February 6, 2024
From The Real News Network

By now, the false equivalency between anti-Zionism and antisemitism—which Israel’s supporters use to give rhetorical cover for Zionism—is a well-worn topic on the left. What’s less discussed is the role of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in Zionists’ attempts to smear their critics, particularly Arab and Muslim ones, as antisemitic. A new report from Rutger University Law School’s Center for Security, Race, and Rights (CSRR) maps the use of Islamophobic tropes in the discourse on Israel-Palestine, noting that the racist association between terrorism and Arab and Muslim identity is intentionally invoked by Israel’s apologists. Michael Plitnick and Sahar Aziz join the Marc Steiner Show to discuss the new report and its contents.

Mitchell Plitnick is the president of ReThinking Foreign Policy, and Sahar Aziz is distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School and the founding director of CSRR. Both authors have appeared on Al-Jazeera.

Studio Production: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: David Hebden


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Marc Steiner:

Welcome to The Marc Steiner Show here on The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner, it’s great to have you all with us. This is another edition of Not in Our Name, but it’s a very special part of this conversation we always have. There was a report that was put out in Rutgers University of Law School Center for Security, Race, and Rights called Presumptively Anti-Semitic: Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine-Israel Discourse. It came out in November ’23 and given what we’re facing today, the war in Gaza, this report is deeply meaningful. It was meaningful when it was written, but it’s even more meaningful now in terms of what we face. Its authors join us today.

Sahar Aziz is a distinguished professor and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers Law School, author of the book Racial Muslim, and founding director of the Interdisciplinary Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. And Mitchell Plitnick joins us. He is the co-author of this. He is president of ReThinking Foreign Policy. Previously, he was vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem, co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace, and has written numerous articles in many publications and appeared in lots of media as well. Folks, welcome. Good to have you with us.

Mitchell Plitnick:

Thanks for having us.

Sahar Aziz:

A pleasure.

Marc Steiner:

It really is a pleasure to have you both. This is a very thorough and intense piece of work. Let me begin in a simplistic way, and that is to talk about what drove you to this piece. Talk about the whole concept here of being presumptively anti-Semitic and Islamophobic tropes, and how those two things tie together. And, Sahar, let me start with you, if I might, then go to Mitchell.

Sahar Aziz:

Well, first, thanks so much for inviting us. This report was started over a year ago. We started the research and the writing process, not anticipating the travesty, the humanitarian crisis, and what many believe is a genocide happening in Gaza right now, as we speak, by the Israeli military. And the impetus behind the project was that each time me and my colleagues, who were Muslim or Arab — And even if they were Christian Arabs, everybody assumed that they were Muslim — Each time we wanted to engage in a debate on the merits related to Palestine and related to Israel, whether it was US foreign policy on that issue or whether it was the actual history and politics and economics of that particular geopolitical issue, we were constantly being silenced by being called anti-Semitic.

It wasn’t conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism — Which is problematic for anyone who criticizes Zionism — But it was simply criticizing the state of Israel that we were then accused of hating Jews. We were accused of wanting to kill Jews. We were accused of supporting genocide of Jews. We were accused of supporting Hamas or Hezbollah or any designated terrorist organization. And all of it was simply because we wanted to bring the perspectives, the voices, and the experiences of the Palestinian people. And it made me realize that this was a strategy; It was a strategy for silencing, for censorship, for smearing, and even more problematically, it was successful and effective.

Part of Islamophobia in the post-9/11 era, which I wrote an entire book about, The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom, that the Islamophobic tropes that have been peddled in the last 20 years are not just that Muslims are presumed to be terrorists or supportive of terrorism, disloyal, misogynistic, violent, barbaric despotic; There was this other Islamophobic trope that was rearing its ugly head and that was that Muslims were presumed to be anti-Semitic. And that then had all sorts of adverse effects, particularly on our ability to practice free speech, to engage in political activism, ad, oftentimes, it could lead to people losing their jobs, being stigmatized, and being defamed. So at that point, like any good scholar, I thought, this is worth the research. There’s a real practical problem that’s harming millions of people in this country. And the solution for most academics when they face something like this is they say, let’s research it. Let’s investigate it. Let’s get to the bottom of it.

