Pause me if you have heard this before. You currently attend a university where anti-Israel rhetoric is frequently spewed and it infuriates you beyond belief. As you try to engage students about this unacceptable behavior, you hear the infamous line that student groups like Students For Justice in Palestine have coined all too well.
“We’re not anti-Semitic, we’re talking about Zionists.”
It’s probably the most popular argument and unfortunately the word Zionist is usually taboo or gets a bad rap for many pro-Israel students on college campuses. Not only is this unacceptable, but it’s our duty as campus activists to change that.
In my four years at San Diego State University, I’ve been unable to avoid anti-Semitism and though claims of such actions are understood by university officials, the incidences on campus are still ever present. From so-called “Apartheid Walls”, die-ins, and other actions meant to draw a one-sided narrative to this conflict, I have seen my fair share of public demonstrations that have been aimed at demonizing Israel, instead of promoting peace and coexistence. As a leader in my community, I have received numerous complaints from students that they do not feel safe expressing their Judaism on campus for fear of confrontation and harassment. However, if we want the status quo to change, we must take it upon ourselves to restore pride in our movement.
As dictionary.com defines it, Zionism is “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.” This movement was an integral part of the creation of the Jewish State, where our people can live without fear of persecution.
As Anti Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated, “racism in all forms is intolerable. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Both are unacceptable.” Today’s anti-Israel activists have twisted the word’s meaning and use it to delegitimize our people’s connection to the land by hiding their anti-Semitic views under a facade of social justice.
Let’s make something clear here: To deny Zionism is to deny the very history of the Jewish people. History has forced us to suffer through genocide and exile, yet the longing for our homeland is what has always kept us going. Israel’s existence today is a constant reminder that the Jewish people shall never again be defenseless in the face of our enemies, and that those seeking to deny our right to self-determination will ultimately fail in their efforts.
Criticism of Israel like any other country is acceptable, but to deny Zionism and the existence of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic and its about time we call out such bigotry for what it truly is. As many students prepare to advocate for Israel on college campuses this year, or maybe they are just starting their college career always remember this:
Be proud of your Zionism, be proud of your heritage, and together we will all accomplish great things on our campuses.