Joyce Ajlouny. Photo from American Friends Service Committee
by Moshe Phillips
A speaker hosted by a Jewish academic center and a Philadelphia synagogue this week declared that she favors “a secular, democratic state” — that is, the elimination of Israel. She also endorsed BDS, claimed Israel carries out “ethnic cleansing,” and declared: “I am an anti-Zionist.”
The speaker, Joyce Ajlouny, deserves our thanks for being so frank about her hatred of Israel and Zionism. At least we know where she stands.
The question is, why did Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and Congregation Rodeph Sholom of Philadelphia give Ajlouny a platform, knowing that she was almost certainly going to engage in such anti-Israel libels, since she has been saying the same things for decades?
The setting was an April 20 panel discussion, “The Weaponization of Discourse: Where is the Line Between Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitism on Campus?”, featuring Ajlouny and Prof. Kenneth Stern. Ajlouny is executive director of the American Friends Service Committee, the foreign policy arm of the Quakers, which has repeatedly compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
Ajlouny began with a long, rambling tirade in which she accused Israel of pretty much every crime imaginable. Taking aim at Israel’s very existence, she said, “Israel was created on a false premise of a land without people, through ethnic cleansing, massacres, and forcing over 700,000 Palestinian to flee.” She said Israel governs through “an apartheid system.” She declared, unequivocally: “I am an anti-Zionist.”
Prof. Stern responded by calling her litany of anti-Israel smears “incredibly moving,” then emphasized, that Arabs and Israelis “need coexistence.” Ajlouny replied, “I would like to have coexistence in one secular democratic state, but that is a subject for another discussion.”
Ajlouny, who has lived most of her life in Ramallah and has been a public advocate for the Palestinian Arab cause for decades, knows full well that the term “one secular democratic state” is the longstanding PLO motto for eliminating Israel and replacing it with “Palestine.”
In her remarks, Ajlouny also staunchly defended the BDS movement (which all major Jewish organizations consider to be antisemitic). “I don’t see sanctions [against Israel] as hatred,” she insisted. “I see them as a way to get my rights. It’s effective. If you’re living under an apartheid system and military rule and you are looking for ways to liberate yourself, you have to look for strategies that are effective.”
She then heaped praise on various extremist pro-BDS groups — singling out the notorious US Campaign for Palestinian Rights — and went into a conspiratorial rant against anti-BDS efforts. She railed against the “pro-Israel lobby” and its “well-oiled machine” which she said opposes BDS as part of a plot to “silence Palestinians” and “suppress Palestinian rights.”
Remarkably, Ajlouny then proceeded — speaking from a platform provided by a prestigious Jewish academic center — to claim that she is prevented from having platforms.
“If I talk about my personal story, I am accused of being an anti-Semite,” she said. “‘If I speak about the daily pain I experienced growing up in an apartheid system, I am called an anti-Semite. If I speak about a soldier cocking his gun in my back, ready to shoot, I am called an anti-Semite.” She repeated that line eight or nine times, never actually naming a single person who has called her an anti-Semite.
It’s Phony Martyr Syndrome. She pretends that she’s the victim of unnamed, mysterious forces. That is supposed to make us feel sorry for her, so we will be intimidated into not disagreeing with her.
“I am being silenced over and over again,” Ajlouny loudly asserted (catch the oxymoron?). “We are prevented, even by law, to share our story.”
She even paused to throw in a little Israel-Nazi analogy, wrapped in phony sympathy: Ajlouny said she understands that Israelis “carry with them the burden of the Holocaust” — making Israelis sound like psychiatric patients — but then emphasized, “My people carries the burden of dispossession every single day.”
The panel discussion was supposed to focus on defining antisemitism, but it’s not surprising that Ajlouny strayed so far from the topic, because she is completely incapable of recognizing one of the most pernicious sources of antisemitism today — the Palestinian Authority. “Constant accusations against Palestinians of anti-Semitism are like the boy who cried wolf,” Ajlouny declared.
Even J Street said that the infamous April 2018 speech by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “featured absurd anti-Semitic tropes.” Yes, even a pro-Palestinian group like J Street has called the top Palestinian leader anti-Semitic. But not Joyce Ajlouny. To her, any talk of Palestinian anti-Semitism is just “crying wolf.”
This is what the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and Congregation Rodeph Sholom gave the Jewish community this week — ninety minutes of Israel-bashing disguised as an academic discussion.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s U.S. division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and its U.S. website is https://herutna.org/