To the Editor:
On Thursday, I read the article in the Daily Sun’s Guest Room section entitled “Cornellians Must Combat Anti-Semitism,” in which the author, Josh Eibelman ’20, underlined the need to fight anti-Semitism on campus. Though Eibelman is absolutely correct in that anti-Semitism remains an enormous problem both on campus and in America as a whole, he spends most of his piece not denouncing actual anti-Semitism, but instead attacking Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine. As an Ashkenazi Jew and a committed member of Cornell SJP, I thought it necessary to respond to Eibelman’s accusations from a Jewish, anti-Zionist perspective.
Eibelman claims that SJP’s activity qualifies as antisemitic because it works to “delegitimize Israel — the only Jewish state in the world — as a ‘settler colonial’ and ‘apartheid’ state.” According to Eibelman, this stance is incontrovertibly antisemitic since “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 a form of anti-Semitism. I would hope that Eibelman realizes that the State Department of the United States of America, which has supported ethnic cleansing around the world and is by far the greatest backer of the State of Israel abroad, is not the final arbiter on what is and isn’t anti-Semitism. I would also hope that Eibelman has enough knowledge of Jewish history to recognize that the Israeli project itself has historically been at odds with Jewish self-determination: it was the early Zionists, not the Palestinians, who coerced Holocaust survivors into enlisting in the Israeli Defense Forces and who banned the use of Yiddish as the living language of the Ashkenazi people in their “Jewish state.”
Eibelman is correct that “Cornell SJP effectively endorses the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state,” to the same extent that we oppose the existence of any state predicated on the primacy of white people, Jewish or otherwise, over everyone else. This stance should not be controversial. Most Americans rightly denounce Richard Spencer’s calls for the creation of a hypothetical white ethnostate in America through “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” so why do a few certain so-called “progressives” seem to have such difficulty denouncing an actually existing white ethnostate, established by the wholesale slaughter of Palestinian Arabs and the forced sterilization of African Jews by European Jewish colonists? There’s no two ways about it: Zionism is a particularly horrific formulation of white supremacy.
Any accusation that Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine is somehow a bastion of “anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism,” or that anti-Zionism itself is inherently antisemitic, is completely baseless. We stand against oppression in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. I speak from personal experience when I say that being a Jew and being a member of Cornell SJP is not at all contradictory, nor is being a Jew and being opposed to the existence of a Jewish state on principle.
But Eibelman, in seeking to push his agenda in the face of tragedy, seems to ignore these inconvenient truths. Instead of directly condemning the American Neo-Nazi movement and beginning a productive discussion on how to prevent another Pittsburgh massacre, Eibelman tries to shift the blame onto a group consisting almost entirely of people of color, who are bigger potential targets of fascist violence than almost anyone else. In frantically pointing out instances of “anti-Semitism” which are actually just figments of his own imagination, Eibelman helps nobody but Neo-Nazis and their ilk. Ultimately, the more confusion people like Eibelman create with their unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism against progressive organizations, the more time fascism in America is allowed to fester.
Max Greenberg ’22