At Princeton University, the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) has had a busy year of activism with the sole purpose of maligning, libeling, and questioning the legitimacy of Israel.
In March, for example, the group sponsored a referendum that called on Princeton to “immediately halt usage of all Caterpillar machinery in all ongoing campus construction projects given the violent role that Caterpillar machinery has played in the mass demolition of Palestinian [Arab] homes, the murder of Palestinian [Arabs] and other innocent people, and the promotion of the prison-industrial complex (among other atrocities).”
The Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) is the University’s own version of the toxic Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the rabidly anti-Israel organization responsible for most of the campus activism against the Jewish state. It is thus no surprise that PCP’s referendum was peppered with the counterfactual, demonizing language of social justice, oppression, victimization, and Jew-hatred.
That same virulence was on display earlier in the year when in February the PCP held a loud demonstration outside of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL) during which they protested Princeton-sponsored summer programs and internships in Israel.
PCP Vice President Thomas Coulouras urged his fellow students to refuse the opportunity to travel to Israel, that, as he put it, “internship opportunities are not worth turning a blind eye to Palestinian deaths.” And if the message of its protest was not clear, PCP members held placards with the unfortunate but now-familiar tropes about the alleged illegitimacy of Israel, the false allegation of an occupation, and the core fantasy of the anti-Israel crowd that their factitious Palestine will be “free,” “liberated,” in other words, free of Jews and transformed into a binational state in which the Jewish character of Israel will be eliminated along with the elimination of Jewish -determination.
This is the grotesque delusion of PCP and simIilar Jew-hating groups on campus, as evidenced by the puerile slogans on the demonstrators’ posters: “Why intern on stolen land?” “Palestinian liberation is more imp. than your internship . . . Free Palestine,” “From the River to the Sea,” and “Don’t make occupation your occupation.”
Don't go to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East
All of these sentiments, of course, are meant to convince Princeton students to give up an educational and beneficial internship in Israel to please the radicals who hector their peers to show solidarity with the Palestinian Arab cause, which, as experience has shown, is primarily concerned with extirpating the Jewish state.
Just this month, PCP was at it again, this time launching a campaign to urge Princeton students to boycott Israel TigerTrek, intersession trips to Israel during which entrepreneurial students spend “a week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem meeting with the country’s top founders, executives, and investors.” On the 2020 trip, sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurial Council, “the group not only examined Israel's technological and business trends, but also learned how the country's history, politics, culture, and religion contribute to its status as a leader in tech.”
Of course, Israel is the logical choice if students want to be exposed to entrepreneurial success stories and state-of-the-art tech, medical advances as well as military innovations, given that Israel “has more hi-tech start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world and is second only to the US in venture capital funds.” Of Israel’s 9577 high-tech companies, in the first eight months of 2022 startups have raised $12.7 billion.
While the Palestinian Arabs were having “Days of Rage,” paying terrorists hundreds of millions of dollars to murder Jews, and building terror tunnels out of Gaza so that terrorists could infiltrate Israel, instead d of using the billions they get from the world to better their lives, Israelis were developing such life-saving and innovative products as a medical device that can smell disease, a battery-packed ‘exoskeleton,’ a swallowable medical camera, drinking water produced from thin air, and the “original instant messenger.” Israel, then, is the center of the universe for budding entrepreneurs from Princeton and around the world.
But all of that obviously means nothing to PCP. In a November 5th statement, the group “call[ed] upon all Princeton University students to boycott the trip. Your career is not worth supporting apartheid,” the idiotic statement tendentiously proclaimed, the slander of Israel being a racist, apartheid regime being another favorite lie that is promiscuously thrown around in a vile narrative of false accusations [emphasis added].
More to the point for PCP, “If you go on Israel Tiger Trek, you are complicit in the occupation of Palestine.” “Any travel to Israel which normalizes apartheid contributes to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinian homes and land, violent imposition of settlements, military invasions in the West Bank, surveillance, and the killing of children, residents, and journalists reporting unspeakable violence.”
