Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller – who has gotten his share of crap in the past from people who think that support for Israel requires hatred for Palestinians – reports on a speech at UCLA by Omar Barghouti, one of the big machers in the anti-Israel Boycott, Diversture, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. (Here’s another account of the same speech.) According to both accounts, Barghouti proclaimed that there is no such thing as a “Jewish people.” (Ironically, or perhaps deliberately, this echoes the line that used to be popular among the Greater Israel crowd – and still may be, for all I know – denying the peoplehood of Palestinian Arabs.)
Of course denying that a people exists is the first step toward causing it not to exist. So it’s fair to say that Barghouti’s comments were implicitly genocidal. Given his central role in the BDS movement, anyone who supports a BDS resolution – for example, the American Studies Association – now has, it seems to me, an obligation to explictly renounce any sympathy with Barghouti’s project: unless, of course, that person is willing to support genocide. If you aren’t willing to be on that side of the question, perhaps you would like to sign this even-handed statement denouncing threats to academic freedom by the BDS crew and the Israeli right wing alike. (Seidler-Feller goes farther, denouncing the settlements as well.)
Of course the “one state” solution Barghouti and many of his allies are pushing – where the “one state,” encompassing both halves of Mandatory Palestine, would have an overwhelming Arab majority – is already a demand for ethnic cleansing, if not for a complete bloodbath. After all, the Jews have now been driven from every other Arab-majority country, including Egypt (where the Jewish quarter of Alexandria goes back to Alexander), Iraq (where the Jewish population of Baghdad traced its roots back to the Babylonian Captivity in the 7th Century B.C.E.), and Syria (where the Jewish community of Antioch went back to Antiochus): thus all three of those countries had substantial Jewish populations long before they had any Arab inhabitants. In terms of numbers displaced and property seized, the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from Israel in 1948 and from settler territory since – for which I do not think there was, or is, any justification – was certainly no greater than the displacement of Jews from the rest of region.
Barghouti is a flat-out racist. Racism does not justify racism. Those who collaborate with Barghouti in his project of delegitimizing Israel ought to reflect carefully on the company they keep.