Diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords on college campuses. Universities have funneled resources into hiring diversity officers and promoting inclusion. Although thousands of dollars are poured into diversity training, Macalester College’s student government is hellbent on ostracizing its Jewish population. Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, recently passed a resolution rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism. Their logic behind the vote was that they take issue with the IHRA’s stance on Israel. Macalester’s vehement opposition to the internationally-sanctioned definition of antisemitism should be swiftly addressed with immediate action from President Suzanne Rivera.
After meeting with Macalaster’s chapter of IfNotNow, an anti-Israel organization, the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) passed a resolution that rejected the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. IRHA’s definition has been adopted by 31 countries, including the United States, yet it is not sufficient for the students of Macalester College. The student government’s failure to recognize the IRHA definition is grounded in their lack of inability to accept Jews’ right to sovereignty and self-determination. Instead, the students opted for the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) definition would be adopted. The JDA definition includes criticism of Israel and entirely misses the mark on antisemitism. As a Palestinian Muslim and lifelong West Bank resident, even I can say it’s not rooted in fact.
Israel is not immune from criticism and I don’t believe it should be. To engage in a productive conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to even address religiously-motivated hate crimes, we must recognize the difference between these two issues. I find it disturbing that college “activists” are targeting Jewish people and hiding behind a facade. As a Palestinian who truly understands the plight of my people, I refuse to be used as a political pawn to advance a radicalized political agenda. Rather than addressing issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict head-on, so-called activists, in academia and elsewhere, tokenize our suffering and decades-long struggles to push their talking points. We deserve better than this.
If Macalester’s student government is eager to make a public statement about a foreign government, they should not hide behind loosely-researched definitions. A quick internet search could disarm their argument against IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. Even in the West Bank, many Palestinians look at Israel as a place for opportunity. Although Israel has maintained its Jewish majority, it is home to a sizable Palestinian Arab community. Many of us commute freely from East Jerusalem to the West Bank. Israel offers these Palestinians, not only a haven to live and work but offers unprecedented protection under the law and participation in society. The resolution’s intentions could not be more clear: these students cannot stand a diverse, thriving, predominantly-Jewish country and its status as a leader in the Middle East.
I have lived in the Middle East my entire life. For far too long, my home has been used as a launchpad for antisemitism and messaging point for political fundraising. Minnesota’s Twin Cities, home to vibrant Jewish and Muslim communities alike, should not go the way of my home. By rejecting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, Macalester College is fueling the fire of hatred, misunderstanding, and disinformation about antisemitism. I urge President Rivera to take action immediately to address this attack on Jewish students I also urge the Macalaster student government to formally adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism