A recent webinar hosted by Bard University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Ohio State University SJP featured George Mason and Rutgers professor Noura Erakat, who spoke on Zionism and the State of Israel.
Throughout the webinar, Erakat made outlandish and blatantly false remarks, such as labeling Zionism a white supremacy movement. She argued that Zionism is predicated on the "removal, erasure, and destruction of the Palestinian people," and said that Zionism was only meant for white Jews — claims that are ahistorical lies, and project unwarranted antagonism towards Jewish people and Israel.
Zionism was not just for the benefit of European Jews — who, incidentally, were not and have never been considered "white." After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Iraqi, Libyan, Yemeni, and other groups of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands flocked to Israel. These Jews, numbering around 650,000, were expelled from their home countries due to antisemitism and hatred of Israel. These Mizrachi Jews were given Israeli citizenship upon arriving in Israel, and became a large part of Israeli society — over half the Israeli population. Later, the Israeli government authorized operations to save Yemeni Jews in Operation Magic Carpet and Ethiopian Jews in Operations Solomon and Moses.
Zionism is not a white supremacist movement; on the contrary, Zionism is a liberation movement for Jews who were tired of not being able to control their own fates — and being killed and persecuted by others.
For centuries, Jews have been forced to seek refuge in host countries who were all too happy to turn them out or kill them at a moment's notice, even before the Holocaust — and also in Arab lands. Rather than be subject to the whims of often unstable and unfriendly non-Jewish overlords, Zionism aimed to allow Jews to control their own destiny.
While the pre-state Jewish society and governing body was majority Ashkenazi (Diasporic Jews from Eastern and Central Europe), Sephardic Jews (Diasporic Jews from Western Europe and the Mediterranean) comprised a significant portion of the Jewish population. The diversity in Jews already existing in the Yishuv and at the time of the establishment of the state only deepened with the addition of 650,000 Mizrachi Jews fleeing from Arab lands. They brought with them aspects of their host cultures, foods, traditions, and political perspectives. Professor Erakat's false claims only further already existing Mizrachi erasure and contribute to the whitewashing of Jewish indigenous identity.
To say that Zionism aims for the erasure and destruction of the Palestinian people is simply false. It reflects a blatantly ahistorical reading of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in turn incites violence and hatred for all Jews, not just Israelis, all over the world.
From before the establishment of the State of Israel to now, Zionists and the Israeli government have shown that they are willing to give up land for peace and accept disadvantageous peace plans and partitions in efforts to live peacefully with the Palestinians. It is abundantly clear that Zionists want peace and are willing to work and coexist with Arab neighbors, as Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and regularly supports the Palestinian Authority and Gaza via monetary aid, infrastructure, and general economic assistance.
In return, the Palestinian leadership supports endless terror, violence, and an education curriculum that literally teaches their children to kill Jews.
Professor Erakat's fundamental misunderstanding of the Jewish right to self-determination and liberation can very easily spread to her students, which perpetuates ahistorical education and harmful biases. It can be difficult to stand up to refute lies coming from a place of authority, like a professor, but it's necessary in order to make a change and move forward. More people must continue to speak out against her.