York University's Israel/Palestine Conference: Speaker Political Profiles - Behind the Academic Facade
York University (Toronto) has announced plans to hold a conference entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” (June 22-24, 2009). The conference organizers claim to have developed an academic framework in which speakers will provide a “robust academic critique of the deficiencies, promise, and perils of the range of prospective models of statehood,” including “models based on two states or a single binational state, federal and con-federal approaches, and other models in between and beyond.”
However, the vast majority of the speakers listed on the programme are virulent anti-Israel activists, far removed from an academic approach. There is no evidence of the “robust academic critique” claimed by the organizers. As NGO Monitor’s research demonstrates (see below), many speakers are among the leaders of the “soft war” which seeks to attack Israel using labels like “apartheid” – reflecting the tendentious and highly politicized agenda. Similarly, their support for a “one state solution” (see below) is the equivalent of calling for the elimination of the State of Israel. Such activity exacerbates the conflict and is the antithesis of the academic examination of different perspectives on the “paths to peace,” as claimed in the conference headline.
Political activities and quotes from publications by 15 conference speakers (with sources in links):
Ali Abunimah heads a propaganda internet site known as the “Electronic Intifada”, featuring articles such as “Why Israel won’t survive”. Abunimah is also affiliated with a political organization (PCHR) based in Gaza that systematically distorts and exploits the language of human rights – also to attack Israel. Abunimah’s groups frequently condone Palestinian terrorism using the euphemism of “resistance” and terms like “apartheid” and “racist” in reference to Israel – the exact opposite of promoting compromise and a two state solution.
Jeff Halper runs the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions which regularly uses demonization rhetoric unrelated to housing issues. Halper has said that “the next phase of the struggle for a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is “an international campaign for a single state”. Halper also regularly dismisses Israeli security concerns claiming that “the barrier is a political border, not a security device”. An Israeli columnist recently witnessed Halper telling his listeners “that Israel is actually a force that serves world capitalism, in the framework of the attempt to make enormous populations in the world disappear.”
Omar Barghouti is an ardent supporter of the one-state solution, who has written: “Good riddance! The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial and we can all move on and explore the more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine: the one-state solution,” including the right of return. Barghouti employs “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “colonialism” rhetoric in his attacks on Israel. He is also a major proponent of anti-Israel boycotts.
Uri Davis calls himself a Palestinian Hebrew, and labels the Israeli-Arab conflict “[a] classic apartheid construction…between a settler-colonial state and an indigenous population dispossessed by the colonial project.” Davis also claims that “[w]hat the wall today represents is an attempt by the government of the State of Israel to cap the expulsion – the ethnic cleansing – perpetrated in the course of the 1948-49 war with a Bantustan solution for the rest of the country.” Uri Davis is also involved with Miftah, a group which disseminates the “Palestinian narrative and discourse globally.” Miftah has characterized Palestinian terrorists as “activists” and suicide bombings as “resistance”.
Adam Hanieh is a member of the Al Awda Right of Return Group and has termed the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario decision to “participate in the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel” as a “step forward in the struggle against Israeli apartheid.” Hanieh has also worked for Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS), a group that exploits children’s rights, manipulates international law, and campaigns against Israel in the UN and other international forums. During the Gaza fighting, DCI/PS launched a website called “Gaza under attack” with news articles, videos and “figures and stories” about Israel’s “illegal act of aggression.”
Hazem Jamjoum is the Communications Officer for Badil, a radical NGO that promotes the so-called “right of return.” According to Badil, “the struggle against Israel’s colonial apartheid regime is one of the cornerstones of the struggle against state-sponsored racism and ongoing colonial policies worldwide.” Badil has been a leader in the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement to isolate Israel internationally and encouraged “journalists to organize a targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation.” Jamjoum has also chaired the Al Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition in Canada, and helped organize Israeli Apartheid Week in 2005 and 2006 at the University of Toronto.
Naeem Jeenah is the spokesperson for the South African Palestine Solidarity Committee, which demonizes Israel with rhetoric such as, “end the massacre in Gaza” and “isolate apartheid Israel.” Jeenah has written that “Israel is, quite simply, an apartheid ethnocracy” and argued that “[t]he only solution…is a single bi-national state.” Jeenah has also claimed that “[c]learly, Zionism is a theory of ethnic cleansing and racism” and referred to Israeli “state terrorism.”
George Bisharat is a Palestinian activist, who has served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian Authority. He campaigns for boycotts of Israel, claiming “[i]f boycotting apartheid South Africa was appropriate, it is equally fair to boycott Israel on a similar record.” Bisharat promotes the Palestinian narrative, asserting the so-called “right of return” and other dubious allegations.
