Harvard Crimson: Response to an inaccurate attack by Sandra Y. L. Korn ’14

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

By Gil Troy, Harvard Crimson, 2-3-12

My skin is itchy—Sandra Y.L. Korn ’14 in her February 1 article “What Anti-Semitism?” set me up as a straw man. I now have to deny her accusation that I was making an accusation I never made, while noting that had I made that accusation with just a little more subtlety­—she herself admits it would be justified.

Korn attacked an article I wrote about my talk about Identity Zionism at Harvard last semester, so there is no ambiguity, the written record is clear. I described the warm, intelligent reception I received at Harvard, noting that “on too many campuses” – and I italicized “too many,” emphasizing some but not all—pro-Israel or Zionist speakers have been “harassed.”

Caricaturing my argument, she wrongly suggests I contrasted Harvard with everywhere else. She ignores the article’s intention of encouraging civil discussion about Zionism. And she pole vaults past my words claiming, Troy “relies on the assumption (which he has put forth in other articles) that ‘pro-Palestinian’ means ‘anti-Semitic.’” In the article in question, I never used the term “anti-Semitic”—I mentioned “anti-Zionist forces.” Moreover, I have acknowledged repeatedly in my writing that many people are pro-Palestinian or critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic. Korn distorts my “assumptions” and my “writing”—with no evidence.

What I have said, repeatedly, although not in that article or that talk, is that Israel’s critics, including Palestinians and their allies, have a moral obligation to distance themselves from those pro-Palestinian activists who are anti-Semitic. I have challenged them to condemn the anti-Jewish stereotypes in the Arab press resurrecting Hitlerian caricatures when attacking Israel, and to repudiate those extremists who engage in Jew-hatred when championing Palestinians.

Of course, not everyone who is pro-Palestinian is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. But many pro-Israel speakers have been disrupted on campuses, including Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, and there have been documented incidents of anti-Israel protestors waving placards denouncing Jews, wishing Hitler had “finished the job” or  throwing pennies at Zionists. Even Korn admits that, “some advocates for Palestinian rights are undoubtedly anti-Semitic.”

Finally, again without documentation, she says she is “assured by others” that “across the globe” the “arguments for economic sanctions on Israel do not stem from deep-seated anti-Semitism.” Here, she at least pretends to adduce proof by inserting a hyperlink. But her “evidence” is an article about the problem of falsely making accusations of anti-Semitism. The article says nothing about the worldwide anti-Israel boycott movement – which has some activists who are anti-Semitic, who deserve condemnation.

How odd. Korn feels compelled to allege falsely that I invoked anti-Semitism to then minimize claims of anti-Semitism by others even though she acknowledges that some pro-Palestinian voices are anti-Semitic. This exhausting tryout for the apologetics Olympics, cut off from the truth, minimizing the serious problem of anti-Semitism which does exist, suggests a moral blindness and animus that are unworthy of the Crimson and of Harvard.

 

Gil Troy ’82, Ph.D. ’88

Professor of History

McGill University

 

Gil Troy ‘82 is a Professor at McGill University in Canada.

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Gil Troy Quoted in “Maple Leaf Madness – Chabad Confronts Anti-Israel Activism on Canada’s College Campuses”

Lubavitch.com, 11-15-2010

Dr. Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University in Montreal and author of Why I am a Zionist told Lubavitch.com that a lot is riding on the countersteps to the toxic propgaganda. “At university campuses in Canada and in the U.S., many future leaders are being educated in poisoned environments, where Israel is portrayed as the bad guy.”

Chabad’s response is less about shouting down and in-your-face protests than about teaching students to connect with their own heritage, and understand the Jewish claim to the land….

Prof. Troy promotes advocacy in his literature, but he also values Chabad’s approach. “Studies show that if you have a strong connection to Judaism, you will have a strong connection to Israel.” Chabad, he explains, “creates a spiritual conversation and a cultural conversation, getting the issue away from politics,” which helps achieve the ultimate goal: supporting the Jewish homeland.

“You can’t do Jewish without embracing Israel.”

Quoted in “Anti-Israel demo proceeds at Gay Pride parade”

Jewish Tribune, 8-19-09

Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, weighed into the debate.

