On Tuesday I spent an evening at Goldsmiths, University of London. It was my first visit. The talk itself was called ‘Palestine 101’. Like many events that are taking place on campus at the moment, it was designed to convert ‘interested folk’ into ‘dumbed down’, rabid, Israel haters.
The talk was one of the most nonsensical, baseless and insane rants I have yet to hear *from a student* on a university campus. Alessia Cancemi, the Goldsmiths PalSoc president, who led the talk, left every single person in the room more stupid than they had been at the start of the evening. De-education would be a good title for what was delivered.
What I watched was classic institutionalised antisemitism. Hidden behind the argument that anti-Zionism isn’t anything to do with antisemitism, every syllable, every picture, every message, places the vast majority of those listening, at odds exclusively with Jewish rights. The Jewish right to self-determination, the Jewish right to nationhood, the Jewish right to self-defence. All these are denied.
So the evening at Goldsmiths begins and Cancemi needed to tell everyone about boycotting Israel. But first clearly has to impress upon all these newcomers, why Israel is deserving of such hate. It is at this point that the Palestinian narrative is weakest. History is the soft underbelly. Why? Because their narrative has more holes than a warehouse full of Swiss Cheese.
A Goldsmiths ‘history’ lesson
Within seconds we hear that Israel’s population is majority European. It (Israel) apparently has many different types of citizenship. They are kicking Arabs out of East Jerusalem. They are trying to make Jerusalem ‘Jewish only’. Israeli Arabs are subjected to a series of racist laws and segregation. Israeli Arabs are undergoing ethnic cleansing. Israeli Arabs are third class citizens.
We then get told how Israel became a state: 19th century Zionism was a ‘racist settler colonial project’. How Zionism provides a legal justification for an annexation of all the lands, including Gaza. That the 19th century knew a land called ‘Palestine’ and it was ‘thriving’. We were even shown a map! After WW1 the British ‘found themselves’ in control of Palestine. Then Israel was formed in 1948 through ‘pre-meditated’ brutal displacement (classic Palestinian narrative jump there from 1917-1948). Since 1948 Israel has implemented a regime of settler colonialism, apartheid & occupation.
We then get given definitions of settler colonialism and colonialism. Because after all, we have been clearly shown (!) this is what Israeli society is. Israel then gets compared to Australia (white European) New Zealand (white European), Canada (white European) the US (white European) and Algeria (white European colonialism). We never get told how Israel can be compared to ‘white Europe’, when modern Zionism came about to save Jews from the Europeans, the Jewish people originated in the Middle East and the 1930’s saw Jews running to British Palestine to escape a European act of genocide. But hey, the anti-Israeli narrative doesn’t have to make sense.
Remember too that upon arrival in the 1930’s some of these Jewish refugees were slaughtered by Arabs who did not want any more Jews to arrive inside the British Mandate of Palestine. I wonder what Alessia would think of a right wing extremist slaughtering Syrian refugees who arrive on our shores? I wonder what she would think of someone defending that action on a university campus 80 years from now? ‘legitimate resistance’ perhaps? Is she capable of seeing herself when she looks in the mirror?
More Goldsmiths facts and ‘history’
More facts and history follow: The six-day war was basically used by Israel to occupy the West Bank. In 2004 Israel started building a wall which annexes Palestinian land. Then they just placed a siege on Gaza. The people of Gaza have no rights (Israel’s fault?). The ‘wall’ is clearly not for security. Checkpoints also have ‘nothing to do with security’. Israeli Arabs are barred from living in 68% of Israel.
It is impossible to overstate the inaccuracy of the information passed on to other naive students. There is much more that those few points laid out above. And I cannot attack each distortion, each falsehood without creating a post ten thousand words long. The 1967 Six Day War story provides a good example to use. In 1967, the Israelis told Jordan to stay out of the conflict, because Israel did not want to fight them. Alessia reports this as Israel seeking ‘an excuse’ to grab land. Because of the length of the talk, I had to edit much of it out, but you can see for yourself some of the footage here:
I have no idea how far down the dark path to mindless hatred Alessia Cancemi has walked. She has clearly swallowed an almost baseless narrative in its entirety. So far gone now that she even refuses to condemn brutal acts of terror; massacres on buses, in clubs, in pubs, in coffee shops. My friend Dominique, blown to pieces whilst waiting tables in a tourist pub in Tel Aviv, was apparently murdered, not by a radical suicide bomber, but by a ‘legitimate act of resistance’. Of course, the extension of the ‘legitimate’ argument, places 7/7, 9/11, Madrid and so on all within the realms of acceptable behaviour. Although I seriously doubt that Alessia has the internal ability to build cohesive ethical bridges. Hers is a thought process full of inaccuracy, completely lost to hating one specific nation. It is like expecting a computer to function properly once infected with a virus.
