The Pro-Palestinian Charade

Too many activists who claim to support Palestinian rights only care about attacking Israel

Boys ride bicycles in street near destroyed buildings in Palestinian camp of Yarmuk, southern Damascus, Nov. 1, 2018 / Getty
March 8, 2019

Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) has tried to couch her recent anti-Semitic comments as legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. Omar's progressive colleagues in Congress have done the same, saying that charges of anti-Semitism are meant to stifle debate about Israel. This defense is of course absurd: accusing the world's only Jewish state of cosmic evil and judging it by a standard different from that applied to all other countries are, historically, the two key features of anti-Semitism. But push aside the facts for a moment and assume their defense is serious. Why do Omar and like-minded progressives criticize Israel so often? Why do they oppose the Jewish state so reflexively, with such visceral hatred? Many of them justify their activism as support for the rights of the weak and oppressed Palestinians, who, they argue, suffer under Israel's rule. In other words, Omar and her allies say they largely oppose Israel because they are pro-Palestinian. The truth, however, is that many of these progressive voices in the media and on college campuses—and increasingly in Congress—who claim to be pro-Palestinian do not actually care about Palestinian rights—unless of course they can attack Israel.

This week, amid the current national uproar over Omar's anti-Semitic comments, and over the Democratic Party's shameful failure to condemn them, it is curious that Omar and her defenders have hardly mentioned the Palestinians. Yes, a few lawmakers included brief nods to the Palestinians in statements, but their overwhelming energy was devoted to justifying Omar's use of anti-Semitic canards—including the charge that Jewish Americans put Israel's interests above America's—as legitimate criticism of the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world on Thursday, when House Democrats pushed a resolution obfuscating Omar's anti-Semitism, dozens of displaced Palestinians who were forcibly deported and now live in horrid conditions wrote emails crying out for help, expressing concern about their children's futures. "What monsters those Israelis are!" supporters of Omar might say. But, to their great inconvenience, it turns out that Israel has nothing to do with these suffering Palestinians. In fact, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad displaced these refugees from southern Damascus, and they are now "struggling for survival in impoverished refugee camps" in northern Syria, according to the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, a human rights watchdog that received emails from the Palestinians. Where is the outcry from pro-Palestinian activists, in the West or elsewhere?

At the same time, residents of Daraa Camp for Palestinian refugees in southern Syria have asked authorities to fix a power blackout in the area caused by heavy shelling from nearby fighting. Throughout the Syrian conflict, the Assad regime has surrounded Daraa and blocked residents' access to drinking water and humanitarian aid. Again, where is the concern from pro-Palestinian activists?

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in Syria, hundreds of whom were tortured to death in the Assad regime's notoriously brutal prisons. The regime has also imprisoned at least 1,732 Palestinians, including 108 women and girls, according to the human rights watchdog. Syrian authorities have detained thousands more. Has Omar ever mentioned these atrocities? What about her progressive defenders in Congress, in the media, and on college campuses, all of whom claim to care about Palestinian rights? Palestinian leaders, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, certainly do not seem to care, nor do most of the Arab states in the Middle East.

The Palestinians' plight extends beyond Syria. The Gatestone Institute reported last month on Palestinian suffering in Lebanon, where more than 500,000 Palestinians live. "Most of the Palestinians in Lebanon live in 12 refugee camps, where they suffer from poverty, overcrowding and violence, as well as Lebanon's discriminatory and apartheid laws and measures that deny them basic rights," according to the institute. What is the response from pro-Palestinian forces? Silence.

What do all of these tragedies have in common? First, they do not involve Israel, and second, they receive no attention from all of the usual pro-Palestinian individuals—where are you, Linda Sarsour?—and organizations. The two commonalities are related. The media and activists obsessively cover any incident involving Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, portraying Israel as the evil aggressor even when Israeli forces kill a Palestinian terrorist trying to murder them. Yet these same journalists and college students (and their professors) never mention Palestinian suffering when the Jewish state is not involved. In fact, they probably do not even know about the Palestinian plight throughout the Arab world, which for the most part treated the Palestinians as lesser humans, political props to be exploited, after the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. This inconsistency is no coincidence: many of the usual pro-Palestinian forces do not actually care about Palestinians; their concern is hurting Israel, demonizing and delegitimizing the country until it ceases to exist as a Jewish state.

Pro-Palestinian activism is too often a charade, masquerading as an effort to protect human rights when, in reality, it is a campaign to attack Israel, the Jew among nations. But worry not: Ilhan Omar will surely talk about the Palestinians in Syria soon enough.