November 8, 2018

GUEST ROOM | Cornellians Must Combat Anti-Semitism

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On Saturday, Oct. 27, an anti-Semite committed the worst anti-Semitic act in America’s history. We have an obligation to mourn the eleven Jews slaughtered in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue. We also have a collective responsibility to act against anti-Semitism. I propose starting right here, on our campus.

The shooter in Pittsburgh is a far-right, white nationalist, and anti-Semitic bigot. He represents a classical, blatant sort of Jew-hatred, which certainly exists at Cornell, despite the large Jewish population here. My sophomore year, I discovered that my next-door neighbor told his (non-Jewish) roommate that Jews are morally corrupt and that Hitler did not finish the job. The roommate was rightly disgusted and moved out, the incident was reported to the residence hall director, but this individual faced no real consequences for his despicable anti-Semitic statements.

But more prevalent on our campus is an anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism. Students for Justice in Palestine, which has a Cornell chapter, exemplifies this sort of anti-Semitism. To its credit, Cornell SJP posted on Facebook about the need to combat “anti-Jewish hate” after the Pittsburgh shooting. Ironically, Cornell SJP engages, to some degree, in a form of anti-Semitism itself. On its Facebook page, the group delegitimizes Israel — the only Jewish state in the world — as a “settler colonial” and “apartheid” state, and calls for resistance against the “fascist grip of US and Zionist state violence.”

Cornell SJP will argue that they are defending Palestinian human rights and are not anti-Semitic. The U.S State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism refutes this argument. The State Department classifies “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” as acts of anti-Semitism. When it calls to “make Israel Palestine again” and to “Free Palestine” (both found on Cornell SJP’s Facebook page), Cornell SJP effectively endorses the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and a haven for the Jewish people.

My fellow Cornellians: we must combat anti-Semitism wherever its origins and whatever form it takes. If you are dismayed at the brutal shooting of eleven Jews in Pittsburgh, know that anti-Semitism exists on our campus too. And we are all duty-bound to fight it.

Josh Eibelman is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a CAMERA on Campus fellow. Guest Room runs periodically this semester. Comments may be sent to [email protected].