Opinion: Anti-Zionism at Boston College?

Created on January 30, 2014, a Facebook page called “Exposing the Truth of Anti-Zionism at Boston College” offers a mix of questions regarding an apparent anti-Zionistic sentiment present at BC.

As I wrote this very article and perused the newly formed Facebook page, I noticed that “3 hours ago” a list of six Boston College professors, who are apparently known to be anti-Israel, was posted to the page. Obviously BC is a devout Catholic institution but, man, I did not think we were so devoutly against Israel! What I want to know is what provoked such a sudden warning against these “tainted” professors? Should we be ashamed, or is this just some kind of ploy against the highly Catholicized nature of our collegiate community? It helps to know a little bit about anti-Zionism when assessing the issue.

Zionism is a national Jewish movement that establishes the Land of Israel as the Jewish homeland. It is an ideal that has been supported and practiced by much of the Jewish community since their initial diaspora in the sixth century B.C.E, an event recorded in the Old Testament. For those unfamiliar, a diaspora is defined as a dispersion of any people from their original homeland; the Irish experienced a diaspora during the Great Potato Famine, resulting in the massive influx of Irish natives to the United States as immigrants. Generally, a diaspora is not directly seen a bad thing – the spread of Irish immigrants to America resulted in a boost in social and economic growth; however, the very roots and essential nature of Judaism – God’s chosen people centered in their Holy City – have caused many Jewish people to hold their commitment to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel at the highest value.

Non-Jewish Palestinians have appeared to become victim to these national movements. From 1920 to 1948 Palestine (including modern Israel) was under British control – the British Mandate of Palestine – and from 1936 to 1939 during the Arab Revolts, Palestinians sought their independence from Britain. At about the same time, a second national movement was rising: Zionism.

Jewish communities were encouraged by the British to set up local militia and a shadow government in the expectation of an established Land of Israel. This resulted in the Arab-Israeli Civil War of 1948, which, in turn, resulted in the establishment of the modern Land of Israel. Palestine now refers to the regions of and surrounding Israel, and, since during the time of its early establishment the Jewish people were a minority in Palestine, you can probably guess why Arabic Palestinians were upset by this new nation of Jews established right on top of them; and so, the rise of anti-Zionism.

Now that Israel is established, independent and largely seen as home to the Jewish people, the ideals of Zionism have evolved into a more secularizing movement: generally opposing Jewish involvement in other societies to establish a majority and free themselves from anti-Semitic discrimination. Thus, modern anti-Zionism has risen out of those who live in or the surrounding areas of Israel who feel oppressed by an overwhelming Jewish majority.

Issues of academic freedom and human rights have surfaced in recent years and even more recently, the American Studies Association (ASA) announced a boycott on all Israeli universities for joining their association. The ASA is an organization compromised of many universities (including BC) that regulates American Studies. It has decided to disallow the joining of any Israeli university to the association because it feels that Israel has limited academic freedom to the occupied Palestinians (non-Jews in Israel). Many feel that this course of action is completely appropriate because the oppression imposed upon occupied Palestinians is grave. Others feel that this very boycott, which is focused on sending a message to Israeli about academic freedom, is a limiting of academic freedom itself.

“Exposing the Truth of Anti-Zionism at Boston College” was created two months after the ASA boycott. As it states in the information section of the Facebook page, “We are: supporters of academic freedom” and “We are not: anti-Arab, anti-Islam, anti-Palestinian”, it seems that the group is no ploy against Catholicism nor an effort to end anti-Zionism. Apparently, according to the page, BC has hosted many speakers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts who speak from and support the pro-Palestinian side of the equation while no offerings of the pro-Israeli side have ever been presented by the school. The few students who made this page have apparently interpreted BC’s “negligence” as a voluntary anti-Zionistic effort, which may be a bit overkill considering that many consider modern anti-Zionism to equate with anti-Semitism.

Although I am severely lacking in acuteness for the truth behind Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, I cannot personally disagree with the motives behind the creation of this page. I think that their primary purpose is to merely expose a side of the argument that is apparently in excessive lacking in our community, and I can respect that. What I don’t agree with is the page’s inclination to taint professors and impose a feeling of shame upon all members of the BC community for a lack of defense or interest in the Israeli side of things. I feel no such shame, yet I appreciate the worldly knowledge the page has unveiled.

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