Yehuda HaKohen, who has worked widely with students on American university campuses for pro-Israel causes, provides a succinct answer-kit to counter Israel Apartheid Week claims.
HaKohen, who immigrated to Israel from the U.S. in 2001, is the Director-General of the Zionist Freedom Alliance, an activist movement that advocates the Jewish People’s moral, legal and historic rights to the entire Land of Israel.
“Those who accuse Israel of practicing apartheid,” HaKohen told Israel National News, “essentially claim that Zionists are European colonialists who came from abroad to uproot and oppress the indigenous Arabs of Palestine. The answers that we provide are simple and straightforward, and can be summed up in three points.”
HaKohen’s first point is that any Zionists who came from Europe “were only in Europe to begin with because of a great injustice perpetrated against their ancestors by Roman imperialists who invaded their country, destroyed their Temple, uprooted them from their soil and exiled them from their land. By returning to Palestine, which is their ancestral homeland, they are correcting this historic injustice.”
Arab MK Ahmed Tibi just recently repeated, in the Knesset, the position that Jews have no rights to the Land of Israel. “Last in, first out,” he said, referring to the supposed “late” arrival of the Jews compared to the Arabs. In actuality, as Joan Peters has written (From Time Immemorial, page 169), “Of the sparse population who were later counted as 'original' settled 'Arabs' in the 19th century when the arriving Jewish immigrants united with the native Palestinian Jewish population, many were in fact imported Muslim peoples from Turkey and other lands... Kurds, Turcomans, Naim, and other colonists arrived in Palestine around the same time as the Jewish immigration wave began…”
HaKohen’s second point, related to the above, is that Jews have always had a strong presence in the Holy Land, and particularly in the cities of Gaza, Hevron, Tzfat and Jerusalem. “In 1844, when the first modern census was carried out, Jerusalem was shown to have a Jewish majority – and from that year until 1948, there is not one recorded instance of Jews driving Arabs out from anywhere or destroying any Arab community. Unfortunately the same cannot be said in the opposite direction. In 1929, the ancient Jewish communities of Hevron and Gaza city, where Jews had lived for centuries, were attacked by local Arabs and forcibly expelled by the British who then occupied our country. Many of the accusations made by anti-Israel activists are actually true in reverse. Arab violence encouraged by the British forced Jews from their homes and destroyed their communities.”
HaKohen is not naïve, however: “The truth is that in the 1948 war, many Arabs were forced to flee their homes and many Arab communities were destroyed – but the same was true for many Jewish communities in Palestine during that war. Jews were forced to flee from places like Kfar Darom, Kfar Etzion and the Old City of Jerusalem, which we know had a Jewish majority for at least 104 years. Many Jewish and Arab communities were destroyed in that war. Unfortunately this is often the nature of war.”
In addition to the fact that the war was started by the Arab countries, it is known that many of the Arab residents who left Israel at the time did so at the behest of the Arab nations that encouraged them to leave temporarily and return later as victors.
“And all this is without even mentioning the roughly 850,000 Jewish refugees who were forced to flee their homes in Arab countries during that war,” HaKohen added. “In some cases, like Iraq for example, the Jewish communities had predated the Arab presence in these lands. They were forced to leave all of their property behind and were lucky to escape to Israel with their lives.”
HaKohen sees an acute need to train Jewish students on U.S. campuses to present a Zionist narrative to their politically active peers. “We had representation on 20 campuses at one point,” he said, “but many students graduated and made Aliyah to Israel without effectively recruiting underclassmen to fill their shoes. We are on fewer campuses today but are currently training a new crop of student leaders to spread our message of Jewish national rights. This is the challenge of this generation and it requires great dedication and sacrifice. The Zionist Freedom Alliance seeks out students willing to do more than just participate in some token pro-Israel activities while they’re busy with their ‘main goal’ of earning a degree. We want young heroes who understand the urgency of our situation and see it as their primary mission on campus to champion the rights of their people. Nearly the entire international community is pushing for the expulsion of all ethnic Jews from their homes in Judea, Samaria and most of Jerusalem. The challenges are enormous and we need to be willing to sacrifice and work hard to prevent this historic crime from taking place. The campuses are a battlefield in the war of ideas and our students need to understand that they are soldiers in the Zionist struggle.”