“Aligning Palestinian rights with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is the way to go,” stated leftist political consultant Josh Ruebner during a June 20 webinar on “Recounting The Palestinian Story.” The webinar was part of the previously examined June 18-23 second annual Palestine Conference of Istanbul Zaim University’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), a radical anti-Israel event made more troubling by his political recommendations.
CIGA’s conference on “Challenging Apartheid in Palestine: Reclaiming the Narrative, Formulating A Vision” achieved considerable notoriety merely due to CIGA’s founder, Sami Al-Arian. A federal court convicted this Palestinian-American former University of South Florida computer science professor in 2006 for supporting the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which ultimately led to his deportation to Turkey in 2015. At CIGA, Al-Arian has continued his long-established record of demonizing and calling for Israel’s destruction, which, as the conference showed, numerous academics in America and abroad zealously promote. Yet the webinar moderator, lawyer Lamis Jamal Alayan, praised “my personal hero, Dr. Sami al-Arian, the force behind this conference, for his lifetime of work.”
Ruebner in his presentation on “The Search for Truth: Examining the Zionist Narrative” promoted his standard anti-Israel diatribes about Zionism as a “settler-colonial movement that seeks to displace and eliminate the indigenous [population].” Zionism “necessitated the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population,” he added, even though 1.2 million Arabs who inhabited the British Palestine Mandate in 1947 have grown to some six million today in the same territory. He denounced the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proposal in that year to divide this territory into an Arab and a Jewish state as an “infamous partition plan.”
Its rejection by Arab leaders in the Middle East preceded “73 years of the ongoing Nakba” or catastrophe of Israel’s existence, Ruebner said. Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel transferred most governing responsibilities over Palestinians in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority and withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005. By contrast, he denounced this “current status quo, which is a one-state apartheid reality.”
Israel’s Gaza withdrawal did not create land for peace, but land for war by jihadists from Hamas, who took over the area and have used it as a base for assaults against Israel ever since, yet Ruebner had no sympathy for Israel’s defense. For him, Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile defense system merely “further tilts the calculus on the use of force further in Israel’s benefit.” By approving armament resupply for Israel and blocking UN sanctions against Israel during Hamas’ latest rocket bombardment of Israel in May, President Joe Biden has “irredeemably revoked its right” to claim human rights credibility, Ruebner said.
Ruebner gave his own anti-Israel spin to America’s growing partisan divide over Israel, which “has become a Republican cause célèbre.” “The entirety of the Republican caucus in Congress continues to give Israel carte blanche to commit war crimes and to demonize the Palestinian people as sub-humans who are undeserving of human rights,” he said. This “is an ethos that fits very well with the increasingly brazen white supremacist nature of the Republican Party,” he added.
Meanwhile most Democrats “eschew the more blatantly racist discourse of the Republicans,” Ruebner said. These Democrats “nevertheless are also absolving Israel by claiming that whatever Israel does is ‘in self-defense’ and that whatever Palestinians do is ‘terrorism,’” he qualified. But Democrat opinions on Israel are shifting, as a 2020 University of Maryland poll showed, in which 48 percent of surveyed Democrats supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, with only 15 percent opposed.
Ruebner welcomed such trends and praised the rise of anti-Israel, leftist Democrats such as Cori Bush. They “understand the intersectionality of the oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel and the oppression that many different communities of color face in the United States,” he said. The social justice warrior Ruebner fantasized about a “decolonized and democratic Palestine,” in which Israel’s Jews would risk living amidst a deeply antisemitic Arab-Muslim majority culture with almost no history of democracy.
Recent controversies in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood brought Ruebner’s lies up to date in the most current of events. Here Israeli authorities plan to clear a historic nature preserve from dwellings illegally built by Jerusalem Arab squatters in recent decades, who will then receive new housing in another section of Silwan as replacement for their demolished slum. He transmogrified this urban renewal into the “single largest act of ethnic cleansing to take place in Jerusalem since 1967.”
Ruebner’s understanding of Jerusalem was no better than that of his fellow panelist Abdallah Marouf Omar, a Palestinian professor currently teaching at Istanbul 29 Mayis University. In his talk on “The Inviolability of Jerusalem,” he asserted that “Jerusalem has always been a Palestinian city.” This absurdity anachronistically applies the “Palestinian” identity that Arabs in Jerusalem’s region have only embraced since the 1960s to a city that has never been the capital of any people except the Jews. Moreover, Jews have been Jerusalem’s largest single ethnic group since the 1840s, and a majority since the 1860s.
Given such anti-Israel radicalism and falsehoods throughout CIGA’s Palestine Conference, Ruebner’s role is deeply disturbing. To the extent that people like him influence the Democratic Party, the Israel-hatred of the deported terrorism supporter Al-Arian and others abroad in anti-Western hotspots such as Turkey will come home to America. Ruebner, CIGA, and their allies require close, critical scrutiny.