Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: Understanding Suarez

(Collegian File Photo)

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian published an opinion piece with the title, “The anti-Semitism of the Suarez talk is not the way to discuss the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” As someone who attended Suarez’s talk on Sept. 18, I noticed that there seems to be some confusion on what Suarez said and what he did not say. After reading the Op/Ed, one is left with the view that Suarez believes that Zionism is an equivalent ideology to Nazism, and that his rhetoric is divisive and outright anti-Semitic. But that is far from the truth.

Rather than being a provocateur, Suarez was merely being a reporter of the past. Inadequately explained in Tuesday’s article was why Suarez was invited to speak on campus. He was there to promote his new book, “State of Terror, which describes how several Zionist paramilitary organizations in British Palestine went so far as to mass murder Jews and Arabs alike with the aim of establishing a Jewish state free of Arabs. Instead of going on an anti-Semitic rant for two hours, Suarez spent the evening quoting from various primary sources to uncover the grim and tragic reality of the lead-up to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

When Suarez said, “Zionism was a parallel movement to Nazism,” that was not his commentary. In fact, he was quoting from a 1943 document in which the Senior Inspector of Jewish Schools J.S. Bentwhich drew the comparison between Zionism and Nazism. Bentwhich was not alone. Suarez also quoted from United States Intelligence, as well from German-Jewish newspaper editor Robert Welch, both making similar assessments. During the talk, Suarez was careful to point out that he himself did not believe in this equivalency, but it reveals a rather ironic belief that was shared during the period.

So, what were these paramilitary organizations in British Palestine? From what I recall, Suarez dove into two of them: Lehi and Irgun. Lehi was known for recruiting children to commit terror plots. Shockingly, in 1940, Lehi sought to make a deal with the fascist government of Italy to attack British forces in exchange for the deportation of European Jews living in Axis territories to British Palestine. Meanwhile, Irgun engaged in many acts of violence, frequently setting off bombs in places with high Arab concentrations. Make no mistake, these were extremist organizations responsible for the deaths of many people, and sought to ethnically cleanse the region. Whether it be Brits, Jews or Arabs, anyone who stood in their way was a target.

As someone who is Jewish and supports the existence of the State of Israel, I find it disappointing that there are those who fail to understand the purpose of Suarez’s talk. It was not a hateful tirade, but a look into a time in history that has had significant consequences. Suarez’s history and the ongoing occupation is not pretty, but it is absolutely essential that we know about the past and its relationship with the present if we want a reconciliation.

Jon Blum

Class of 2021

Twitter: @blumfest

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  • K

    Kevin O'ConnorOct 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Time and time again anyone who is critical of Israel and or the history of Israel is attacked and called an Anti Semite. A good defense is a good offense type of mentality has been promoted by AIPAC and in recent years by the ADL alng with various otherPro Israeli groups. The fact is yes Israel has and is making mistakes especially under PM Netnayahu we are seeing a rise of extremism encroaching into higher circles of the political elite with such members in his cabinet as Home Party’s Ayelet Shaked who almost on a daily basis makes racist statements that go uncovered by US MSM.