Marc Steiner:

And you did. Mitchell, what do you want to add to that?

Mitchell Plitnick:

Well, Sahar came to me with this and I come at it at a little bit of a different direction; I come at it as a Jewish activist who’s been working on Palestine for over two decades. So there’s two ways that this was particularly important to me: One is most of my work is focused on policy, whether it’s international policy, the policy of international organizations, or Israeli policy. Although, mostly, I focus on US policy and changing that. And as Sahar just pointed out, that is greatly impeded by this process of tying all criticism of Israel to presumptive anti-Semitism. It’s most acute with Muslims and with Arabs, as Sahar points out and as we deal with in the report, but they hit everybody with it. If you support Palestine, you’re considered anti-Semitic. By the way, even if you’re Jewish. And plenty of Jews who support Palestine, they may call us self-hating Jews, or these days, they go straight out and say anti-Semites.

So the fact is it’s an effective tool, not necessarily for convincing people that this is true, but for blocking policy change, for blocking that debate, and public discourse that can, over time, affect policy. It has been an effective tool. Then, also, as a Jew, this strategy is… I can’t even describe how harmful it is in the long run to the Jewish people. It is already. And we’re seeing today, how doing this is fomenting anti-Semitism in a very conscious way. Look at the leading organization in this propaganda war. One that is perceived not to be a part of this grand Islamophobic network that we detail in our report but rather is perceived to be liberal; I’m talking now about the Anti-Defamation League. We talk about them in the report as well.

This is an organization though that is perceived to be liberal, that is perceived to be fighting for civil rights and human rights for Jews and others, and, in fact, leads the fight to call all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic. It’s gotten to the point where their president Jonathan Greenblatt is palling around with known white nationalists and they support the actions of known white nationalists, be that Elise Stefanik in Congress or Elon Musk who’s spreading crazy anti-Semitic theories all over Twitter. And Greenblatt’s hanging with these guys and saying, hey, they’re really cool.

The truth of the matter is, and history bears this out, Jews are safe when we have allies. Jews are safe when we work in solidarity with other groups who… Jews are not terribly marginalized in this country at this point. Although, yes, anti-Semitism is certainly growing and things could get to a very bad place. But, for now, we’re still not horribly marginalized. But there’s a reason Jews have a history of standing with marginalized and oppressed groups, even if we’re at one of the better times in our history where that’s not so acute as it is at other times in our history. And the reason can be altruistic. I’d like to think some of us are noble, good-hearted people. But there’s also a self-interested reason, as there often is, which is that our safety depends on fighting racism of all kinds. It depends on fighting patriarchy. It depends on fighting settler colonialism.

The whole list of things that we talk about that forge relationships between us and other communities and one of the key results of this horrific trope, that Muslims are, unless proven otherwise, anti-Semitic, is that it tries to split the Jewish and Muslim communities. And when we work together, it is amazing how much we can get done, as we’ve seen recently in the protests against the genocide in Gaza where Jewish and Muslim groups have come together to lead many of these protests that are making huge headlines. And I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done there. That’s not just how we fight against this genocide, it’s also how we keep Jews and Muslims safe.

Marc Steiner:

One of the things this has exposed, and your report gets into it deeply, is that this conflict has made Islamophobia and hatred of Arabs and Muslims explode in this country. We also live in a nation where, for lots of complex reasons, Israel is a place that is not to be criticized in all this at the same time and that helps rise anti-Semitism inside this country.

I’m curious where you think we’re headed with this from all of the research you’ve done? Where does this take us as a nation, here in the US? And what happens there as well in Israel-Palestine? You detail all the Islamophobic attacks in this country and you detail what happens in the universities with people who try to take on Israel and protest against this war. So where do you think this leads us? Because I’ll say one more thing here is the war that is taking place now is the most dangerous I have seen in my lifetime, between Israel and Palestine, and in the Arab world. So yeah, where do you think we’re headed with all this?

