A Misleading Narrative
When New York Rep. Elise Stefanik attempted to equate “chants for intifada” with “genocide of Jews” during a recent questioning of three college presidents, she perpetuated a misleading narrative that elite schools are antisemitic. However, this connection is far from the truth.
The True Meaning of Intifada
As a former journalist for Al Fajr, a Palestinian weekly, I witnessed the emergence of the first intifada in the late 1980s. The term “intifada” translates to “shaking off” and reflects the Palestinians’ desire for freedom from occupation, not an aggression against Israel or the Jewish people. The intifada initially embraced nonviolent methods of resistance inspired by historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela.
A Call for Independence, Not Genocide
Contrary to Rep. Stefanik’s assertions, the call for an end to the Israeli occupation is not a call for the genocide of Jews. Palestinians aspire to establish an independent state alongside Israel, not in its place. The goal is to achieve self-determination and coexistence, rather than perpetrate violence against any group.
The Role of Civil Disobedience
Six years of civil disobedience and protest during the first intifada led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This agreement recognized Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as legitimate entities and aimed to establish a two-state solution. Tragically, the promising peace process was derailed by the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
The Growth of Israeli Settlements
Since Oslo, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has quadrupled, undermining the prospects for an independent Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both in his first term and now, has multiplied the illegal settlements, further complicating the situation.
The Second Intifada
The failure of negotiation and nonviolence to end the occupation led to the second intifada. It was not an expression of aggression against Jews, but rather a recognition that peaceful means had not achieved the desired outcome of Palestinian statehood.
Intifada and Land Acquisition
The term “intifada” has never meant genocide, as Rep. Stefanik suggested. Its focus is on opposing Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. This stance aligns with the principles outlined in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 adopted in 1967, which emphasizes the inadmissibility of land acquisition through war.
A Call for Clarity
In response to Rep. Stefanik’s misleading statements, it is crucial for leaders like the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and MIT to clarify that genocide against any group is unacceptable. They should also emphasize that intifada does not equate to such heinous acts and is grounded in the pursuit of justice and freedom.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist, former Princeton University professor of journalism, and Al-Monitor columnist. You can find him on Twitter at @daoudkuttab.