A rose by any other name- the new antisemitism on campus

Imagine that you are a North American university student dealing with the pressures of classwork and maintaining your GPA. You’re working tirelessly, bussing tables or serving coffee, just to put yourself through school. Maybe you’re living away from home and trying to acclimatize yourself to a new social environment on unfamiliar terrain.

Imagine that in addition to the typical academic, financial and social pressures that every student encounters, you also have to contend with a systematic and relentless campaign that slanders, demonizes and ostracizes your culture, nation, homeland and country.

A campaign that not only refuses to recognize your country’s existence, but actually calls for its destruction.

A campaign that seeks to boycott any company, professor, speaker, or film from your country.

A campaign that bombards you with false accusations aimed to slander and delegitimize your country’s right to exist.

A campaign that denies your people’s history and rights, and, in fact, openly proclaims that the rights you do have should be rescinded.

Imagine the shock, fear, and anxiety that you would have attending lectures, walking down the halls, and meeting new people.

Imagine being subjected to this every day and you will have only an inkling of what it feels like to be a Jewish, Israeli, or pro-Israel student on a North American university campus today.

This is happening, in large part, because the anti-Israel movement has worked tirelessly over the past several decades to alter public opinion about Israel, while the pro-Israel movement has only recently recognized that there is a problem at all. Now we are about twenty years too late, trying to play catch-up, and too often operating in crisis mode.

It’s high time that we challenge the fallacies of the anti-Israel movement and that they are called out for the divisive and toxic banalities that they promote on campus:

  • If you are part of the self-proclaimed “pro-Palestine” movement and yet do nothing to benefit the Palestinian people or promote Palestinian statehood, you are not pro-Palestine. If you exploit the Palestinian people to pursue an agenda of demonizing Israel, you are not focused on establishing Palestinian statehood but on destroying Jewish statehood. You are not pro-Palestine, you are simply anti-Israel. Own up to it.
  • It is not contradictory to support the self-determination of both the Palestinian people and the Jewish people. But if you support the self-determination of the Palestinians at the expense of the only Jewish state in the world that is not acceptable. It is a racist double standard.
  • If you support the anti-Israel movement, claiming that you do not hate Jews, merely the Jewish state, what you are really saying is that Jews are tolerable as long as they don’t seek rights that are afforded to every other people, specifically the right to self-determination on their ancestral land. This is anti-Semitism. Call it what it is.
  • If you seize upon the voices of the anti-Israel fringe in the Jewish community to justify your claim that you are not anti-Semitic, you are engaging in classic tokenization, much like saying “I’m not racist, one of my best friends is black.” Jews who oppose the rights of the Jewish people have a right to their opinions but using them to justify the anti-Semitism of the anti-Israel movement is perverse.
  • If you manipulate other peoples’ histories to justify your own politics, whether it is the experience of the African-American community, the Indigenous peoples of North America, the LGBTQ community, or the feminist movement, you are engaging in the most offensive cultural appropriation. If you draw false comparisons between their experiences and that of the Palestinians, while simultaneously supporting the Palestinian governments of Fatah and Hamas, who oppose everything that these movements stand for, you are not an ally or spokesperson for these peoples, you are shamefully exploiting them.
  • If you hijack the language of liberalism in your campaign to disenfranchise Jews, you cannot call yourself a progressive. If you are in favor of protecting the rights of minorities and marginalized groups in our society, you cannot, in good conscience, oppose the self-determination of the Jewish people on their ancestral land. That is the exact opposite of liberalism; it is unabashed bigotry.
  • You are not anti-Israel if you oppose Netanyahu and his government, but if you oppose the state of Israel’s right to exist, regardless of which party is in power, whether they are in a state of war or peace, engaged in negotiations or engaged in the defense of their borders, then you are not engaged in genuine criticism, you are simply anti-Israel. If there is nothing that Israel can do to satisfy you short of national suicide you do not get to claim the titles of human rights and social justice advocates; your cause is their antithesis.

For students on university campuses it is essential that that we tackle these falsehoods. We must form our own narrative or it will be formed for us, without our consent.

It is time that we own our culture, our history, our struggles, our triumphs, and our identity. It’s the difference between being dragged into the arena and walking into the arena with your head held high.

Own your identity, or someone else will.

About the Author
Ariela is studying political science and international relations at the University of British Columbia.
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