Monday, December 16

Submission: Advocating for equal Palestinian rights does not equal anti-Semitism

I usually refrain from using public mediums to critique Zionism – a nationalist political ideology that calls for the establishment and protection of a Jewish nation-state. Even though Israel’s policies are shaped by ethnonationalism, I find it more important to educate the campus community about Palestinian human rights.

But when I read last month’s submission to the Daily Bruin by Jackie Schaeffer, I was taken aback by the conflation of Jewishness with Zionism to launch political attacks and accusations of anti-Semitism against an intersectional demonstration. As one of the students who organized the protest at last month’s University of California Board of Regents meeting, I feel compelled to respond.

Last month, students and workers came together to protest tuition hikes for out-of-state and international students, for better workers’ benefits and for the UC to stop investing in companies that violate Palestinians’ human rights. We decided to stand in solidarity with one another because the regents make decisions that impact both students and workers. Thus, our intersectional chants tackled the issues of tuition, labor and Palestinian rights simultaneously.

In her submission, Schaeffer expressed discontent with our chant, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” In her eyes, the chant is a call for Palestinians to literally “throw” Jews in Israel into the Mediterranean Sea. She suggested the linkage of Palestinians’ human rights with labor and tuition issues was unfair and inappropriate, and that it was discriminatory for organizers to allegedly compel the “mainstream Jewish community” to choose between college affordability and protests against Israel’s policies.

However, Schaeffer’s assertion that our chant amounted to a call for Jewish genocide is ridiculous. The chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refers to historic Palestine and the Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The phrase calls for every human being, regardless of race and ethnicity, to have equal rights – something that does not exist under Israel’s policy of excluding Palestinians from citizenship simply because they are not Jewish. Yet, Schaeffer insists the chant is a call for Arab Palestinians, a population that is overwhelmingly Muslim, to literally push Jews into the sea.

In reality, Schaeffer’s accusation serves as a racial dog whistle designed to provoke Western perceptions of the “barbarous Arab” in the Middle East. Schaeffer’s claim taps into racist imagery of Arabs in the US – imagery that invokes a narrative of the “Arab other” who is so barbaric, they wish to literally push Jews in Israel into the sea. If the only thing Schaeffer can see is barbarism when Arab and Muslim students chant for equal rights, it says a lot more about her than it does about last month’s protesters.

But perhaps most disappointing is Schaeffer’s conflation of being Jewish with supporting the political ideology of Zionism to accuse campus spaces that support equal rights for Palestinians of anti-Semitism. For instance, she claimed Jewish participation in some campus community spaces was dependent on Jewish students “abandoning (their) Jewish identity.”

The first problem with this reasoning is that Zionism is not a prerequisite for being Jewish. For example, a Pew Research Center study found the majority of nonreligious Jews in the US have “very little” to “no attachment at all” to Israel. Moreover, a survey in California’s Bay Area commissioned by the Jewish Community Federation found that only 37 percent of Jews between 18 and 34 years old thought Israel was “very important,” compared to 61 percent for those between 50 and 64 years old.

The second problem is that there are many non-Zionist, Jewish students on campus who support equality for Palestinians. A recent study found that support for Palestinian rights is six times what it was in 2010 among Jewish college students, while support for Israel plummeted by a staggering 27 percent, citing Israel’s lack of human rights and tolerance.

And it’s hard to blame them: Despite claims that Israel is interchangeable with the Jewish identity, Israel and right-wing Zionist organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America have appeared to foster alliances with white supremacists and neo-Nazis based on shared ideologies that promote racial hierarchies. Ironically, the Israeli government has been affiliated with white supremacists and anti-Semites such as Donald Trump, who retweets white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and hired those harboring anti-Semitic ideologies in his administration.

It is problematic for Schaeffer to conflate Zionism with being Jewish, because it ignores the significant number of Jewish Americans who do not identify with Zionism and dismisses the increasing abandonment of Israel among American Jewry.

