GWU Students Pass Antisemitism Resolution, Strike Out Some Language on Israel
Student leaders at George Washington University in Washington, DC, called for action against antisemitism on their campus in a motion on Monday, though some Jewish students say the measure failed to include vital language.
The Student Association Senate resolution — adopted with a vote of 32 to 0, with four abstentions — was brought forward after a student was recorded earlier this month saying, “F**king bomb Israel, bro. F**k out of here, Jewish pieces of s**t.”
The legislation’s passage was preceded by some two hours of public comment, during which students spoke of their experiences with antisemitism, and debated what language to include in the resolution.
Most of the contention surrounded the resolution’s assertion that calling “the existence of a State of Israel … a racist endeavor” is antisemitic — a stance supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which was adopted by 31 member states in 2016 and served as the basis of the senate resolution.
Senators ultimately “voted to omit clauses that claimed the state of Israel is a ‘racist endeavor’ and that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state after students voiced concerns that the resolution did not represent all Jewish students who have differing views on Israel,” the student-run GW Hatchet reported.
Noah Shufutinsky, a junior and vice president of GW for Israel, gave an impassioned speech during the public comment period opposing amendments to the IHRA definition, urging senators to “listen to us” and not “turn a blind eye to the type of antisemitism that a vast majority of Jewish students here face.”
“We have a right to be connected to our homeland, and for you to deny that is absolutely ridiculous, I’m not going to put up with it anymore,” he said.
It’s really not that hard. When you ask a community facing hate what you can do to help them, and they tell you, and their student leaders write to you, and their representatives draft a resolution… all you have to do is listen. Disappointed but not surprised to see so many “allies” take the easy road tonight. Instead of taking a stand that might make them feel uncomfortable, many members of the Student Association chose to be “allies” in name only, striking clauses that specifically address how we as students face antisemitism on campus through anti Zionism. You made it clear tonight that appeasing racists and antisemites for a sense of belonging is more important than listening to you constituents.
Posted by Noah Shufutinsky on Monday, November 18, 2019
Rebecca Lewis, a senior and member of Jewish Voice for Peace, offered a counter-narrative, saying the resolution should not include text that would be alienating to anti-Zionist Jews.
“When we experience antisemitism, our communities do not stand behind us,” she said, according to the Hatchet. “GW has failed Jews like myself in the past and I’m here to ask you not to do it again.”
SA Senator Louie Kahn, who co-wrote the legislation, said during the public comment period that “antisemitism on this campus has been a major problem for many years, and we as a student association need to condemn it in all terms.”
“Through the many conversations that I’ve had with students, their identities are firmly attached to Israel and by not mentioning that, we would be doing a disservice to the Jewish community,” he added.
“You can criticize Israel all you want,” Kahn said, “but this is just about saying antisemitism is wrong, and I stand firmly behind it.”
Shufutinsky told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that the resolution, as it was passed, “minimizes the experience of Jewish students on campus, who encounter anti-Zionism as antisemitism on campus every day. It also upholds the double standard that has been so common in conversations — denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination under the guise of criticism of governmental policies.”
“The deliberate removal” of the clause denouncing descriptions of Israel’s establishment as “a racist endeavor” allows the Jewish people’s “existence in our indigenous homeland to be classified as ‘racist,'” Shufutinsky said. “This delegitimization is holding Jewish students to a double standard that categorizes our very existence and right to self determination as a ‘racist endeavor,’ which is another way of using the guise of anti-Zionism to disenfranchise Jewish students.”