Recently I received an e-mail containing an anti-Semitic flyer for a Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference at Rutgers. The logo of the sponsoring organization, New Jersey Solidarity, featured the tagline "Activists for the Destruction of Israel." The flyer included a reference to supporting the work of "homicide bombers," along with the line "At Rutgers, you can't kill Jews, but you can help people who do."
I was horrified, and saddened, and furious. And then I got skeptical. The longer I looked at the flyer, the fishier it seemed. The phrase "homicide bombers" seemed off to me -- I suspect someone who genuinely supports that kind of terrorism would call the people who do it "martyrs." And what savvy pro-Palestinian activist would actually print the words "you can't kill Jews, but you can help people who do"? I knew there was a chance that I was being naïve, but I just couldn't bring myself to believe the flyer was real.
So I did some research. New Jersey Solidarity does exist, and it is true that they were involved with planning a Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference at Rutgers (which most sources indicate happened at Ohio State University, instead) -- but the flyer I was sent was a hoax.
New Jersey Solidarity has an online archive all of the flyers they've made for their events, and the flyer I was sent is not among them. Nowhere on the NJS website does the phrase "homicide bombers" (or the language about helping those who kill Jews) appear. Further, the logo on the flyer I was sent had been tampered with. The real logo of the NJS says "New Jersey Solidarity: Activists for the Liberation of Palestine," and the logo on the flyer I was sent says "New Jersey Solidarity: Activists for the Destruction of Israel." Not the same thing at all.
The flyer I was sent was faked in order to incite anger: the very anger it initially stirred in me before I took the time to research its veracity. And I have to assume, much as it saddens me, that it was faked by someone who considers him- or herself a supporter of Israel.
Generating false anti-Israel propaganda is no way to support Israel. Hoaxes like this flyer do nothing but fan the flames of hatred between those who support Israel and those who support Palestinian liberation.
The NJS holds views that many Jews may find reprehensible. I personally have issues with "We are opposed to the existence of the apartheid colonial settler state of Israel, as it is based on the racist ideology of Zionism and is an expression of colonialism and imperialism," and "We unconditionally support Palestinians' human right to resist occupation and oppression by any means necessary." [Both statements come from the NJS website's main page.] That latter line, in particular, sounds to me like support for suicide bombings. I must strongly disagree with these viewpoints.
But if we're going to argue against anti-Israel views, we need to argue against what they actually are...not against an inflated and hyperbolic rendition of what they might be. The flyer I was sent is a distortion of reality, and as such it reduces the chance of reasonable dialogue. I don't see any way out of the current Middle Eastern quagmire without reasonable dialogue, so to my mind, whoever falsified this flyer is acting against the best interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.
I am distressed by the NJS's opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. But I am doubly distressed by the faked flyer I was sent, because I suspect most of the people who received it believed it was real, and therefore it furthers misunderstanding and hatred unnecessarily. Israel should be defended with facts, not with falsehoods.
I continue to believe that it is possible to support the existence of the state of Israel while condemning some of its policies and actions. I continue to believe that it is possible to empathize with the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians while condemning suicide bombings and other terrorist acts. I continue to believe that it is possible to desire a fair and just two-state solution.
And I continue to be angry with whoever faked this flyer, for perpetuating stereotypes, spreading hatred, and placing honest dialogue -- and the chance of peace -- further out of reach.