In light of changing political leanings, it is appropriate to link the anti-racist politics of Palestinian rights activism to labor and educational justice. Workers and students support Palestinian rights because they understand how intersectionality ties our struggles together, and they have a right to organize without deployment of racial stereotypes and accusations of anti-Semitism to discredit our activism. Our intersectional organizing against oppression will continue.

Gardner is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, a UCLA student group.

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  • Grayson Peters

    Here’s the thing: labor, tuition, and Palestine are three entirely separate issues, and mentioning the word “intersectionality” doesn’t meaningfully link them. I’m sorry, but a vote to raise tuition has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. These issues are not “tied together.” They both involve issues of equity and justice, but they are very much separate. Both issues are very important and highly controversial, and both should be discussed in their own right, but SJP’s presence at the Regents’ meeting was not helpful.

    From what I’ve heard from friends who attended, SJP essentially overshadowed the tuition protests, marginalized Jewish students who have been fighting tuition battles for months, and created a generally hostile atmosphere. One person I know who has been working tirelessly to fight tuition hikes was told to leave by an SJP protester because they had a pro-Israel message on their phone case.

    Intersectionality means recognizing interlinked privileges and oppressions, but it shouldn’t mean that every issue is so connected that they all ought to be discussed (or protested) at once. If that were the case, absolutely nothing would get done. Students in SJP had an opportunity to join hands with their fellow Jewish and Zionist Bruins and present a united front to the Regents in protest of tuition, but they chose instead to counterproductively and divisively muddy the waters with a separate protest. I’m not sure what was accomplished, given that the tuition vote passed and the Regents didn’t touch the issue of Palestine.

    A quick Google search of the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” shows that the phrase’s origin is as a call for the restoration of Arab rule between the Jordan and Mediterranean and resulting destruction of Israel. That’s not quite a call for equal rights.

    One last thing. You say that “It is problematic for Schaeffer to conflate Zionism with being Jewish” and that “accusations of anti-Semitism” have been employed to discredit your activism.

    You’re arguing with a Jewish student about the definition of anti-Semitism, denying the linkage of her Jewish identity to the state of Israel, disregarding her experience of marginalization, and dismissing her claims of campus anti-Semitism as political opportunism. That seems very contrary to the theory and practice of intersectionality

    • Helen4Yemen

      “That’s not quite a call for equal rights.”

      Did European Jewry arrive on that land invaded it?

      Then the invader is looking for equal rights?

      How about going home and look for equal rights among his own kind – other European?

      People tend to forget total strangers came stampeding from Europe ad took that land by force.

      • Grayson Peters

        Well, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the region since the Roman era. Given the experiences of European Jews in the Holocaust, it’s entirely understandable why those who survived left.

        You are correct in that much of Israel’s population came from Europe which led the displacement of many Palestinians. We can sit here and debate about the morality of this immigration and displacement, but the fact is that 7 million Jews now live in Israel. The country is almost 70 years old. Those who immigrated and their children are no longer the invader. Most of today’s Israelis were born in their ancestral homeland. They have lived there all their lives.

        It’s not ok to threaten 7 million people, many of whom are refugees from genocide or the descendants of refugees. The entire point of the creation of Israel was to ensure the safety of world Jewry. It’s a refuge from the people that Mr. Gardner seems intent on defending.

        • Helen4Yemen

          1) Well, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the region since the Roman era. False! There have not been any Jews living on that land for over 1000 years until they came up with a Zionist scheme in the 1800′s to send Europe indigent Jews to Palestine to live off Jewish charity they call “haluka” as a way to start planting Jewish presence on that land. Today there are millions of indigenous Palestinian Muslims and Christians but there no indigenous Palestinian Jews anywhere on the planet. They did not disappear but converted to Christianity and then Islam and today’s Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Jews. The Ashkenazi has not genetic ties to that region, not even a tiny trace.

          2) Given the experiences of European Jews in the Holocaust, it’s entirely understandable why those who survived left. Left to go where? Palestine is not any European Jewry’s grandma’s land, is it?

          3) 7 million Jews now live in Israel. The country is almost 70 years old. The French were in Algeria for 132 years and the British in Yemen for 160 years. Where are they now? How is this white man, the Ashkenazi, different from the other white Europeans like the British or the French?