Sahar Aziz:

So the tragedy or travesty in all of this, from my vantage point, is that you have a minority community that historically has been discriminated against on account of its religious identity, which has been racialized. I spent months studying anti-Semitism for the book, The Racial Muslim, to understand how has the racialization of religion worked in the past and how is that informing Islamophobia in the post-9/11 era, and I learned quite a bit. I really developed a deep understanding of the depth and the extent of anti-Semitism in the US. So, after 9/11, I experienced personally — And so did many of my colleagues in the civil rights space and the civil rights advocacy and combating Islamophobia space — Which we were very busy with a lot of work right after 9/11. We experienced some very positive alliances with liberal Jewish Americans and Jewish American groups and found there was a lot in common between combating anti-Semitism and combating Islamophobia.

In fact, many of the lawyers who trained me as a civil rights lawyer were themselves Jewish Americans, who had a history of working with Black communities against anti-Black racism. So we had associated the Jewish American community, which votes predominantly democratic in partisan elections, that they would be supportive of civil rights, that they were allies. These past few years, especially the more that Israel was assaulting Gaza… Because there had been multiple, what they call “cutting the grass” in Gaza where each time you would have the rising death toll — Which is nothing compared to the 30,000-plus Palestinians that have now been killed in the past over 100 days, and the 65,000 more that have been injured — But it kept going up. So that was creating awareness and that was creating activism.

What we were seeing, going back to why we wrote the report, was instead of Zionist groups being in allegiance with us, they were attacking us. And they were starting to engage in the same talking points and peddling the same Islamophobic tropes that we saw in the white nationalist camp. That was very baffling. It’s much, much more heightened now and now, effectively, from the Muslim American community vantage point, it’s become clear to us that the allegiance to Zionism as a political ideology supersedes whatever support for civil rights of minorities may exist among many Jewish American communities. Now, Jewish Voice for Peace is different, IfNotNow Then When is different, and Rabbis4Ceasefire. There are a number, though my understanding is they’re relatively a small group within the larger Jewish American community. But what we’re seeing is the very minority group that has been a target of discrimination is now the perpetrator of discrimination against Muslims and that’s caused me to think about why that’s happening.

One reason is that, for better or worse, Jews in America have reached the pinnacle of status, first-class citizenship, which is they’ve become raised as socially white, which they were not before World War II and arguably even after World War II in the first few decades. So what you’re seeing is this exercise of white privilege to quash, to censor, and to punch down on Muslim Americans who, as a collective, are much less influential, much less economically successful, and much less politically empowered. Primarily because most of them immigrated to the US after 1965, due to anti-Asian and exclusionary immigration laws. So these are not communities that are at the same… It’s not a fair fight, especially if you’re talking about it in the halls of Congress or universities. But why is it a fight in the first place? This is where we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. What’s really important for every Jewish American to understand, whether they’re hardcore right-wing Zionists, politically, cultural Zionists or anti-Zionists, is that all of the hate that they are fueling against Muslims right now is creating an environment and a society that, in a switch, can be flipped on other minorities.

This is where Mitchell’s point is so important is, when you weaponize anti-Semitism to oppress another minority group, first, it makes people not believe you that it’s anti-Semitism because you’re defining political dissent as racism, and that’s not the same thing. As opposed to individualized, hateful acts and crimes against a person because of their identity. And number two, you’re creating an environment. You’re contributing to a society that is intolerant, that is repressive, that is racist. And once that environment exists, who’s to say it won’t be turned? And that’s the very reason why Muslims and Jews were allying against the Muslim ban because Jews understand the Holocaust didn’t happen in a year. Nazism didn’t rise in five years. It takes time. My message is, to those who are Zionists and those who are committed to civil rights and who vote Democrat is, be careful what you wish for. Because you are digging a grave, figuratively, for all minorities when you so aggressively deny Muslims and Arab Americans their rights to free speech, political dissent, and to be equal participants in an important foreign policy issue.

Marc Steiner:

Go ahead, Mitchell, you were going to say something, I can see.

