SJP against Israel
SJP against IsraelWilliam Stadtwald Demchick

In yet another astounding display of journalistic malfeasance, on November 11th you published an editorial entitled, “‘Israel Discovery Trip’ whitewashes human rights abuses.”

In it, you not only denounced the informational trip as “little more than a whitewashed tour of a state actively involved in settler-colonialism and apartheid,” but used the editorial (the third anti-Israel editorial the paper has run in the past 12 months) to toss about carelessly, and inaccurately, a litany of mendacious slurs against the Jewish state.

Not only did you denounce Israel’s self-defense as illegal, overly aggressive, and tantamount to war crimes, but you employed the tired, loaded language of Israel’s cognitive enemies, language which includes such terms, when describing Israel, as “colonial,” “occupation,” “siege,” “ethnic cleansing,” “settlements,” “settler violence,” “racism,” as well as the favorite slur leveled against the Jewish state that it is enforcing a new form of “apartheid” and that a country called “Palestine” will be “liberated” as a result of global advocacy for the Palestinian cause.

In fact, your editorial was replete with this identical vocabulary of falsehoods, contortions, historical inaccuracies, and a breathtaking dearth of facts, logic, and context. All of the damning allegations against Israel were presented as fact, when they are not, and there was a critical lack of nuance about the conflict, not the least of which is the Palestinian Arabs' own behavior and the Jew-hatred and genocidal ideology that animates their cause.

You began by attacking the very motives of the tour, audaciously warning the UConn community that they will be complicit in the long list of Israel’s predations if they support the trip at all—even though such trips not only benefit Jewish students by inspiring a deep connection with Israel, but also help to provide students with an accurate, and realistic, view of the facts on the ground, and how and where Palestinian Arabs and Israelis live amicably with one another. Birthright Israel trips, offered to young, first-time visitors to Israel, are valuable and inspiring for the same reasons.

Yet you sarcastically, and inaccurately, described the trip as a tactic to obscure Israel’s offenses, and you asked rhetorically “ . . . whether students will have the opportunity to ‘discover’ the human rights violations committed against Palestinians, whether they will ‘hear from’ refugees displaced by the systematic and illegal settlement of Palestinian lands or if they will get to ‘explore’ the Israeli military’s blockade and imprisonment of Gaza.” Though you rattled off each of these allegations as fact, your language parrots exactly the rhetoric of Israel haters on campus and off, and the kindest thing that can be said about them is that they are mendacious propaganda—certainly not what would be essential in an editorial in a newspaper read by people with valid views of the conflict that differ substantively from the one-sided narrative you presented here.

There is, for example, no “systematic and illegal settlement of Palestinian lands” because whether you are referring to either Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank') and Gaza, or actually mean, as many of your fellow travelers in the destroy-Israel crowd do, all of present-day Israel as well, that territory was never Palestinian Arab land. A people called Palestinians never populated a sovereign entity called Palestine—even though in the fantasies of anti-Israel activists this was an Arab state that will one day be “liberated,” meaning that the wish of the five Arab nations that attempted to destroy the nascent Jewish state in 1948 will finally be realized.

Errors of fact and history aside, the most damning revelation in your editorial was the admission that, in this editorial and earlier ones, you were not only voicing the radical anti-Israel rhetoric of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), but spoke in a unified voice—even echoing verbatim the ahistorical and factually incorrect slanders against Israel. “As UConn Students for Justice in Palestine and the Editorial Board have previously amplified,” you unashamedly announced, “major UConn Dodd Center for Human Rights partner Amnesty International has even recognized Israel as an apartheid regime,” yet another falsehood promulgated by a notoriously and obsessively anti-Israel organization.

Supporting SJP can never, and would never, solve any of the defects in the Palestinian Arab cause, since SJP, in reality, is not a pro-Palestinian Arab group; it is only an anti-Israel group.
That you rely solely on background information and facts about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from SJP, and even speak in one voice with them without any balance with pro-Israel views, revealed a significant flaw in both your argument and journalistic ethics. Apparently, that did not discourage you from publishing another slanderous editorial in February, “UConn should listen to Students for Justice in Palestine,” in which you again endorsed the corrosive group and amplified their anti-Semitic ideology.

After UConn’s interim president Radenka Maric announced a trip to Israel, accompanied by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and other state representatives to “focus on increasing connections between [Connecticut] and members of Israel’s innovation ecosystem,” SJP members took it upon themselves to organize a protest, and the biased, one-sided editorial in which you covered the event tendentiously asked, “What are the UConn administration’s values? Do they support human rights, the grievances of Palestinian students and concerned community members or do they support Israel?” as if there was not a choice to support both.

Your editorial found fault with the entire cooperative trip, of course, even while you admitted that “Partnership with the Israeli state, Israeli companies, weapons manufacturers and other domestic entities collaborating with the apartheid regime all generate lots of revenue for UConn.” Even though these business/academic trade missions help the flow of intellectual and human capital back and forth, your editorial, speaking on behalf of SJP, it seemed, ignored the positive outcomes of such trips. Instead, you seemed to call upon the UConn community to help this mission to Israel and any others to fail. You called for “community support of SJP” because that, in your puerile fantasies, “is how the occupation of Palestine, the Israeli apartheid regime and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians will become unprofitable and unbeneficial for the state of Israel and the University of Connecticut.”