Reinforcing antisemitism at Goldsmiths
Cancemi will probably look at this piece as evidence that Zionists target anti-Israeli activists, as part of the mechanism of oppression. It wouldn’t cross her mind, that as a Jew who has lived in Israel, I take personal affront to a privileged, entitled, ‘no-nothing’ student taking action that I believe perpetuates a conflict and places my family in danger. That I understand she is being used, not by those that seek peace, but by those that do not.
Hers will be a rationale reinforcing the antisemitic tropes. Jewish power, Jewish control, sneaky Jews, all legitimised by using the word ‘Zionist’ in place of the word ‘Jew’. Like everything else against Israel in this conflict, the BDS narrative is designed to reinforce antisemitism and Jew hatred.
With hundreds of thousands of people brutally murdered in the Middle East over the last few years, certain sections of our society wish to focus on the only democracy in the Middle East. (Yes, Alessia, I said democracy. Just because you’re repeating the propaganda fed to you, it doesn’t make it true). No society can have such a microscope placed on its systems in the way Israel is treated and survive the analysis. The English flag, the UK flag, according to the same criteria placed on Israel, turn the UK into an ‘Apartheid racist state’. Whatever rationale is being used to target that single ‘green nation’ into the only one people need to try to boycott and destroy is clearly flawed. That the single green nation is the only Jewish nation on the planet, surely has to make anyone uncomfortable.
Sure, they can take this down to the local PSC branch and have their doubts replaced with an updated bunch of unadulterated baloney. But it doesn’t change the underlying truth. Cancemi is propagating the idea of punishing a liberal democracy whilst clearly operating without even bothering to double check the evidence. She and the rest of the PalSoc mob at Goldsmiths are as valid as a 13th century lynch mob screaming with their lit torches after a witch trial. Truly scary.
The only ‘persecuted’ people on the entire planet with the total ability to end the environment of persecution in which they find themselves are the Palestinians. And yet because enough of them wish to perpetuate a conflict to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state, the conflict continues. Thus the constant attacks against Jews during the Oslo Process. Peace to these people *is the enemy* and here we have UK students identifying with and supporting that ideology.
I have no idea what, if anything, is in the head of Alessia Cancemi. Just as the others on the Goldsmiths PalSoc team such as Gavriel, Sam, Mona, Malak & Alsha all have their own personal drivers.Whether they have the internal strength of purpose and intelligence to begin to question why so many falsehoods need to be spread if justice is on their side. If they were in a court and the prosecution case was supported with so many distortions, what would they make of the case itself? Normally with anti-Israel activists, this type of self reflection is never present.
I know that with Israel there is always antisemitism in the room. Dripping into the discussion and feeding of from it. Hence the question during the event at Goldsmiths about hidden control, hidden agendas, hidden power. Classic antisemitic tropes. But then it is the central driver of the entire anti-Israel narrative. Everything Zionism (read Jews) does is for a sinister and evil goal. Hence a defensive war in 1967, becomes an excuse to occupy and oppress. Gay rights become ‘pink-washing’. Jewish self-determination becomes a racist ideology, and so on. If only the rest of the Middle East had gay rights just to ‘pink-wash’. Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate.
And that is the central issue. You do not need to be individually antisemitic to engage with the Israel conflict, because after all, the Israel issue is the only one being discussed. But what built the ark in which BDS is carried? What finances the fuel which drives it? What ideology blows up a civilian bus during a peace process? What makes Israel the only topic in town in the first place?
Alessia Cancemi stood up in front of 40 students and spread lies and disinformation about the Jewish state at Goldsmiths. Cancemi demonised Israel and made people think it a nation fit to boycott. All helping to move the ark. All just another brick in a very large wall of institutionalised antisemitism that has infected our entire academic apparatus. There is no environment in which to question why a movement of ‘justice’ needs to spread so many lies about the Jewish State. Why it wants Israel punished and then removed from the map. After all, if the question was asked, isn’t the answer obvious?
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