Mitchell Plitnick:

Yeah, so Sahar did a great job talking about what this is domestically. And if we look at the region, and on the international stage, this cynical use of anti-Semitism and the Islamophobic tropes play out in the same way. It was really interesting, this morning there were reports coming out of Jenin on the West Bank that Israeli soldiers dressed as Palestinian civilians and stormed a hospital in order to kill three people, which they did, who were there seeking medical treatment for wounds they had. These were certainly Palestinian militants and they were there seeking medical treatment for wounds that had been inflicted in previous Israeli raids. Israel knew they were in the hospital, so they did this dressed up as civilians, hiding among the civilian population — Exactly what they have accused Hamas of doing — To justify their destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Yet, there is no outcry about this. There is no sense that somehow Israel should be made to face some consequences for these actions.

It plays out in also what we’ve seen in the last few days regarding the UN Relief Works Agency, UNRWA, where according to a supposed Israeli dossier — And let’s keep in mind that it was only two years ago that a similar Israeli dossier was deemed so absurd that even the Biden administration didn’t believe it when it was used to accuse six Palestinian organizations of being aligned with terrorist groups. So just two years ago — Somehow, this one, whose evidence is being kept secret and not being made public, is being used as the basis to cut off funds to UNRWA by the US and 13 other countries, crippling UNRWA’s ability to function at all. It will not. But next month, by the end of February, it will cease to function if that funding is not restored.

To do that to a population that is already starving, already dying of exposure to the elements because they have no homes, already dying of curable diseases, suffering in every way you can imagine and to cut off the… UNRWA doesn’t only supply the aid themselves. They also have the infrastructure through which other charitable organizations provide aid in Gaza. So this is an enormous blow. How does that happen, based on an unsubstantiated dossier? Which, by the way, even the US said they hadn’t yet been able to verify the contents of this dossier when they suspended the funding. They said those words. How does that happen? How do 13 other countries do the same thing? How can that be?

It can happen because we have completely dehumanized Palestinians. We have completely made them into villains. And I’m not talking about Hamas here. Frankly, very little of the operation that has taken place in Gaza since October 7 has been connected in any way to Hamas. The overwhelming majority of it has been directed at the civilian population of Gaza where we have Israel, for example, telling people, okay, flee to Khan Yunis. Then Khan Yunis comes under attack and they tell you, go to this spot. Then that very spot is bombed. They tell you, take this road to get south, and that very road is bombed. That’s not a mistake, Israel knows what it’s doing. That level of incompetence is impossible to exist in any army, let alone one that’s considered one of the great ones in the world. So when we ask, where are we going? We have dehumanized Palestinians to such an extent that their lives have no value, and it isn’t only in the US; The US leads this process but there are other countries including Japan and a whole host of European countries — The UK, Germany — That treat this all the same way.

Quickly to bring it back here, we are seeing that even though these tropes are pervasive, and even though they are powerful, regular people — People who are not scholars like Sahar, people who have not done this for 20 years like I have — Still see through it. That’s the reason so many people, so many Democrats, are upset with Biden for his policy. His policy is overwhelmingly unpopular among Democrats. There is a movement to not vote for him. That may not be the majority of Democrats’ position that they will not vote for him because of this but the polls show, one after another, between 60% and 80% of Democrats, in all of these polls, are saying they disagree with Biden’s policy and they want a ceasefire. Yet, Biden ignores them. How does that happen?

Sahar Aziz:

He needs to be very careful about the states where there’s a large Arab or Muslim community, where it’s purple, like in Michigan because, right now the majority position seems to be that they will not vote for Biden. They may not necessarily vote for the Republican candidate but they won’t vote for Biden because of this dehumanization and aiding and abetting genocide that Biden’s foreign policy effectively does.

And I want to add to Mitchell’s comments that when we talk about genocide, the hardest part, legally, to prove is intent. And the intent to eliminate, in part or in whole, a group of people on account of their identity. In this case, intent is quite easy to prove; South Africa was able to show hundreds of examples of politicians, elected officials, government appointees, members of the public, the journalists, et cetera, et cetera. So in terms of wanting to kill and remove Palestinians forcibly from Gaza, in particular, some people won’t even say the word Palestinian because they don’t believe those people exist.