Putting aside the inane statement that there is an “occupation of Palestine,” supporting SJP can never, and would never, solve any of the defects in the Palestinian Arab cause, since SJP, in reality, is not a pro-Palestinian Arab group; it is only an anti-Israel group.

  • It never advises the Palestinian Arabs to abandon terrorism as an integral part of their culture and as a tactic for achieving statehood.

  • It never encourages Palestinian Arabs to end incitement, stop teaching their children to despise Jews, and end making martyrs out of those young men committing themselves to the murder of Israelis.

  • It never counsels Palestinian Arab leadership or diplomats to enter into peace negotiations with Israel and end the intransigence that has characterized Palestinian self-determination.

No, instead you delude yourselves into thinking that by merely supporting the hateful mission of SJP to weaken and destroy Israel you will ameliorate the plight of Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza and the 'West Bank', and that Palestine will somehow be liberated and transformed into a state superior to the sole democracy in the Middle East.

In this delusion about the history and economic growth of the Jewish state you also posited the bizarre notion that, in addition to the long list of crimes and misdeeds of Israel you created, there is another which exposes the hallucinatory aspect of your false narrative about Israel and the Palestinian Aras.

“The wealth and economic capital of the Israeli state,” you wrote, “which benefits UConn and Connecticut through various partnerships, is based upon the expropriation of land and resources from Palestinians [emphasis added].” Really? What land and resources were expropriated? The sand dunes in Tel Aviv that were transformed into a modern, economically and socially vibrant modern city the size of Miami? Israel’s robust economy characterized by entrepreneurial success stories and state-of-the-art tech, medical advances, and 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”? Or were they Israel’s 9577 high-tech companies which in the first eight months of 2022 have raised $12.7 billion?

Last year, you published yet another editorial applauding SJP and defending their behavior and rhetoric at a demonstration that was counter-protested by UConn’s Hillel. The November 9th editorial, “In support of Students for Justice in Palestine,” noted that SJP “held a rally last week to bring attention to injustices in Palestine” and “[s]peakers discussed the oppression and violence experienced by the Palestinian people, the connection of our university to such injustices and the role of community members in supporting Palestine’s fight for freedom.”

Troubling to you, apparently, was the fact that UConn Hillel “also held a demonstration nearby in direct opposition to the ideas behind UConn SJP;” in other words, Hillel attempted to provide a balance to the debate by presenting its own views and facts relevant to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, something missing in each of three editorials discussed here.

According to your editorial, SJP’s rally was for “supporting Palestine’s fight for freedom,” the assumption, a false one, as mentioned, being that there was, and is, a country called Palestine lived in by a people called Palestinians. The creation and existence of Israel, the editorial asserted, has meant that “Palestine is being subject to an ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli state,” and that “To this day, colonization, land-grabbing and expulsion are the norm for Palestinians.”

Israel, as you should know, was never the colony of any other nation and whatever land it comprises was either always Jewish land—purchased or acquired—and, in the case of Judea and Samaria (the so-called 'West Bank'), won legally in a defensive war. To Israel’s enemies, all of the land of the Jewish state is colonized land, Muslim territory illegally usurped by Zionists, an instance of “land grabbing” to create and grow a Greater Israel, but to make these false claims as the basis for an editorial argument is a defective and mendacious tactic.

“We are obligated to engage with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine in a respectful, supportive way,” your editorial asserted, a particularly ironic statement given SJP’s dismal record of being respectful of any other groups on campus, especially pro-Israel ones.

SJP has a long history since its founding in 1993 of bringing vitriolic anti-Israel speakers to their respective campuses (now over 200 chapters), and for sponsoring Israeli Apartheid Weeks, shutting down pro-Israel speech, sponsoring BDS resolutions, and sending mock eviction notices to students in their dorms to help them empathize with Palestinians.

In fact, your editorial played defense for SJP by attacking Hillel for distributing brochures in the counter-demonstration it sponsored during the SJP rally. The brochure had language from the Hamas Charter, including the specific charter articles which call for the replacement of Israel, no negotiations with Jews, that Islam must dominate, that all of 'Palestine' should be Islamic, and that it is the sacred duty of Muslims to kill Jews wherever they may be. That is the exact ideology that has inspired the unrelenting terrorism against Israelis, but your editorial suggested that Hillel’s distributing the brochure with these grotesque quotations was not helpful for understanding the ideology of Israel’s genocidal foes but “deeply problematic.” Why is that? Because, your editorial claimed, SJP’s event “was not demonstrating support of Hamas but in support of the liberation of Palestine.” But SJP and Hamas are working for the same objective: extirpating the Jewish state.

While campus free speech is enshrined as one of the university’s chief principles, these examples of your biased, factually incorrect editorials show us that it rarely occurs as free speech for everyone, only for a certain few who feel they are morally and rationally more fit to express themselves than their ideological opposites.

Biases are to be expected in the general marketplace of ideas; in pages of newspapers, however, editorial bias, coupled with the exclusion of alternate views, is an intellectually corrupt practice that violates the very spirit and purpose of journalism.

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Jew-Hatred Rising: The Perversities of the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.