As a Jewish student, I have to raise an objection to the equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and attempts to quiet criticism of Israel.
A resolution by Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has recently been put forth to brand anti-Israel and anti-Zionist as speech anti-Semitic, serving as a blatant means of silencing a portion of the population speaking out on issues relating to Palestinian rights. While it’s expected that the anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) language will be removed, it is troubling this effort to silence free speech received any legitimacy at all.
The state of Israel is well known for its oppression of the Palestinian people by various means. These include, but are by no means limited to: depriving their communities in the West Bank of natural resources, such as water and land, destroying the homes of innocent people, establishing illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the unlawful detainment of children.
This is what organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine are fighting against. No other organization on campus is explicitly dedicated to Palestinian rights.
To equate criticism of oppression with the acts of hatred that have occurred at Kent State, such as the painting of a swastika on the Rock on Front Campus, is blatantly ignorant of the nature of the BDS movement, as well as the Jewish community as a whole. Over half of Jews under the age of 30 are critical of the politics of Israel, and organizations like the Jewish Voice for Peace are dedicated to raising awareness about the plight faced by Palestinians living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Attempts within our government and our university to silence criticism of Israel by branding it anti-Semitic must be put to a stop. Per the U.S. Department of State, “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
This can occur on and off campus — and has — but the rhetoric used by the BDS movement and Students for Justice in Palestine does not fit this definition. This is about human rights, not anti-Semitism.
If a government is built for one people and allows for the subjugation of another, it is impossible for an equal society to exist. There are millions of Palestinians that are ultimately under Israeli rule, all without voting rights or representation. Millions of homes are destroyed, cities walled off, and the right to movement restricted by checkpoints and segregated roads.
I am a Jew, and I cannot remain silent on issues of oppression, especially when they’re done by other Jews in my name. I urge Jewish students in particular to not run from discussions of Israel that make them uncomfortable.
While we may be uncomfortable, families are being torn apart and being forced to live in miserable conditions in the name of a “Jewish” state.
I’m Willemina Davidson, and I say, “Not in my name.”
Willemina Davidson is a guest columnist, contact her at email@example.com.