Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism at Syracuse University
Three years ago this past February, I came across a poster taped on the wall of my freshman dormitory at Syracuse University, which included the flag of Israel with the Star of David crossed out. When I questioned the dormitory staff member who was responsible, he expressed shock that Jews would find it offensive, offering the implausible explanation that it was intended to celebrate Black History Month.
Flash forward to this year, my senior year, when the university’s Student Association just voted to reject a proposal to embrace the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. In rejecting the IHRA definition, and eventually voting to indefinitely postpone consideration of the proposal, the students pedaled a lot of hypocrisies.
For example, they called the IHRA political — asserting that the Student Association cannot support a political organization or its political opinions and positions.
This is the same Student Association that, on the same day, advertised that the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion had invited to campus a divisive, sharply political speaker, Marc Lamont Hill, who is known for proudly spewing antisemitic blood libels, publicly supporting convicted terrorists, and most recently stating that the goal of the Black Lives Matter movement is to “dismantle the Zionist project.”
This is the same Student Association that also passed a resolution to block a conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro, from appearing on campus last year, accusing him of anti-Palestinian bigotry.
The situation becomes more perplexing when we consider the fact that none of the Student Association members who have been voting on these proposals and cementing this double standard are Jewish. These are non-Jews telling Jews what we are allowed to consider antisemitic.
One has to wonder whether these students would be so presumptuous as to lecture any other racial or ethnic group, or any other people with a common identity, on what they should consider offensive.
The Student Association argued, in part, that the IHRA definition of antisemitism threatens free speech because it includes anti-Zionism — or opposition to Israel’s existence as a sovereign state — to be a form of anti-Jewish sentiment. As many have pointed out, the IHRA definition does not stifle free speech.
Still, free speech was not a concern for the Student Association last summer, when they sat silent as anti-Israel zealots on campus waged a smear campaign against a Jewish professor, trying to get her fired because she is a Zionist. They only protected the free speech of those who sent emails to her school account, calling her a “subhuman savage,” calling Judaism a “racist cult,” and stating “F— Judaism, F— your Torah and Talmud.”
No expressions of concern were uttered by the Student Association when Jewish students who supported the professor were targeted with death threats and doxxing on social media. In fact, some of the ringleaders of the smear campaign and those launching attacks on the professor’s supporters sit on the Student Association and voted against the IHRA proposal.
Apparently, the Student Association is for free speech and tolerance only when its members agree with what is being said. All others, particularly Jewish students, must beware.
The author is a student at Syracuse University. She has served as a CAMERA on Campus Fellow, and is a pro-Israel advocate.