          4) Those who immigrated and their children are no longer the invader. They are the offspring of invaders. When the Algerians removed the French, they did not distiguish between invader and son of invader, did they? The bottom line is the Ashkenazi being 100% European should have erected his state on his grandma lands of Poland, Lithuania, Hungary.

          5) Most of today’s Israelis were born in their ancestral homeland. Bernie Sanders is 97.7% Ashkenazi-Jewish which is code for Khzar. Please tell me how Palestine is Bernie’s or any other Ashkenazi’s ancestral land. How about Europe? Is it not their true ancestral land?

          6) They have lived there all their lives. So have the French colonists of Algeria and the British colonists of Yemen. The white man invading lands of indigenous people does not mean he gets to keep it for ever.

          7) It’s not ok to threaten 7 million people, many of whom are refugees from genocide or the descendants of refugees. They were not refugees but colonial invaders. If they were refugees, then they do what the Syrian refugees are doing and they go anywhere that would accept them. European Jewry wanted only Palestine as a future citizens of a future Jewish country.

          8) The entire point of the creation of Israel was to ensure the safety of world Jewry. At whose expense?95% of world Jewry is lily white Ashkenanzi/ Why are the Europeans on Arab land?

          9) It’s a refuge from the people that Mr. Gardner seems intent on defending.
          They could have built their state where they are from: Europe.

  • jasper

    Any filthy go-yim who challenges the zio masters must be severely punished. we Jews will tell these goyim what to think and how to act. look what a great job we have done with tv..

    To identify the truly sick racists google: chief rabbi of Israel
    says only purpose of goyim is to serve jews, life of goyim worth same as
    donkey. Netanyahu says this jerk is the
    greatest mind of this generation.

    • mls31286

      Yes and there are prominent Black Christians support Farrakhan who says all Jews are evil, women are inferior and gays should be killed. Do you even want to get me started on what comes out various Imam’s mouths? I think we can all agree religious extremism is bad.

      But none of this gives you the right to be a an awful person and bigot. Using the term Zio is derogatory and offensive. Interview any average Israeli and they will openly condemn the Rabbi – this has actually happened across the spectrum of Jewish organizations. The far majority of Israel isn’t religious whatsoever – doesn’t even attend temple.

      But your rabid irrational hatred and lack of care for actual facts makes changing your mind impossible. You post on these sites not to debate but rather to spread lies and hatred.

      I support Israel but think Netanyahu is a bum and needs to go. Many Israeli’s feel this way tool and are allowed to speak about it. But if a Palestinian criticizes Hamas or Abbas, they will go to jail.

      To Jasper, one Rabbi represents the views of all Jews and of all of Israel. But of the many other highly recognized religious figures, they are just one of cases…

      • jasper

        you are sick. delusional. 20% of population of israheil showed up for his funeral. and you say all disavow? such a liar. but anything works on the goyim right?

        • mls31286

          I never said disavow, I said condemn. He held a lot of awful views. He also did a lot of great for Israel that had nothing to do with those views. It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be condemned for those views and to be honest, I believe he should of been more shunned given those views.

          The only sick and delusional person here is you as you ignored every other point I made while picking one point to respond to after distorting what I said. You fit right in make believe land with all of the other people irrational obsessed with Israel. Hezbollah has said it wants to commit genocide against Jews. Iran wants to turn Israel to dust. Rajoub, a senior palestinian leaders said if they had a nuke he would use it tomorrow on Israel. How many times have you commented on various sites about them, besides probably praising them?

          • jasper

            but killin palestinians is totally fine whenever it is convenient, right? You are such a POS.

          • mls31286

            Haha you are a parrot that makes no sense. I never said that whatsoever. I condemn the purposeful targeting of any civilians whether they be Palestinian or Israeli. The video of the Palestinian being sniped and soldiers cheering should be investigated and there should be disciplinary actions. Have you ever condemned anything the Palestinians have done?

