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Opinion | On the Frontlines of Progressive Anti-Semitism



All of this puts progressive Jews like myself in an extraordinarily difficult position. We often refrain from calling out anti-Semitism on our side for fear of our political bona fides being questioned or, worse, losing friends or being smeared as the things we most revile: racist, white supremacist, colonialist and so on. And that is exactly what happens when we do speak up.

After the Israeli election in April, I spent a week explaining to my classmates that there were plenty of people in Israel who didn’t vote for Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, just as there were and are many Americans who oppose President Donald Trump, only to be called an “apartheid-enabler,” a “baby killer” and a “colonial apologist” by my peers in person and on social media.

The next month, on May Day, I eagerly attended a student rally for higher wages for the university’s custodial staff, excitedly carrying a “Fair Wages Now” poster I had made. The rally attracted dozens of students. We all gathered in the quad where we chanted for fair wages, cheered for speakers and booed the names of G.W. executives. Then the organizers of the rally invited speakers from the organizations Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. At first, I applauded these speakers — I figured that although I might disagree with these organizations about Israel, these students have every right to speak on the issue of fair wages for custodial staff.

But as they began to speak, the gathering suddenly transformed from a “fair wages” rally to a “Free Palestine” rally. The speakers railed against the oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which, according to them, had everything to do with G.W. janitors making less than their fair share. The students saw no reason to decry labor conditions or human rights violations in any other university, city, state, region or country. Reasonable people recognize that conflating the Jews with being money-hungry or cheap is anti-Semitic. How is tying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to janitors not getting paid enough at an American university any different?

And just last week, a video was posted to a student’s Snapchat story, in which another G.W. student is seen advocating the bombing of Israel, and then proceeding to spew blatantly anti-Semitic profanities about Jews.

This is our new normal. On college campuses and in progressive circles across the country, it does not matter if you strongly oppose the right-wing leadership in Israel; if you are a Zionist, you are seen as the enemy. It does not matter if you think President Trump is a monster for smearing Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib; I have been branded “irredeemably problematic” on G.W.’s campus because of my unwillingness to unconditionally support their politics. It does not matter if you believe in the right of self determination for all people, including Palestinians; if you still feel a connection to the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, you are on the wrong side of history.

While white supremacists plot to murder Jews across this country, “anti-Zionists” on college campuses seek to marginalize us as white supremacists. Consider the fact that at the University of Virginia — where white supremacists marched through campus shouting “Jews will not replace us!” — it was Jewish students who were barred from joining a minority student coalition to fight white supremacy (that decision is under review). At Benedictine University, a student aligned with the Students for Justice in Palestine group asked a guest speaker who survived the Holocaust to denounce the crimes of Israel against Palestinians, and then left during his speech.

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