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Pro-Palestine Protests Are Not Antisemitic

Ouissal Harize Ouissal Harize
29th October 2023
Pro-Palestine Protests Are Not Antisemitic
The Pro-Palestine movement aligns with movements like Black Lives Matter (Getty)

On October 28, massive demonstrations unfolded across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where people gathered to show solidarity with Palestinians amid escalating military actions by Israel in Gaza. A significant number of protesters convened in London, urging the U.K. government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to advocate for an immediate ceasefire.

Protesters expressed their discontent, emphasizing that current global powers are not making substantial efforts to alleviate the situation. Their calls focused on advocating for the fundamental human rights of Palestinians and emphasizing their right to existence and peaceful living conditions.

Several pro-israel accounts have scathingly criticized the pro-Palestine protests, deeming them as “pro-Hamas,” “pro-terrorism,” and “antisemitic.”

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A crucial discussion that arises within this context is the distinction between the movement being anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. 

The History of Pro-Palestine Protests Worldwide

Pro-Palestine protests have a rich history that stretches across various continents, embodying a global solidarity movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, the world witnessed a surge in pro-Palestine sentiments, intertwined with broader anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements. The resonance of the Palestinian struggle with various global causes, from civil rights in the United States to anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa, forged transnational networks of solidarity.

During the First and Second Intifadas, global protests and movements in solidarity with Palestine became more prominent and widespread. Universities, institutions, and cities worldwide became arenas where the discourse on Palestinian rights was fervently discussed and debated. More recently, the pro-Palestine protests have seen a resurgence with the advent of social media, enabling a broader reach and engagement.

The pro-Palestine movement has also seen a symbiosis with broader human rights movements like Black Lives Matter, creating intersectional platforms that accentuate the universality of struggles against oppression and injustice.

The Witch-hunt of Pro-Palestine Activists

In the heated arena of activism and discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, labels often paint targets on the backs of those who dare to raise voices in support of the Palestinian cause. The label of anti-Semitism, a severe and unequivocal charge, has unfortunately been weaponized in certain instances against activists who identify as pro-Palestine. This has led to the "cancellation" or unjust condemnation of individuals and groups, stifling voices and creating a chilling effect on discourse related to the conflict.

Numerous activists have found themselves at the receiving end of such cancellations, where their motives have been questioned, characters maligned, and platforms jeopardized. They have been barred from speaking at events, faced social media de-platforming, and have had to bear undue scrutiny and criticism. This has raised concerns about the space available for open and empathetic discussions surrounding the Palestinian cause and the broader conflict.

The individuals subjected to these cancellations have often been those who critique the policies and actions of the Israeli government, advocating for Palestinian rights and self-determination. Their criticisms have been misconstrued or misrepresented as attacks on the Jewish community, rather than as expressions of opposition to specific political decisions and actions.

Angela Davis, a relentless warrior against various forms of oppression, has ceaselessly fought battles against racial, gender, and class injustices. A significant chapter in her journey of activism has been her unwavering support for the Palestinian cause, reflecting a profound solidarity that transcends geographical boundaries.

Davis has expressed solidarity with Palestine by participating in delegations, speaking at conferences, and engaging in various platforms to amplify the voices of the oppressed. She sees parallels between the struggles faced by African Americans and Palestinians, particularly in terms of systemic injustices, police violence, and the fight for dignity and freedom.

In her advocacy, Davis has emphasized the importance of a global solidarity movement that transcends national borders, recognizing the interconnectedness of diverse struggles against oppression. Her commitment to the Palestinian cause illustrates her belief in a holistic approach to justice and equality, where the liberation of one group is intertwined with the liberation of all.

Davis has been a proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, viewing it as a non-violent tool to challenge Israeli policies and promote Palestinian rights. Her support for BDS aligns with her historical activism, echoing the spirit of boycott movements against apartheid in South Africa. Angela Davis was accused of antisemitism, which led to some of her awards being revoked, an action that was deemed unfair even by the Jewish community. 

Following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, other activists who stood up for Palestine faced a very violent backlash. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg faced backlash after posting a photo on social media expressing solidarity with Gaza. The photo included signs reading "Free Palestine" and "Stand with Gaza," among others. Critics argued she didn’t show solidarity with Israel or acknowledge recent attacks by Hamas. 

Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism

Distinguishing between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is pivotal in comprehending the core of pro-Palestine protests. Anti-Semitism is a form of prejudice and discrimination against Jews, rooted in hatred and fueled by stereotypes and myths. It is unequivocally condemnable, having manifested through various horrifying epochs in history, including the Holocaust.

Anti-Zionism, on the other hand, is a political stance that opposes the establishment and expansion of the state of Israel as a manifestation of Jewish nationalism. It critiques the political ideology and the policies that have led to the displacement and suffering of the Palestinian people.

Pro-Palestine protests primarily center around anti-Zionism, opposing policies and actions of the Israeli government that infringe upon Palestinian rights and sovereignty. The critiques are directed towards a political entity and its actions, not against the Jewish community or faith.

Many Jewish activists marched in solidarity with Palestine throughout the entire world, chanting to cease fire immediately and warning the Israeli government to not commit a genocide in their name. 

Rabbi Miriam Grossman of Kolot Chayeinu congregation in Brooklyn, New York, delivered a moving oration that resonated deeply with an audience collectively coping with the trauma of lost lives while striving to curb further tragedies.

"I am profoundly connected with everyone present today. My empathy particularly extends to those who are grieving the tragic and violent loss of someone dear," she conveyed, acknowledging the multitude of recent Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

"We are engulfed in an enduring whirlpool of mortality, aggression, and trepidation that has historical roots, yet is intensifying presently. Our gathering here transcends the mere acts of lamenting and seeking divine intervention. We assemble here, embodying the spirit of American Jewry, to robustly communicate to our administration: Not in our name," Grossman articulated, sparking a powerful chorus from the assemblage, echoing: “Not in our name.”

Jews Against Zionism

A segment of the Jewish community has historically opposed and continues to resist the Zionist ideology. This opposition ranges from religious groups who believe that the establishment of a Jewish state before the arrival of the Messiah is theologically erroneous, to individuals and groups who critique Zionism from a secular, anti-nationalist, or human rights perspective. These voices argue that Zionism diverges from Jewish values of justice and peace and criticize the movement for entangling Jewish identity with a political nationalism that has led to the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people.

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Demonstrators march from the BBC in Portland place to Downing street on October 14, 2023 in London, England (Getty)

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