            But to you, if a Palestinian is holding a gun firing at an Israeli and the Israeli kills him, it’s murder. Yet if an Israeli is sleeping in his bed or on a bus going to work, it’s okay to kill that Israel because it’s legitimate resistance. Both the PA and Hamas celebrate these types of murders as heroic acts. This world is just so backwards. And it’s people like your fault.

          • Helen4Yemen

            The word “Israel+i” sounds so funny, it was just invented. Why not Israelite?

          • Helen4Yemen

            “Hezbollah has said it wants to commit genocide against Jews.”

            Source? Of course no source. Just peddling lies!

  • mls31286

    Gardner – your disdain for Israel on any border rings clear by using the definition of Zionism that you did.

    -The correct definition is “A movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.”

    “The phrase calls for every human being, regardless of race and ethnicity, to have equal rights”

    -This is a laughably ignorant statement and shows Gardner’s inability to accept facts and history. Abbas himself said “there will not be one Jew in a future Palestinian state”. Further, the history of the saying means otherwise and has been used time and time again by those who believe Israel should not exist. To believe Jews would be treated equally in this situation is beyond naive, it’s stupidity.

    Hamas and the PA can’t even make peace yet you think Jews can be treated equally in a state run by Palestinians. Your ignorance is the reason for the existence of the Jewish State.

    There is no room for White Jews in your intersectional movement. Unless they support the destruction of Israel.

    I can’t believe we live in a world where a person can believe a chant from the “River to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a chant for peace while Israel has actually made peace offers, given up land, made peace with Egypt and Jordan, yet they are the ones who don’t want peace. You accuse Israel of “Genocide” and “Ethnic Cleansing” when Arab Israel population has increased as well as the Gazan and West Bank population. So facts to debunk your lies.

    The only reason those statistics you cite are moving the way they are is because facts don’t matter in debate anymore. All that matters is the color of your skin and how emotional you get. The loudest win. That is why millions of people are being slaughtered in Syria and no one really cares on the left – they are too focused on those white skin people defending the only successful country in the Middle East.

    • Helen4Yemen

      “re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.”

      How do European Jewry whose ancestry is 99% European and 0% Middle Eastern re-establish anything on land where they have 0% genetic ties to?

  • Liz Berney

    The “from the river to the sea” mantra IS a the well-known call for Israel’s complete destruction and the genocidal murder of every Jew. Just ask Hamas – whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction and calls for murdering EVERY Jew (including the leftists), and ask Hamas leader Khaled Mashal. We all known what Hamas and Meshal mean when they use the phrase “from the river to the sea.” See and SJP means the exact same thing: the genocide of the Jewish people. Shame on Robert Gardner for siding with and attempting to whitewash Jew-killers.

    • Helen4Yemen

      Why are European Jews on that land to begin with ?

      a) Is it because god gave that land to European Khazars?

      b) European Khazars were “returning”

      c) The “holocaust”? What have the Arabs got to do with it?

  • sonoma95446

    In the last 2 years there have been multiple rocket attacks from Hamas on Israel including a fortunately empty Kindergarten and others causing deaths, injury, and major property damage. This is why Gaza remains isolated. In the past, every attempt to open the gates has only resulted in Hamas using the opportunity to get more missiles and the cycle begins again.. Israel has offered to meet with Palestinian leaders in both Gaza and the West Bank. Although continued radical stabbings of Israelis continue in Jerusalem at least the Fatah party has been open to cooperative water solutions and policing. That has allowed Israel to open that side up for commerce that benefits both the Palestinians who need jobs and the businesses who need employees.
    Israeli’s have long lived with having secure rooms in their homes and condos for rocket alerts and re-purposed US Patriot missiles called the Iron Dome by IDF has intercepted many of the attacks. With that said, why is the LA times and other papers always talking about the abuse of the Palestinians. Hamas only negotiates with third parties and has refused to deal with Israeli leadership unless certain demands are met. A Palestinian Camera man is killed in a clash in Gaza. With over a thousand Rocket attacks in the past decade can you blame the Israeli’s for occasional major screw-ups. Tragic but this is not abuse of the poor Palestinians. This is Hamas and a few other radical elements using terror on Israel at the cost of their own peoples lives.

