Rather than follow the atavistic, antisemitic instinct of boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning the Jews, advocates for peace between Israel and the Palestinians should support a diplomatic and academic boycott of the Palestinians. This narrowly focused boycott would apply pressure to the party that frustrates peace, incites hatred, and glorifies the murder of civilians through its educational system. Writes Larry Weiss
Those who advocate for a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should endorse a diplomatic and academic boycott of the Palestinian National Movement (PNM). A diplomatic boycott would apply pressure to the party that has serially rejected peace and statehood, has consistently refused further negotiations since 2008, and provides financial rewards to murderous terrorists.
At a minimum, a diplomatic boycott should include severing diplomatic relations with “Palestine,” closing Palestinian Authority (PA) overseas diplomatic offices, and refusing to receive their diplomats. A focused academic boycott would apply pressure to the Palestinian educational system, which disseminates massive incitement to violence, honors those who murder Jews, and promotes anti-Jewish racism.
The Arab League instituted boycotts of Jewish residents of British Palestine in 1945 and boycotted Israel from its inception in 1948. While these boycotts have crumbled in recent years, current anti-Israeli (indeed antisemitic) advocacy efforts include the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which has the ultimate aim of dismantling Israel. These boycotts target the victims of aggression while allowing the real aggressors to escape accountability.
From its earliest days, the behavior of the PMN has justified a diplomatic boycott. It rejected peace and statehood at least six times since 1937. It used the Oslo Accords as a Trojan Horse to destroy Israel (to use the words of a prominent PLO official) rather than to make peace and dropped this pretense altogether in 2009, when it thought President Obama would deliver Israel on a silver platter. Its “anti-normalization” campaign aims to prevent peaceful interaction with Israelis.
Furthermore, despite publicly claiming that they no longer carry out acts of terror, the PA and the PLO generously reward terrorists, including those who murdered Jewish civilians. The murder of civilians constitutes the worst human rights violation possible, as well as the most extreme war crime and violation of international law.
In addition to committing these crimes against humanity and serially rejecting peace and compromise, other compelling reasons exist to diplomatically boycott the PMN.
Despite its attempts to stand history on its head, the PNM, not Israel, is the racist and colonialist party in this conflict. It has deep racist and fascist roots. Both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas stated many times that Hajj Amin Husseini, leader of the Palestinian Arabs from the 1920s to the late 1940s, whose racist and fascist career is well documented, was the father of the PNM. Husseini had extensive ties to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, including a long correspondence (and one highly publicized meeting) with Hitler and a longstanding association with Hitler’s top henchman Heinrich Himmler. Husseini’s legacy of racism and antisemitism still thrives in the PA and Hamas.
The PA’s propaganda, general media, and even schoolbooks perpetuate anti-Jewish racism. Mahmoud Abbas is one of the world’s leading Holocaust deniers. He has a long history of religious and racist incitement against Jews, including many recent statements vilifying Jews.
PA and Hamas television, newspapers, and schools disseminate anti-Jewish racist propaganda on a regular basis. Hamas exceeds the PA in its anti-Jewish racism. The Hamas Charter encourages Muslims to murder Jews around the world and makes crude and risible allegations regarding the veracity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an extremely destructive antisemitic smear.
Both the PA and Hamas commit widespread human rights violations. They violently suppress public demonstrations in areas under their jurisdiction. They torture prisoners. Harassment and intimidation of Christians, LGBTQ, and women is a regular occurrence. The PA and Hamas also commit widespread criminal abuse of children, including the recruitment of children as suicide attackers. The Journal of Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that 160 Palestinian children had died building the Hamas attack tunnels in Gaza.
In addition to its history of racism and widespread human rights abuses, the PMN is the colonialist party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Jews are the only existing indigenous people of the Land of Israel, dating back to biblical times, Palestinians are descendants of the Arabian tribes that conquered and colonized Byzantine Palestine more than 2,000 years after the Jews first lived on the land—and all the more so in subsequent Muslim migratory waves. Without a doubt, the conquest of Byzantine Palestine by the Caliph Omar in 638 CE qualified as an imperial and colonial conquest. The 1948 Israeli War of Independence, rather than installing a colonial order, actually overthrew one, and represented a war of national liberation won by the indigenous population. Progressive people usually celebrate such events.
The propagation of racism and glorification of murder extends to the Palestinian educational system. European donors recently admitted to the continued presence of racism and incitement to violence in Palestinian schoolbooks, and Palestinian universities propagate anti-Jewish racism and support terrorism. Birzeit University, perhaps the most prominent Palestinian university, has a policy forbidding Israeli Jews from so much as setting foot on its campus, no matter what their political persuasion. Even Amira Haas, a far-left Haaretz journalist who strongly supports the Palestinian cause, was escorted off campus when she attempted to attend a seminar in 2014. This policy makes Birzeit one of the world’s most racist universities.
Palestinian universities often support terrorism, including the murder of Jewish civilians. Brandeis University suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University in 2013 after a campus demonstration by Al-Quds students in which they made Nazi-like salutes, held fake automatic weapons, and carried banners honoring suicide bombers. Other events at Al-Quds have honored PFLP terrorists as well as Black September and Abu Jihad. In 2015, Al-Quds held an assembly, attended by 2,500 students, honoring terrorists who had stabbed and shot seven people on a Jerusalem bus. Al-Quds has an Abu Jihad Museum honoring the PLO top henchman responsible for the murders of hundreds of Israelis. Despite all this, Al-Quds has a partnership with Bard College in the US and receives grants from European governments.
Al-Istiqlal University in Jericho dedicated the Martyr Khalil al-Wazir “Abu Jihad” Faculty for Administration and Military Sciences in May 2019. This building honors the same mass murderer honored by Al-Quds. Student groups at other Palestinian universities routinely honor Palestinian terrorists. An-Najaf University in Nablus is widely known as “Hamas U” due to its strong support for Hamas and training of its future leaders. In November 2020, Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces arrested five student members of an Islamic student group at Birzeit for involvement in a scheme to transfer Hamas funds from Gaza to the West Bank. In 2008, the Israeli Air Force bombed a laboratory building on the campus of Islamic University in Gaza, allegedly because it manufactured and stored Hamas rocket fuel.
The proposed boycott of the Palestinian Authority (and Hamas) is narrow in scope and does not include an economic boycott. The Palestinian populace should not suffer any adverse economic effects. The diplomatic component of the boycott is aimed at the racist and colonialist PMN. It thus has only positive goals: to pressure the PMN to stop its campaign of murdering Jewish civilians, stop its widespread human rights abuses, accept the legitimacy of Jewish national claims in the land of Israel, negotiate a peace agreement with Israel, and accept a reasonable offer of peace and statehood.
The academic boycott would include the withdrawal of all funding for Palestinian educational materials until racial incitement and the glorification of murder are removed from them. Universities throughout the world should boycott Palestinian universities due to their support of terrorism and incitement of racial hatred. Again, the goals of the academic boycott would be positive and constructive. Cooperative agreements should be canceled, Palestinian academics should not be invited to seminars, and their publications should be rejected. Such a boycott is properly aimed at academicians and universities perpetuating hatred and violence, and should continue until they end their offensive conduct.
Larry Weiss is a physician and attorney with a strong interest in international law. He serves as a Director of Doctors Against Racism and Antisemitism