The Mapping Project is an anonymous website that has quickly gained attention since its launch a few weeks ago. It is widely seen as calling for attacks on Jewish institutions. In his own language, he argues for the disruption of “colonial colonization projects”, including the United States and Israel. The site echoes the rhetoric of the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, but it’s not just about Israel.
It’s about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and what mapmakers see as webs of power and influence that, when visualized, demonstrate the “intersectionality” between Black, Brown, and Indigenous repression in the United States. United and the “colonization” of Palestine by the State of Israel. By “mapping” certain connections between the institutions of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Mapping Project wants to visualize their complicity in what they call “Zionism”, listed as the first among 13 “misdeeds” and defined as “a form of white supremacy which supports the colonization of Palestine by a population of settlers.
The list of institutions is long, forming an intensely populated map, criss-crossed by many connections. Among the institutions listed are 39 universities, including Boston University, which is described as “hosting several Zionist programs and initiatives, collaborating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. migrants, and (as) a major contributor to the displacement of black and brown residents from Boston-area neighborhoods (“gentrification”). Among the BU entities described in detail is the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, which I have directed for the past nine years.
Maps and articles are mostly factual, but the intent is inflammatory. As Jews, we are appalled by the naming of harmless Jewish individuals and organizations, the list of work addresses, and the vague but unmistakable call for “disruption.” As a linked pamphlet indicates, the Mapping Project and its equally anonymous affiliates do not wish to be allies, but “accomplices”. They believe that settler projects must be destroyed before a better society can emerge. In their own scary language:
We showed physical addresses, named officers and leaders, and mapped connections. These entities exist in the physical world and can be disturbed in the physical world. We hope people will use our map to help understand how to repel effectively.
In other words, the card is a call to action that puts the plan in the hands of whoever feels compelled to respond.
As someone who grew up in Europe, I vividly remember the 1970s, when Germany was rocked by a wave of leftist anarchist violence fueled by exactly this kind of call for direct action. Acts of terror included the bombing of shopping malls, kidnappings of airplanes, as well as the kidnapping and murder of politicians and civil servants who, in the eyes of the “Red Army fraction”, represented the capitalist networks of ‘oppression. As “capitalist pigs”, they deserved to die. Members of the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang trained with Palestinians in Syria, the same Palestinian terrorists who were responsible for the murder of the Israeli sports team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The Mapping Project’s view of Massachusetts and the world through the lens of Palestine is nothing new. There will always be people who will listen to this type of prompting and take matters into their own hands. In a country where assault rifles and explosives are easy to come by and at a time when racist violence has increased, the result will likely be more anti-Jewish violence.
So what should we do?
I believe we can do more to educate our students in Middle Eastern history, politics, economics and cultures, to help them understand the role of the United States in Middle Eastern politics, including including the ongoing struggle for control and exploitation of natural resources, especially oil and water. That’s why we launched an educational initiative centered on Israel and the environment. We must show our students how to face reality without ideological blinders.
Boston University is committed to the fight against anti-racism. It involves learning how to have difficult conversations. One of the first conferences organized by the Elie Wiesel Center under my leadership focused on economic racism, including gentrification and the need for reparations to close the wealth gap between African Americans and White Americans. (See Economic Racism in Perspective.)
This summer, we are offering a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will be taught by a political scientist from Tel Aviv University, a member of the Israeli Druze community, bringing a minority perspective on the subject. We want our students to look at Israel, Palestine and the United States with a critical and unbiased eye. But we cannot, and will not, accept implicit or explicit calls for violence against Jews. Neither left nor right.
Michael Zank is the principal of Boston University Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies, and Medieval Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].
“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely feedback from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting an article, which should be approximately 700 words, should contact John O’Rourke at [email protected] UB today reserves the right to reject or modify submissions. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Boston University.
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