But the genocidal component that is the clearest evidence is not just the indiscriminate bombing, which they’ll argue is collateral damage, following the US model in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s the intentional starvation of 2.3 million civilians; It’s the intentional denial of clean water and fuel that’s needed to clean the water to 2.3 million civilians and the intentional cutting of funds to UNRWA, which is the primary distributor of humanitarian aid that then creates disease and creates death. So that component, there is no justification in the laws of war or international humanitarian law. There is absolutely no justification. There’s no wiggle room as to why the state of Israel, with the support of the US and many countries in Europe, is intentionally starving 2.3 million civilians for now over 105 days. That’s the genocidal component; There’s no other objective than to kill them, which is to eliminate them.

Marc Steiner:

So tie this all back to what you all wrote. And by the way, we’ll be linking to this on our website so people can read the report in depth. It’s well worth the read. Growth of Islamophobia across the globe, and here especially, and I would say also a rise in anti-Semitism is happening at the same time. But you have this rise of the right that loves what Israel’s doing because they have their own mythologies about what that means for the future of humanity. It seems to me that what’s happening there now, given all you’ve written about in terms of Islamophobia and the depth of that among obviously non-Islamic populations of the planet and people around the globe, we seem to me to be in a very dangerous point.

I think about that in terms of my kids who are very active in these movements as well. They’re out in the streets, demonstrating, and with Jewish Voices for Peace and other groups like that. It seems that we’re at a place where, between the rise of the right, this war between Palestinians and Israelis, and the US actually pushing Israel, not trying to stop Israel. This could be a turning point in ways that we have not seen before. And I want to have what you’ve just written and researched fits into that and what that says to all of that.

Mitchell Plitnick:

Yeah, first of all, I would suggest, actually, that Israel itself is part of that… When we talk about the rise of the far right, Israel is not at all separate from that. Netanyahu is very, very much a part of that movement. He is very much in there with the Donald Trumps, with the Viktor Orbáns, with Vladimir Putins, all of these people who represent that far right ideology. And even though many of those people hate Jews, again, it comes back to even the Nazis. You go back to before the final solution was implemented, Nazis would’ve been more than happy to let all the Jews in Europe leave. The problem was there was no one else would take them in. Everybody shut their doors, including the United States, which eventually led to the final solution. But the Nazis just wanted Jews… And this is, incidentally, genocide, they wanted Jews out of Europe. They wanted there to be no more Jews in Europe. That was their goal. If Jews had gone to some other place, they would’ve allowed that from the beginning.

Marc Steiner:

And Netanyahu wants no more Palestinians in Gaza.

Mitchell Plitnick:

Right. And so, again, it’s the same idea. Israel, what we’re seeing now, what is Israel trying to do? Is Israel trying to kill all the people in Gaza? Possibly, but that’s not necessarily the end game. They would be just fine if all of the Palestinians left Gaza. Really what this has been, they’ve been squeezing Gazans farther and farther south. And the plan which was put forth by a government ministry when this war started was to squeeze them into the south so that they’d have no choice but to, basically, go into the Sinai and set up their new home in Egypt. That was the idea. So Israel is not, even though you would think, again, that Jews would not be part of this white nationalist concept, the settlers ideology and the general ideology of the Israeli right is indistinguishable from white nationalist ideology. So there is that danger. It is very real.

How dangerous is it? I think it’s extremely dangerous. And I think the fact that so few people are connecting Israel with the far right is part of that danger. So how do we push back against that dynamic? Well, one of the ways is to take a look at… We can do that right here, CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, just put out a report that showed that Islamophobic attacks, or attacks on Muslims, since October 7th, have gone up by almost three times. Which is an astounding number, especially when you consider that Muslims are much less apt to report attacks than, for example, Jews are. They don’t feel as safe reporting attacks. So the underreporting, and they may be underreporting about anti-Semitism as well, but the underreporting is going to be even greater when it comes to the Muslim community.

And my response to that was, look, it’s three times as many attacks on Muslims as before October 7th. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the congressional hearings about this. We’re not going to see that happen. In fact, the report came out and, as far as I know, it’s hardly made any news anywhere. So that is the kind of thing that we need to address. We also need to understand and acknowledge. And I hate to bring this back to electoral politics, but it’s important. Because in my view, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, who is now basically saying, “Anyone calling for a ceasefire in Gaza is a Russian agent.” Or when the protesters came to her house, she said they were Chinese agents now. So I’m not sure where she’s… The fact that she’s actually called on the FBI to investigate groups that are demonstrating for ceasefire.

