? If they are referring to Israelis’ rational and understandable condemnation of a religion that urges its adherents to become martyrs in the cause of jihad and to relentlessly strive to kill Jews, then, yes, perhaps if the Palestinians and their supporters encourage a continuation of this psychopathy, there could be resentment and hatred toward a people trying to extirpate Israel and its citizenry.

It is easy to demonize Israel and critique its strategy and politics, and certainly it requires no bravery in academia, where moral narcissists console each other in an echo chamber of good intentions, willing to sacrifice academic integrity, true scholarship, and the safety and viability of the Jewish state in the process.

Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews (A David Horowitz Freedom Center book).