We Believe in Israel has published a new booklet “Zionism, Israel, and the Palestinians”, by Professor Alan Johnson. It aims to help all activists engage in a constructive debate about Israel and the Palestinians.
The booklet was written with student activists in mind, as university campuses are often the place where the debate about Israel becomes so emotive and distorted. This is a huge concern. Universities are the place where young people engage with global issues and are a vital part of civil society with an important role supporting Israelis and Palestinians working for a peaceful 'two-state solution' to the conflict.
Students are too often invited to pick sides and participate in a dead-end conflict rather than encourage the two peoples to come together for in respectful dialogue to achieve peace and security. They are urged to cheer and boo, reducing the conflict to a simplistic tale of right and wrong, rather than see it for what it is, a tragic conflict between two peoples, between right and right, as the Israeli novelist Amos Oz put it.
Students are told they must boycott Israel and only Israel. They are rarely urged to consider how to work with Israelis and Palestinians, to encourage mutual recognition and contribute to peace.
It is not surprising that antisemitic incidents have increased. We have witnessed an antisemitism crisis in the Labour party and the new President of the NUS has very unsettling views about Israel, even supporting violent attacks against Israelis.
In the booklet, Professor Johnson argues that if the debate continues in this fraught, divisive and offensive manner such incidents will only increase. He writes that this well-organised extremism is stopping a constructive and serious conversation developing about Israel and the Palestinians. It also prevents the emergence of a positive campus activism in solidarity with the progressive and democratic project of mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians: an activism that helps both parties reach an agreement based on ‘two-states for two peoples’. We, as Israel’s friends, know that it is not perfect. However, the demonised caricature presented by the campus extremists of Israel as a ‘Racist-Imperialist-Apartheid-Nazi-Baby Killing-Genocidal State that controls global media, global politics and global finance’ is beneath contempt.
This important publication aims to create the space for a more constructive conversation and a more productive activism. It challenges the one-sided presentation of Israel as the Bad Guy.
You can download the booklet here.