When Democrats are doing this, and people are responding to protests by chanting, “Four more years,” that brings back the right wing. That is exactly what empowers Donald Trump to win in November 2024. It is not people like myself and Sahar who are calling out the genocide. It’s the fact that the genocide is being committed and the protests aren’t even being tolerated. That is what fuels the radical right. That is what fuels the grievance culture and brings Donald Trump.

So what we need to understand is this concept that, “Oh no, we must vote for Joe Biden again, no matter what he does,” is in fact playing right into Trump’s hands. What we need to do is reform and demand more of Democrats. We’re not going to gain any more out of Republicans. So we need to demand more out of Democrats. And tell them, “No, it’s not okay for you to participate in genocide and expect to get reelected. You can’t do that.” So we have to be calling for Biden to step aside. We have to be calling for alternatives who will support a ceasefire in Gaza, as most Democrats want. And put that up against the Republicans. Because if we don’t do that, we’re going to get the far right. That’s what happens. It’s what happened in 2016. It’s going to happen again. Only this time, it’s going to be because of these nonsensical allegations of either being Muslim, or supporting Muslims and Arabs, being a sign of anti-Semitism.

Marc Steiner:

Sahar, please leap in.

Sahar Aziz:

I wanted to bring us also back to the report in terms of our recommendations.

Marc Steiner:

Yes, that’s where I was going to go next. So take us there, yes.

Sahar Aziz:

Which Mitchell, I think, set it up well, is we had three primary policy recommendations. Because this is ultimately a policy report that is intended to inform policymakers, whether they’re elected officials in Congress, or state legislators, or in the executive branch. But the first is to include the perspectives of Palestinians in US foreign policy development. And the second is preserve academic freedom and free speech at American universities. And the third is to hold Israel accountable for violations of Palestinian human rights.

So I want to focus… We’ve talked about the third. But the first two are essential for preserving American fundamental principles of free speech, political dissent, political freedoms. And for ensuring that our foreign policy does not repeat the same mistakes we made in Vietnam, the same mistakes we made in Afghanistan, the same mistakes we made in Iraq, which costs American lives, and it costs us, all of us, billions of dollars.

So one of the reasons we believe that US foreign policy is so flawed, to put it mildly… One, there are many reasons. But one reason is there is no differences or diversity of perspectives in the State Department, in the White House, in the National Security Council, in the Department of Defense. Insofar as most of the narratives, most of the perspectives, the policies, the reasoning are clearly, they’re not even veiled, but clearly Zionist. And that means you’re taking a side. And if you’re going to take a side, at least right now, that side is the side of genocide at worst, or ethnic cleansing and forced displacement and collective punishment at best. And that is not how you develop good foreign policy. Ultimately, it boomerangs back and costs American lives and treasure. So I think that we need to take seriously the need for diversity. It’s not simply virtue signaling. It’s not simply a matter of principle. But there’s actually a very important utilitarian component to it.

And then the academic freedom issue is one that I certainly am most concerned about as an academic. I have actually been reading up on McCarthyism and refreshing my historical knowledge. Because what I’m seeing at university campuses is stuff I’m used to reading about that happened generations past. And I also happen to be a scholar of authoritarianism in the Middle East. I’ve written quite a bit about authoritarians in Egypt, for example, and why the Arab Spring failed. And I just keep seeing these actions by the state, and by people who have accepted these authoritarian practices that are clearly authoritarianism. Maybe they’re authoritarian light or precursors to full force authoritarianism. But I saw even in the behavior and rhetoric of Trump.

And what Americans don’t understand is because they have the privilege and the luxury, at least this generation, of not having to experience authoritarianism in full force, they take for granted their democracy. They subscribe to this eugenic, scientific, racist notion that Americans are somehow genetically superior. That they will always have a democracy. That they will never be at risk of being in an authoritarian state, which is false. It’s about our principles, our institutions, our values, our norms. Every generation has to affirmatively protect those norms, and those policies, those practices, and those laws. Otherwise, it could slip away, as we saw under Trump.

