After the appearance of anti-Semitic posters last week at various locations across campus, students gathered on Wednesday to discuss anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on college campuses.
The controversial chant to “Free Palestine” at the faculty-led knee-in on the Arts Quad last month was also an important topic for many attendees.
Prof. Miriam Elman, political science, Syracuse University, led the discussion and said that there was a growing trend of anti-Semitism and argued that the anger toward white supremacy and the President Donald Trump’s administration has been “wrongly directed” at the Israel-Palestine issue and has fueled anti-Semitism.
“In the current climate, everyone is focusing on Trump, immigration and white supremacy and it is easy for them to piggyback off of the resistance that already exists against these topics,” Elman said.
She added that people are often misled into associating various topics with the wrong groups of people. She said that certain groups have been painted in a bad light, misdirecting anger and creating unnecessary tension among groups.
Elman cited last month’s chant led by Prof. Russell Rickford, history, who was criticized by students and faculty after the knee-in.
Rickford has argued that the chant was an invocation of the violent occupation by Israeli forces of Palestinians in sections of the West Bank and the Gaza strip consistent with the protesters’ aim to resist white supremacy.
Rickford also said that his chant was neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.
Elman said in response to the chant that Israel has always fought to advance the cause of civil rights.
“The linking of Zionism to racist white supremacy is deeply offensive because Zionism has always been at the forefront of driving civil rights,” she said.
Bringing up the topic of pro-Palestinian groups, Elman highlighted how several of these organizations “deceptively claim support for peace” but do not back up those claims by action.
One of the organizations Elman mentioned was Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a political group that is pressuring Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land. The group receives support from Black Lives Matter, Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Studies Association, she said.
Elman offered possible solutions to alleviate misunderstanding and bias within schools.
She insisted that students demand faculty to present both sides of the arguments surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to simply pushing their own views onto their students.
“There is more than just one truth and, also, if they are going to convince you of their views, they must also present their critics as well,” Elman said. “You pay good money to come here so you have to take agency in what you are being taught.”
Ellman encouraged students to find allies in other groups of people who sympathize with their cause and urged students to continue standing up against bigotry.
“You have the rights to exercise your own free speech. You can call it out. You need to stand up and use your own free speech to counter their ugly with your better speech.”