There is, of course, no so-called “occupation of Palestine,” so a student who visits there to enhance his education and career cannot by definition become complicit in it. And when this phrase is used in the cognitive war against Israel, it suggests that not only Gaza and the 'West Bank', but all of present-day Israel is occupied territory, that a never-existed sovereign nation called Palestine was stolen by and is now occupied by racist, brutal Israelis.
And like the sentiments of other Israel-haters who believe the Jewish state is both illegal and immoral, the CPC statement even includes language which justifies and encourages the continuing murder of Jews. “We stand with the Palestinian resistance and their right to defend themselves against the Israeli program of invasion and erasure,” the statement reads, “resistance” being a euphemism for terrorism.
PCP’s hyperfocus on the predations of Israel, while ignoring any defects and murderous inclinations on the part of the Palestinian Arabs, and, equally important, ignoring the more egregious human and civil rights abuses by countries other than Israel is one example of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition.
While that definition states clearly that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” it does suggest that “Applying double standards” to Israel “by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” can be and is often anti-Semitic.
Do go to "liberal and democratic" China
Of course, Princeton students can avail themselves of other international trips, including those offered by Bridge Year, whose “participants in China have an opportunity to explore this societal change through work with organizations that address issues of public health, education, social equality, and environmental protection.” Program materials promise that “Through these experiences and other cultural enrichment activities, participants gain a deep understanding of China’s unique history and culture.”
One wonders why the PCP has not called for a similar boycott on the trips to China, given that for the past 70 years, Tibet has been cruelly occupied by China, and not as the result of a defensive war as is the case with Israel.
The think tank Freedom House has designated Tibet as being one of the worst places to live based on how human and civil rights are denied to Tibetans. “Under the Chinese occupation,” the organization reports, “the Tibetan people are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression and travel.” Yet PCP is silent on China’s misbehavior and this particular occupation.
More terrifying are Beijing’s attempts to suppress and extirpate its Uyghur Muslim ethnic minority group. Millions of Uyghurs are oppressed and many have been forced into imprisonment in China’s re-education camps. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reveals that “Since 2017, more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Turkic Muslim minorities have disappeared into a vast network of ‘re-education camps’ in the far west region of Xinjiang, in what some experts call a systematic, government-led program of cultural genocide.”
Another report catalogs repellent human rights violations by Beijing. “Uighur [sic] women imprisoned in Chinese re-education camps have been subjected to rape, sexual assault, starvation, forced abortions, unsanitary conditions and torture, which includes electrical shock,” it reads. “Some detained in these camps report being forced to strip females naked and handcuff them before leaving them at the mercy of Chinese men . . . Even for Uighurs [sic] living outside the camps, their lives are subjected to surveillance, indoctrination, and in some cases, forced sterilization.”
In a rational and morally balanced world, where woke students could identify human rights offenses elsewhere in the world, a boycott of countries that deprive human rights to its citizens and minority groups would include many nations characterized by their human rights abuses—such as clearly China is. It would certainly not include Israel.
That China is ignored by the PCP at Princeton and only Israel is assailed, maligned, and made into a pariah state for its alleged transgressions is exactly the behavior and speech the IHRA definition was designed to identify.
How does it help one Palestinian Arab if entrepreneurial Princeton students stay home and cancel their TigerTrek trip? How does accusing all students who visit Israel as part of an educational trip as being complicit in apartheid and occupation, both baseless and absurd charges, help them? The obvious answer is that PCP and its fellow travelers only care about the Palestinian Arabs if they can be used as a weapon with which to cudgel Israel in the world community—trafficking in lies, distortions of history and fact, and a corrosive narrative in which the Palestinian Arabs are always the victims and Israelis are always the oppressors.
Richard L. Cravatts,Ph.D. is a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East