So what we’re seeing with universities where Students for Justice in Palestine are being shut down or suspended. Where the Anti-Defamation League, of all organizations, again, I was flabbergasted, and so was every law professor across the country I think, where the ADL sends a letter to every law dean or every university president, demanding that they investigate the Students for Justice in Palestine, alleging that they support Hamas and that they’re terrorist groups. You might as well just change the word communist. It’s just McCarthyism. It’s a repeat of it. And this is the organization that’s supposed to protect civil rights of religious minorities.

Similarly, you have law firms that wrote letters to all the law deans and said, “You need to surveil and police your law students because we’re not going to hire anyone who’s anti-Semitic, as defined by critical of Israel, as defined by demanding a ceasefire, as defined by humanizing Palestinians.” And there’s professors that are under attack, myself included. I’ve been called anti-Semitic, anti-American, extremist, radical. And I think, “Okay, great, I’m going to cite that in my next book.” But it’s just unbelievable. And I keep thinking, “Is this the United States of America, or have I somehow just been transported to this foreign country that is a dictatorship and all of the people are brainwashed into this propaganda?”

So I do think that we have to be very, very alert and cognizant of these dynamics. And even if someone is what we’ll call a soft Zionist or a liberal Zionist, where they’re critical of Netanyahu, they’re critical of the current government, they have got to appreciate that the country that they’re supporting, or the type of society they’re supporting, in the name of protecting Zionism, it will boomerang back. It is just a matter of time. So I hope that we can all take a principle position on the domestic front. And think about what’s in the interests of this country and preserving what we value in this country. And what many of us, including my parents, immigrated to this country for.

People do not come from other countries to come here and get repressed, and get discriminated against, and get harassed, intimidated, and victims of hate crimes. Which I’ll just point out, just shortly before I close, is that three Palestinian college students were shot. They were victims of an attempted murder because they were Palestinians. One 6-year-old Palestinian child in Chicago was stabbed 26 times and killed. All four of these victims were by perpetrators of white men who were subscribing to the Zionist ideology that’s very racist. Imagine if that had happened to Jews. What would be the response of Congress? What would be the response of university presidents? What would be the response of employers and civil rights groups? And yet, there was not a peep. And that is exhibit A of the dehumanization of Palestinian lives in the United States.

Marc Steiner:

Let me just start by thanking both of you and this report. I’m going to put this online. The report is, you really got to dive into this, Presumptively Anti-Semitic Islamophobic Tropes in the Palestine-Israel Discourse, written by my two guests you just heard, Sahar Aziz and Mitchell Plitnick. And I already know who I’m sending this report to. Numbers of people are going to get this report from me. Some of them sit in Congress, and I’ll make sure it gets sent to their desks.

Mitchell Plitnick:

That’s who needs it.

Marc Steiner:

And I deeply appreciate the work you’ve done, and the intellect and passion you brought to all of this, and to our conversation. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mitchell Plitnick:

Thanks so much for having us.

Sahar Aziz:

Thank you, Marc. It was a pleasure.

Marc Steiner:

My pleasure. Thank you all for joining us today. And once again, thanks to our guests, Sahar Aziz and Mitchell Plitnick. And we’ll link to the report, Presumptively Anti-Semitic, on our site. And let me give you their site right now. It’s csrr.rutgers.edu/issues/presumptively- antisemitic. And this edition of The Marc Steiner Show seemed to draw together much of our work, Not in Our Name, where we’re just saying no to the Israeli government’s repressive occupation of war, and the rise of the right. And in Israel, you can see the dangers of neo-fascist rule and what the world must fight. That all came together, I think, in today’s conversation.

Once again, thank you all for joining us. And thanks to Cameron Granadino for running this show and editing this program. And the tireless Kayla Ravara for making it all work behind the scenes. And everyone at The Real News for making this show possible. We’ll link to the stories that Sahar Aziz and Mitchell Plitnick have written. More here on our site at the Real News Network. And please let me know what you think about what you heard today, what you’d like us to cover. Just write to me at [email protected], and I’ll write you right back. And stay tuned for more conversations and stories about Palestine and Israel, right here on The Real News and The Marc Steiner Show. So from the crew here at The Real News, I’m Marc Steiner. Stay involved, keep listening, and take care.

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