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The anti-Semitism of the Suarez talk is not the way to discuss the Israeli-/Palestinian conflict

(Collegian File Photo)

Last Monday night, Thomas Suarez, author of “State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel” spoke to around 100 people in the Integrative Learning Center. The talk, co-sponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace, Interlink Publishing, Media Education Foundation and Students for Justice in Palestine, brought a speaker to the University of Massachusetts campus who further divides the student body. Suarez is unqualified, and his rhetoric is a detriment to the Jewish student body on campus. Being a Jewish student myself and having heard the complaints of many Jewish students in the UMass Jewish community, many students, regardless of their opinions about Israel, find it distressing that a speaker like Suarez was welcomed to this campus.

According to Suarez’s website, he does not have academic or professional experience with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of the books and articles he has written. According to the site, “Thomas Suarez’s experience as a researcher began in the 1980s with his work on the history of cartography.” His cartography books cover regions such as Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Suarez also is a professional violinist and has played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra.

UMass is not the first school that Suarez has visited where he has received backlash from local Jews. In 2016, Suarez visited the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, a school with a history of anti-Semitism. There, he claimed that the Zionist movement is racist and fascist, and he compared Zionism to Nazism, as reported by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. The CAA filed a complaint with SOAS because of the talk’s anti-Semitic tone. At that talk, Suarez is quoted as saying “Zionists are so terrified of daylight on their cult, that there are moves afoot to outlaw any derogatory reference of the word,” and “Zionism was a parallel movement to Nazism.”

In his talk at UMass, Suarez proposed a one-state solution as the best remedy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but such a system does not necessarily mean that Jews will maintain the right to self-determination.

Suarez’s message is anti-Semitic if one uses the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. According to this definition, anti-Semitism includes, among other things, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist.”

And some Jewish students at UMass found Suarez’s talk to be hateful and downright strange. Aron Unger, a friend of mine who is a junior and a member of the Jewish community at UMass, attended Suarez’s talk. In conversation, he said that he felt that it was offensive, conspiratorial and anti-Semitic. Unger acknowledged that he agrees with some of Suarez’s comments about the founding of Israel, but that he does not agree with the modern-day decisions that Suarez advocates.

It’s not anti-Semitic to discuss whether the Israeli government acts in ways that it should, and it is not anti-Semitic to debate the best possible solutions to the conflict. As the State Department notes, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” However, it is anti-Semitic to make the outrageous anti-Israeli claims that Suarez has made in the past and at UMass. Members of the Jewish community are right to be angry that Suarez came here to speak. As UMass tries to live up to the notion that hate has no home here, it is disheartening that Suarez was invited. In the future, the campus can do better.

Joseph Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at jrfrank@umass.edu.

Comments
6 Responses to “The anti-Semitism of the Suarez talk is not the way to discuss the Israeli-/Palestinian conflict”
  1. Nitzakhon says:

    The simple statement of the problem. One side wants the other side dead. The Arabs have had numerous changes to make peace, but peace is not their goal. In the Koran it says the End will not come until Jews have been slaughtered:

    Muhammad says that one day the very trees and stones will help Muslims to kill Jews
    http://quotingislam.blogspot.com/2011/06/muhammad-says-that-one-day-very-trees.html

  2. Tom Suárez says:

    Dear Mr. Frank,
    We certainly may disagree on the way to peace for everyone in Israel-Palestine, but your article misrepresents my views on the subject.
    As regards Zionist-Nazi parallels, quite the opposite of what you say, I very specifically do NOT make the parallel. Please see this video of my Amherst talk, and go to about 27:40, where I state this quite bluntly. This is a direct link to that part https://youtu.be/fz3ufcZ1l9Y?t=27m40s.
    All such parallels that the audience heard were quotes from Jewish survivors of the Nazis, from US intelligence, and British intelligence. I was scrupulous in not being misunderstood on this issue.
    As regards my credentials to speak on the issue, my data and my linear reasoning either stand or fall on their own merits. They are not more or less valid according to whether I am a formal academic.
    As regards the much-distorted event at SOAS last November, much of the same applies. The two men who spread the misrepresentations attended for the purpose of sabotaging the talk (which they succeeded in doing) and in spreading their version of events to the most notorious tabloid in Britain. The same two have been endlessly smearing me to the point that they recently issued a 59-page pdf “rebuttal” to my book — which they certainly should do if they feel it is inaccurate — but in which engage in gross distortions and now even insinuate Holocaust denial.
    The people who are the origin of much of your characterizations of me are on a politically-motivated mission for which truth is irrelevant, to the point that even the Quakers felt compelled to issue a rebuttal to lies they were spreading about a talk I gave in Cambridge (UK), in which lied about the Quakers in order to “prove” their smears.
    I have great patience for any honest criticisms of my book or my talk at the University of Massachusetts. I began my talk by encouraging any readers of my book to check my online errata. But anti-Semitism is a very grave allegation, and to use it gratuitously — as you do in your title — trivializes true anti-Semitism.
    Thanks, Tom Suárez

  3. Lol says:

    Tom’s eloquent and transparent response to this shoddily written, unspecific, hit job article. Lol.

  4. Daniel Gordon says:

    I am one of a group of faculty members who were displeased when we learned Suarez would be speaking at this campus. We were particularly displeased when the UMass administration sent out an e mail encouraging everyone on campus to attend this talk. Daniel Gordon, Professor of History

  5. SittingBull says:

    Nitzakhon states the simple truth: this conflict cannot be resolved because one side wants the other side dead. Regardless of the various nuances and arguments about which side treats the other side worse, you basically have to pick a side. That’s the only choice. Our side is Israel. Maybe the Palestinians are treated as poorly as they claim. Maybe the Israeli’s commit human rights abuses. But the surrounding Arabs are all consumed by murderous, blood-thirsty regimes, feudal strongmen, underground terrorists and dangerous clerics. The entire pan-Arab society is just a disgusting mess. And very little of it has to do with any outsiders; there has been no peace since the beginning of mankind in that unforgiving desert hell. To the extent that any “good” people exist in that forbidding moonscape, they are drowned out by all of the bad guys with guns. So, Israel it has to be.

  6. Tom Suárez says:

    Correction regarding my earlier comment, above:I inadvertently deleted the video I cited.
    Here is a re-upload of the video, to the same part https://youtu.be/-O9lCHXBWaI?t=27m40s

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