Anti-Semitism has no place in the Palestinian cause

A new generation has shown its commitment to Palestine, a burden that comes with great responsibility

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: People participate in a pro-Palestinian rally on May 22, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City. After the recent ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians, activists in New York protested for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.   Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP
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“I love my family, I love my heritage, I love Palestine... I will stand strong to keep their hope for a better land in my heart. A better world for our people and the people around them. They can never erase our history. History is history.” Such is the love and solidarity that motivates the vast majority of those involved in the pro-Palestine movement, seen here from Palestinian-American supermodel Bella Hadid, who captioned an Instagram image of herself at a march using these lines.

During the past few weeks, The National has reported from the many crowds across the world who have turned out to support Palestinians. From Europe to North America, veterans of the cause are now joined by a new generation, who are educating themselves on the complex tragedies that the conflict has thrown up over decades. Fighting has ceased, but only after the deaths of 248 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, in addition to 12 Israelis. A silver lining is the solidarity that young people have lent in their willingness to petition governments and keep the flame of Palestinian freedom burning.

A Jewish boy holding a Palestine flag takes part in a protest in support of Palestinians following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An increasing number of young Americans are involved in pro-Palestine protests. Reuters
A more benign threat is the possibility that today's debate forgets the real victims

This new movement must realise its responsibilities as well as its power. It has grabbed headlines across the world and built real momentum. However, sometimes media attention has been generated for the wrong reasons. There is a journalistic responsibility to not tarnish the peaceful majority by focusing on a prejudiced few. But the gravity of certain incidents has been impossible to ignore. In London, four men have been arrested after they were filmed shouting extreme anti-Semitic abuse from their cars. Draped in Palestine flags, the organised convoy appropriated a symbol, close to the hearts of victims of the conflict, for partisan hate. Further attacks against Jewish communities have been reported across Europe and North America. Anti-Semitism and racism have no place in a liberation movement and are hugely damaging to the cause.

A more benign threat is the possibility that today’s debate forgets the real victims. During the tenure of former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, angry comments relating to Palestine-Israel were frequently hurled across the dispatch box in the UK's parliament by leaders of both parties, in the presence of hundreds of policymakers. Britain’s historic responsibilities towards the conflict were not at the heart of the discussion, but rather myopic and often politically charged accusations about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Prejudice is an issue that must be discussed at the highest levels. However, other debates about the specifics of the conflict, which also deserve attention, often see no more than a few dozen MPs in attendance. A new generation of activists can demand better and help revive the debate among western legislators, keeping the focus on Palestine itself, not political point scoring at home.

Those ready to lend their support must understand the damaging risk of an uninformed contribution. The occupation of Palestine is an issue that is defined by its complex details, opposing narratives, interpretations and opinions. Educated support is the only antidote to hate, and the best way to honour the conflict's many victims. For this new movement, progress will not just be won on the streets, but in libraries, universities and museums as well.