The University of Pittsburgh chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine plans to host an event on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on Thursday. The purpose of this event is not to commemorate the Holocaust but rather to vandalize the day by painting Israelis as modern-day Nazis.
This perverse ahistorical comparison fits squarely under the State Department definition of anti-Semitism. According to Pitt, however, this is academically enriching and students can be given incentives to attend.
As stated on Web pages advertising this event, “SJP Holocaust Rememberence [sic] Day” … “qualifies and is offered as [Outside the Classroom Curriculum] credit.”
According to the Pitt website, OCC is “designed to help students receive a well-rounded education … and ultimately gain a competitive edge.” By recording one’s attendance at 70 events over four years in 10 different “goal areas,” students can earn the right to “graduate with distinction” and qualify for a $1,500 Pitt Advantage Grant, among other “perks.” Any student can use attendance at SJP’s event to eventually be honored and rewarded by the university.
This adds insult to injury. SJP works to destroy Israel through isolation and economic warfare. SJP would deny self-determination to the Jewish people alone and proudly rejects dialogue with pro-Israel students. SJP routinely violates pro-Israel students’ right to assemble by disrupting their events. At Pitt last November, masked demonstrators disrupted an event featuring an Israeli military officer that SJP also was protesting, though SJP claimed it had no connection to the masked intruders.
SJP says it does all of this in the name of humanitarianism and Palestinian rights, but it is largely silent about Palestinians being brutalized by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Syria and now the so-called Islamic State. It is bad enough that Pitt lets this kind of anti-Semitism be part of its academic milieu, but, sadly, Pitt is not unique in this. To reward students for attending an event whose hateful motive is so self-evident is indefensible.
At this event, the audience will hear from Edith Bell, a Holocaust survivor who makes a name for herself by delegitimizing Israel’s right to self-defense. She falsely characterized Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza last summer as “genocide,” because “[the Israelis] are killing people at random — a whole population is being killed.”
The unprecedented actions the Israeli military took to minimize collateral damage in Gaza are well documented — as are public statements by Hamas officials encouraging the use of human shields, which is a war crime. Don’t expect Ms. Bell to acknowledge the 5,779 truckloads of food, medicine and medical equipment that Israel sent into Gaza during the conflict or bother to tell her audience that Israel’s military blockade of Gaza began only after Hamas evicted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007.
If Edith Bell has anything to teach the world, it is that surviving an atrocity does not automatically confer on one a moral compass — or a basic understanding of arithmetic. Over half the Palestinian fatalities in Operation Protective Edge were armed combatants, and the total death toll among Palestinians amounted to .0011 percent of Gaza’s population — which hardly amounts to genocide.
In 2014, Gaza’s population had a net gain of more than 50,000. In comparison, world Jewry’s population still has not reached its pre-Holocaust level 70 years later. Don’t expect Ms. Bell to acknowledge this stark contrast.
The SJP event is also made illegitimate because of its timing. Yom Hashoah is an intrinsically Jewish and Zionist day of remembrance. It was legislated into existence by the Israeli Knesset in 1953. The full name of Yom Hashoah is Yom Hazikaron lashoah ve-lag’vurah or “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day.” It is tied to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
This is the day on which SJP and Edith Bell will claim that the descendants of the Ghetto fighters are the new Nazis. The Israeli government is the only government in the world to commemorate Yom Hashoah. Its commemoration by world Jewry reflects the leading role that Israel plays in the collective conscience of all Jews who don’t share Ms. Bell’s pathological worldview. By using the Nazi analogy to malign Jews, members of SJP trivialize the crimes committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The Pitt administration should find this conduct abhorrent. Instead, the university is legitimizing the SJP event and encouraging students to attend it by offering them incentives through the earning of OCC credit.
Those who care about Pitt’s academic integrity should contact the university and let Pitt know that it should not be complicit in SJP’s hateful conduct.
Brian Albert, based in Washington, D.C., is mid-Atlantic campus coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America.