March 22, 2024

GUEST ROOM | An Open Invitation to Jewish Students

Print More

We write as members of Jewish Voice for Peace at Cornell. We are a group of students from different Jewish backgrounds, faiths and experiences who believe that above all, our Judaism implores us to stand up for the freedom of all people. Our Judaism compels us to recognize the ongoing genocide of Palestinians by the Israeli state and to fight against the cycles of violence that continue to cause mass suffering, displacement and death. We specifically refute the notion that Jews require a militarized theocracy to ensure our safety and ability to flourish. We condemn in the strongest terms the suffocation, occupation and murder of the Palestinian people in the name of Judaism.  

We write this to make it clear that Jews at Cornell, as everywhere, are not a monolith. We write this to Jewish Cornellians who may feel confused, divided or afraid to question Zionism. We understand because many of us grew up in families and congregations that espoused the ideals of Zionism without regard to its violent actualization. The process of questioning and unlearning is difficult, but it is essential. Questioning our beliefs, our values and our systems is at the very heart of Judaism, as we are regularly reminded during the Passover celebration we will commemorate next month. We write to Jewish students, urging you to ask questions and offer dissent; There is a community and a movement for you.

President Biden, among others, has stated that Jews would not be safe without Israel. We refute this idea in the strongest terms: we should be safe anywhere we live. Our freedom is not conditional on a state built on oppression and militarism. Jews have loved,struggled,fought and made homes all over the world, long before the notion of Zionism ever existed.  We are safe in the understanding that none of us are free until all of us are free. We are safe in our built communities, shared traditions and commitment to liberation. Furthermore, there is little evidence that Jews living in Israel are safer than Jews elsewhere, as we are regularly reminded that a people cannot build security on the oppression of others.

Many of us have been labeled, often by our own communities, as “self-hating Jews” for being outspoken anti-Zionists. We reject these callous words and those who weaponize such accusations of anti-semitism. It is destructive to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism; It is dangerous to mistake critique of a specific political position with ethnic hatred. This conflation only serves to perpetuate anti-semitic tropes about “dual loyalty” and allow for truly horrifying anti-semitism (such as the views espoused by re-invited speaker Ann Coulter) to go unnoticed. Anti-Zionism holds that no people should be dispossessed in order for others to be free, that citizenship cannot be tied to race or religion and that a collective struggle against exploitation must prevail. 

We abhor the doxxing of Jewish students and faculty for being outspoken about their beliefs. Such actions have placed people in real danger and served to chill speech and dissent. Criticism of the Coalition for Mutual Liberation and their calls for divestment have hinged on false accusations of anti-semitism without regard for the many Jewish students and faculty who are actively involved in this movement. We feel nothing but support and camaraderie from our peers in CML and know we must be in this fight together. As the great Puerto Rican Jewish poet Aurora Levins Morales wrote in her poem Red Sea: “We cannot cross until we carry each other, all of us refugees, all of us prophets.”

The legacy of the Shoah (the catastrophe of the Holocaust) teaches us that “never again” cannot only be for Jews, but for all those facing violence and genocide. We must be each other’s allies and caretakers. In Rabbi Hillel’s words, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

We want to have mutually respectful conversations with our community about why we believe in the principles of anti-Zionism and the fight for a free Palestine. We encourage Jewish Cornellians who feel confused, isolated or questioning to reach out to us. To be Jewish is to question ourselves and our surroundings, to fight for change, to recognize the precarity of freedom and to not rest until all people are liberated.

Eliza Salamon is a senior at Cornell University. She is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace at Cornell. JVP is the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world. They can be reached at [email protected] or through Instagram DMs @jvpcornell.

The Cornell Daily Sun is interested in publishing a broad and diverse set of content from the Cornell and greater Ithaca community. We want to hear what you have to say about this topic or any of our pieces. Here are some guidelines on how to submit. And here’s our email: [email protected].