Golden Gate Xpress has a long article about the pressures faced by Jewish and Palestinian students on campus at San Francisco State University (SFSU).
One doesn’t have to read between the lines much to realize that the reality is much worse than what is being described:
When Ben Lieberman first came to SF State, he wanted to bridge gaps between Jewish and Palestinian students.
He introduced himself to students in the General Union of Palestine Students. However, after becoming involved with SF Hillel for a Jewish community, he felt the students from GUPS perceived him in a more negative light.
“It’s been hard,” Lieberman said. “Certain Jewish students are like, ‘Ben what the [f***].’ But then some of the Palestinian students when they see me are like, ‘Oh, you’re with them, and they’re Zionist.’”
“It’s hard because I end up engaging more with the Jewish students who disagree with me, then I get to with the Palestinian students who maybe don’t realize I do agree with them — and I want to engage with them but it’s hard,” he said.
So a Jew who wants to show support for Palestinians is attacked because he also wants to be part of the Jewish community on campus through the Jewish student organization, Hillel.
Does no one see a problem with this?
And it’s not like Hillel is always unapologetically Zionist.
At SFSU, it isn’t — and the reason is partly because some Jewish students are too afraid to deal with the haters:
Though not all Jewish students in SF Hillel identify as Zionists, those who do seek the Jewish community there often feel isolated from other student groups who are critical of Israel or oppose Zionism.
“If you’re a Jewish student, you’re kind of forced into this conversation whether you want to be a part of it or not,” SF Hillel President Ocean Noah said.
Noah said that while she doesn’t relate to Zionism the same way some students in SF Hillel do, as president she must account for their concerns.
She also said that pressure on campus to discuss or have a strong perspective about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creates anxiety for her as a Jew of color.
“We have to think about other histories and colonization,” Noah said. “And I think that can be a very difficult conversation. Like, wow — what if my heritage is repeating some things that have been done to my other heritage? That’s very hard to think about, and I personally avoid that. It’s not fun for me.”
SF Hillel employees and students involved with SF Hillel have said that other student groups frame SF Hillel as opposing these organizations’ goals and values, as they see Zionism and social justice as incompatible.
Gabe Smallson, student representative of SF Hillel and president of the Jewish fraternity AEPI, said that despite knowing about the tension on campus, he has only felt directly targeted by other students for being part of SF Hillel twice.
“I was just walking,” Smallson said. “And this kid is skateboarding by and yells, ‘Get the fuck out of here you fucking colonizers.’”
He said SF Hillel and AEPI have had some of their lowest membership numbers this past year. He and others speculate it is because Jewish students without a strong Jewish background or opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not want to be openly Jewish or a part of these Jewish organizations because of what he describes as an anti-Zionist campus climate.
This is a campus where openly identifying as Jewish is uncomfortable — unless you are clearly and publicly anti-Israel and even anti-Hillel.
Whether you want to admit it or not, this is pure antisemitism.
The article doesn’t deal much with unapologetically Zionist Jews. It does, however, have plenty of quotes from Jews who have learned to hate Israel — often on campus itself. And that takes them away from asserting their Jewishness as well:
An SF State student interviewed on the condition of anonymity said that after learning about the tensions on campus, they first became more involved in SF Hillel and aligned organizations such as the David Project. They wished to show that not all Jewish students on campus are pro-Israel, but they cut ties once they realized that SF Hillel was at its core a pro-Israel organization. This led them to ultimately disconnect from Jewish student life and hide their Jewish identity at SF State.
“I definitely never felt comfortable wearing anything openly that was Jewish,” the student said. “I never wanted to have my Jewish star open when I wore one. I never felt like it was something that I would openly want to be expressing for some reason. If the topic came up, ‘Oh you’re Jewish,’ Israel would follow, and I didn’t — I don’t — have a firm stance on it ’cause it’s a complicated issue, and so I didn’t like being constantly put on the defensive for that.”
“Generally with Jewish pride comes the assumption of Israeli pride. It’s like, ‘No, actually.’ So that I remember is the main thing, always needing to have an opinion on Israel, and it always being the wrong one depending on who you were talking to.”
It is the experiences of the Jews who are ambivalent about, or who oppose, Israel that prove the antisemitism on the campus of San Francisco State University.
Elder of Ziyon has been blogging about Israel and the Arab world for a really long time now. He also controls the world, but deep down, you already knew that.