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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Guest: UC Davis must involve Jewish students in conversations about anti-Semitism on our campus

A Jewish student leader argues that Jewish Voice for Peace’s mission isn’t to combat anti-Semitism

I was scrolling through my newsfeed at the beginning of Winter Quarter when I came across the Jewish Voice for Peace event on Facebook. I texted fellow Jewish student leaders and once again — just as occurred with the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission event following the posting of the anti-Semitic fliers — no Jewish student leaders at UC Davis were contacted about the event. I would like to make it clear that this event was not sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office and JVP was invited to campus by a group of faculty. This event does not replace the ADL workshops that will be happening later in the year, planned by Jewish students and faculty.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s mission is to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred in the United States. The opinions of JVP represent a small minority of the Jewish community. Whether it be hosting Rasmea Odeh at their national conference — a terrorist convicted of the murder of two Jewish students in a Jerusalem supermarket — or tokenizing Mizrahi and Sephardi (Jews of Spanish and Middle Eastern descent) voices to advance their anti-Zionist cause, this organization does little to protect the Jewish community and educate others about anti-Semitism from both the left and the right.

The event description itself failed to mention how anti-Semitism presents itself across the political spectrum and only focused on how white supremacy is responsible for anti-Semitism. Whether it be the controversy over the Women’s March, when Louis Farakhan called Jews “termites,” or how on an almost weekly basis, religious Jews in Crown Heights are assaulted for being Jewish, there is no single political affiliation that carries anti-Semitic sentiments. To present it otherwise is counterproductive and does little to protect the Jewish community.

Furthermore, the speaker’s (Tallie Ben Daniel) research focuses on the relationship between the U.S and Israel through the lens of sexuality, not anti-Semitism. Her expertise is not the history of anti-Semitism nor its modern manifestations.

I encourage students and staff who wish to learn more about anti-Semitism to consider the opinions of most Jews whose views do not align with JVP. It is up to the vast majority of the marginalized community to define what is and is not hateful towards their community. Just like Latinos for Trump does not represent the views of the overwhelming majority of the Latinx community, neither does JVP for Jews.

Representative Ilhan Omar, who was recently criticized for her anti-Semitic comments, held a conference call with representatives of mainstream Jewish organizations like ADL and Americans for Peace Now (JVP was not among them, which is in itself telling). During this phone call she affirmed that, although some of her supporters were saying that her words weren’t anti-Semitic or shouldn’t be seen that way, “I do not want to give space or energy to anyone who wants to minimize the hurt,” adding that it is up to the Jewish community to define anti-Semitism.

To speak over members of the Jewish community on the issue of Jewish oppression and tokenize a fringe group is itself anti-Semitic paternalism.

I myself have experienced anti-Semitism throughout high school and college. If you speak with me, you will know I am Jewish very early on in our conversation. Growing up, so many Yiddish and Hebrew words were included in family conversations that to this day, I still have trouble distinguishing these languages from English words. Unfortunately, like for so many other Jews, it is makes me an easier target, as it is clear I belong to a marginalized community. It is my hope that the UC Davis community will involve Jewish students like me in the conversation of how anti-Semitism is defined on our campus and how it should be addressed so we are not sidelined in the conversation once again.

Written by: Arielle Zoken

The writer is a third-year economics major and Jewish studies minor. She’s involved with Chabad at UC Davis and is the former Vice President of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi.

To submit a letter to the editor, please email opinion@theaggie.org.


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