Efrat Ben-Ze’ev is an activist with Ta’ayush an NGO which campaigns on behalf of the Palestinian narrative, using demonizing language (references to the Israeli “siege” and “apartheid wall”), supporting boycotts and sanctions against Israel, and instigating confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Ben-Ze’ev also participated in a conference organized by Sabeel, a radical, Christian, Palestinian NGO. Ben-Ze’ev addressed Israeli views on the “Nakba” and advocated higher Israeli exposure to “the Palestinian rendering of 1948.”
Dana Olwan has referred to “Zionist myths” and the “apartheid wall.” She has also accused Israel of “targeting and collective punishment of Palestinian civilians,” and claimed that Israel’s creation “was legitimized through racist Zionist narratives.” Olwan has also argued that “Israel continues to employ racist and exclusionary legislative policies that prevent the seven million Palestinians living in the diaspora from returning to their homeland.” Olwan is the national chair of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, which supported Israeli Apartheid Week.
Qumsiyeh co-founded the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, was on the steering committee of the US Campaign to End the Occupation and has been actively involved with BoycottIsraeliGoods.org and Sabeel North America – the NGO behind the church divestment movement. He refers to the Palestinians as the “victims of Israeli colonialism” and the “apartheid wall.” Qumsiyeh’s website features a large image of all of Israel and the Palestinian Authority without borders, indicative of his support for a “one-state solution.”
Marc H. Ellis
Marc Ellis uses Jewish symbols and language to promote a radical post-colonial ideology. He ascribes to a “Jewish theology of liberation,” accusing Zionism of representing “Constantinian Judaism” – “colonialism and imperialism.” Ellis frequently employs Nazi analogies in reference to Israel: “what the Nazis had not succeeded in accomplishing…we as Jews have embarked upon”; “[t]o speak of the Holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews.” At Sabeel conferences, Ellis reportedly “display[ed] images of a helicopter gunship flying out of the Torah to document how Israeli use of force and sovereignty has affected Jewish identity.”
Michael Lynk supports the use of “law as a weapon” against alleged Israeli breaches of international law. Lynk previously participated in a conference called “[o]ne State for Palestine/Israel: A country for all its citizens,” where he envisioned details of how a “one-state solution” (meaning the elimination of the state of Israel) would operate. The conference statement claimed that “the Israelis continue to extend the two-state solution discourse primarily to pursue sustained confiscation of Palestinian land and to pressure Palestinians to leave in order to reduce the proportion of Palestinians to Israeli Jews.”
Smadar Lavie is a founding member of the The Coalition Against Apartheid in Israeli Anthropology. Lavie has written that “Israel concurrently continues to plan and execute the socio-cide of both public and intimate spheres of the West Bank and Gaza… reaping the temporary unity of the Jewish victim-turned-warrior nation-state.” She has demonized Israel with rhetoric of “heinous carnage” and “genocide.”
Nadim Rouhana is the head of Mada al-Carmel, an Israeli-Arab NGO that also helped compose a “statement of a collective vision that Palestinian citizens in Israel articulate about themselves” called the “Haifa Declaration” which refers to the “Zionist… colonial-settler project in Palestine,” calls for the Right of Return, expresses a one-state vision, and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the “tragedy” of the Holocaust “to legitimize the right of the Jews to establish a state at the expense of the Palestinian people”. Mada el-Carmel is part of the Ittijah coalition which used the rhetoric of “massacre,” “genocide,” and “extermination camp” regarding the Gaza War.
Rafeef Ziadah – anti-Israel activist based in Toronto, works for SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now), member of the “Coalition against Israeli Apartheid” which supports BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions), writes for “Electronic Intifada”. Ziadah uses demonizing language that refers to Israel as a “settler-colonial project” with a “system of apartheid”, and participated in the York University Israeli Apartheid Week.
Leila Farsakh supports a one-state solution and claims that “[t]he area is heading to the abyss of an apartheid state system rather than to a viable two-state solution, let alone peace”. Farsakh also edited a book called “Commemorating the Naksa [term refers to results of the 1967 war] Evoking the Nakba” which claims that “the wall” “signaled the existence of the last apartheid regime of the 21st century” and says that Israel turned “the territories” into “incarceration camps” (Editor’s Note p.8). The book is dedicated to the memory of pro-Palestinian activist Prof. Edward Said. Frakash is also Assistant Professor of Political Science at University of Massachusetts, Boston.