Anti-Semitism / University

“My fellow activists tend to dismiss the anti-Semitism that students like me experience regularly on campus”

My fellow activists tend to dismiss the anti-Semitism that students like me experience regularly on campus. They don’t acknowledge the swastikas that I see carved into bathroom stalls, scrawled across walls or left on chalkboards. They don’t hear students accusing me of killing Jesus. They don’t notice professors glorifying anti-Semitic figures such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt or the leadership of Hezbollah, as mine have.

Nor do they speak against the anti-Semitism in American culture. Even as they rightfully protest hate crimes against Muslim Americans and discrimination against black people, they wrongfully dismiss attacks on Jews (who are the most frequent targets of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States) and increasing anti-Semitism in the American political arena, as can be seen in Donald Trump’s flirtations with the “alt-right.” They don’t take issue with calls for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.

Many of my fellow activists also perpetuate anti-Semitism by dismissing Jews of color, especially the Mizrahi and Sephardi majority of Israel’s Jewish population, descendants of refugees from Southwest Asia and North Africa. Ignoring the expulsion of 850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews from Arab and Muslim countries from 1948 to the early 1970s allows students to portray all Israelis as white and European and get away with making a “progressive” case for dismantling the Jewish state.

In my experience, anti-Semites refuse to acknowledge Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews to minimize the history of oppression against Jews and, in doing so, dismiss contemporary Jewish concerns. For example, non-Jewish students at Brown tell me that I cannot appreciate a history of marginalization because, as they see it, Jews have historically been a powerful group, the Holocaust being the only few years of exception. They play down the temporal and geographic scope of that history so that the oppression appears circumstantial rather than global and systemic.

Benjamin Gladstone, “Anti-Semitism at My University”, The New York Times (2 October 2016), SR2.