“Israel is the safest refuge in the Middle East for persecuted homosexuals, including Palestinians,” Troy wrote in a Montreal Gazette commentary. “Every year, Israel’s government actually grants some gay Palestinians legal residency to avoid Palestinian homophobic oppression. Israel is one of the few Middle Eastern countries to repeal its anti-sodomy law – from British Mandate days. Israel’s Equal Employment Opportunity Act now prohibits discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or marital status. Israel has even banned discrimination in its army.

“Israel’s tolerant, celebratory, live-and-let live, Mediterranean spirit, especially in Tel Aviv, disproves the caricature of the Jewish state as a dour, embattled garrison state or theocracy. Openly gay Israelis serve in parliament, others are popular celebrities. Out Magazine has deemed Tel Aviv ‘the gay capital of the Middle East.’ By contrast, throughout the Arab and Muslim world, including the Palestinian territories, gays are hunted down, blackmailed, imprisoned, tortured, and occasionally executed. Gay Palestinians are often treated as collaborators and have been maltreated in the most brutal ways.”

Gil Troy: Durban II, Let’s turn a negative into a positive

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 4-29-09

An internet petition titled “Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel,” would be laughable if it was not so tragic and typical.

Of all the modern ills to worry about, as Jews and as Canadians, this problem seems trivial. Especially following the Gaza operation, claiming that criticism of Israel is being suppressed is like claiming that Canadians don’t talk enough about the weather.

These are boom times for Israel critics. Anti-Israel week has become a fixture on many campuses, perpetuating the libel that Israel’s actions in defending itself in its nationalist conflict with Palestinians are comparable to South African racism. Year-round, Israel has become the left’s favourite whipping boy, demonized in the sloppiest and most distorted of ways.

Self-righteous protesters, however, love feeling oppressed. No self-respecting Israel-bashers in North America want to admit that their position allies them with the world’s dictators and anti-Semites, with evil Arab oil monarchs and genocidal Hamas terrorists, with nuclear-proliferating Iranian mullahs and racist, sexist, homophobes hostile to democracy, with right-wing neo-Nazis and left-wing purveyors of the “Zionism is racism” libel. So what better way to earn some radical street cred than to claim that evil forces are suppressing speech, resurrecting the anti-Communist excesses of the 1950s?

The petition is just one more example of these attacks’ intensity and inaccuracy. “We do not believe that Israel acts in self-defence,” these self-righteous scolds proclaim. This claim ignores more than 1,179 innocents (and counting) that Palestinian terrorists have murdered since Israel compromised during the Oslo peace process, the 10,000 Qassam rockets fired under the lovely auspices of Hamas, and the relentless attacks on bar mitzvahs and seders, cafes university cafeterias, kindergartens and bars. This lie ignores the culture of peace Israel has created despite it all, and the pornographic culture of political violence that pollutes the Palestinian national movement. This distortion overlooks Israel’s treaties with Egypt and Jordan, its concessions to Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement in the 1990s, and Israel’s voluntary withdrawal from Gaza less than four years ago.

To “back up” the claim, the petitioners assert that “Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, receiving $3 million a day.” This lie, which some students parroted back to me recently, too, ignores the fact that since 2003, American foreign aid to Iraq has often dwarfed American foreign aid to all countries combined.

But why let facts get in the way of a popular talking point?

I don’t fear these Israel-bashers and their treasured libel-Israel week. As a strong believer in free speech, I wouldn’t do anything to prevent peaceful political activities on campus, no matter how absurd or intellectually dishonest. Petitions such as this only prove how jaundiced so many Israel critics are, whether they’re Jewish or not. I trust the court of public opinion to reject these half-truths. I’m proud to see how Canadian public opinion has soured on the Palestinian case, appalled by the terrorism and frequently seeing through the victimization routine that avoids compromising to achieve pragmatic solutions.

My fear is that not enough of “us” – Jews and non-Jews who care about the truth, who resent the libels – are willing and able to refute these lies, to punch through the postures. With the world set to witness the followup to the 2001 UN anti-racism conference (held in Durban, South Africa), where pro-Palestinian forces will shift the focus from the serious challenge of fighting racism to trendy demonization of the Jewish state, let’s learn from Jewish tradition to turn a negative into a positive. Every day that Durban II meets, let us have teach-ins about Israel and celebrations of Zionism. For each lie cast, let’s try to plant some seeds of truth, ensuring that in the end, good will triumph.