  • Gideon Jones

    I’m not exactly sure if this author if purposefully lying or just seriously misinformed. To claim that “from the river to the sea” is anything other than a call for violence is laughable and flies in the face of its historical context. That is exactly how it has been used for decades by both the PLO and Hamas to claim a “return” to all of so-called historic “Palestine” (ie: to replace/destroy Israel.) To excuse and whitewash this hatred and calls for violence is despicable. Says a lot about SJP though.

    I also take offense to Robert’s cultural appropriation and aggression. Who is he to tell Jews what Zionism is or isn’t, and if it can be equated to Judaism? He knows better than the majority of Jews? Now SJP is telling Jews what Judaism is or isn’t?

    Luckily these weak arguments are easily seen for what they are and these articles only impress the already horribly skewed. If Robert has an honest bone in his body still, he should start looking at this issue from new sources and not just the horribly biased ones that have already corrupted him towards hatred. You never know, he might learn something.

    • Helen4Yemen

      Zionism is based on Judaism.

      Why is European Jewry at 0% genetic ties to that land claiming to be Israelite? Are they?

  • Helen4Yemen

    The author of this article is highly misinformed. Jews care about Zionism and
    have never abandoned it.

    ADL Survey Shows American Jews Overwhelmingly Supported Israel’s Gaza Action

    New York, NY, January 29, 2009

    American Jews overwhelmingly supported Israel in its actions against
    Hamas in Gaza, according to a national survey conducted for the
    Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The findings strongly contradict the
    notion that surfaced during the war in Gaza that American Jews were
    divided in their attitudes, with suggestions that many were critical
    of Israel.

    The telephone survey of 400 American Jewish adults was conducted
    between January 13-19, 2009 (with a hiatus Friday evening-Saturday
    for the Jewish Sabbath) for ADL by The Marttila Communications Group,
    and has a margin of error of +/-4.9%.

    Survey Highlights

    • 94% expressed sympathy for Israel over Hamas; only 1% for Hamas. By
    denomination breakdown: Orthodox – 98% expressed sympathy for Israel;
    Conservative – 96%; Reform – 91%.

    • 81% expressed the belief that Hamas was responsible for the
    escalation of the violence; only 14% held Israel responsible. By
    denomination breakdown: Orthodox – 84% held Hamas responsible,
    Conservative – 88%, Reform – 77%; non-practicing 77%.

    • Asked whether Israel’s response to Hamas rockets was appropriate or
    excessive, probably the major theme that has appeared in
    international critiques of Israel, 79% said it was appropriate, 17%
    excessive. By denomination breakdown: Orthodox – 88%, appropriate,
    Conservative – 80%, Reform – 80% and non-practicing – 71%

    • When asked about Israel’s right to self-defense versus the need to
    win the “hearts and minds” of the Arab world, 79% said that Israel’s
    responsibility to protect its citizens takes precedence.

    “The survey findings strongly contradict those who disagreed with
    Israel’s actions against Hamas and claimed there was a sharp division
    in the American Jewish community,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL
    National Director.

    “The vast majority of the Jewish community clearly understands and
    overwhelmingly supports Israel’s effort to stop Hamas’ constant
    rocket attacks and cripple its terrorism infrastructure. The Jewish
    community is an open community where different views are welcome. It
    was unfortunate that some seem to have an interest in exaggerating
    the level of disagreement on this issue.”

    ADL also explored American Jewish views of some of the key political
    issues facing Israel:

    • Two-thirds of those interviewed indicated that they supported
    Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the same number continues
    to support that position today.

    • 63% support the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the
    West Bank and Gaza while 32% oppose. On the question of who is doing
    more to bring peace to the region, Israel or the Palestinians, 91%
    said Israel and 4% said the Palestinians.

    “The findings on the political issues speak of a continuing strong
    center in the American Jewish community that wants a secure Israel
    but also strongly supports efforts toward peace,” Mr. Foxman said.

  • Beer Baron

    Help i cant find Palestine anywhere!!!