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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Anti-Zionism week held at UC Davis, Aggies for Israel organizes response

Week featured marches, guest speakers, talks

From April 29 to May 3, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized a series of talks, marches and activities as part of anti-Zionism Week.

In response, Aggies for Israel (AFI) also organized a series of tabling events and safe spaces in support of Zionism for those who felt targeted by anti-Zionism week.

On campus during the week, SJP and MSA organized events around the theme of Palestinian liberation and spoke out against the state of Israel.

Kauser Adenwala, a second-year history, political science and religious studies triple major, is the external vice president of the MSA and helped organize the week’s events.

“The goal is to shed light and bring awareness to people who don’t know what Zionism is,” Adenwala said. “Often times, especially with the current events, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are equated when they are two distinct ideologies.”

Anti-Zionism week concluded on the same day as global Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoa and a memorial service to honor victims of the shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue. Adenwala said the timing was not intentional and the events were even postponed to avoid falling on Passover.

AFI organized tabling events, a lunch, debriefing spaces and a community vigil for the victims of the synagogue shooting in response to anti-Zionism Week.

AFI President Dana Benavi, a fourth-year communication major, commented on anti-Zionism week taking place during Yom Hashoah.

“The scheduling of anti-Zionism week during this time is offensive and hurtful to so many of us whose families suffered as a result of the Holocaust because the Jewish people did not have a safe haven during World War II,” Benavi said via email. “In the future we hope to see a week that does not call for Zionist destruction, but rather Palestinian empowerment.”

While the weeklong events are a part of anti-Zionism week, specific events organized by MSA and SJP focused on creating a space for Palestinian students on campus as the main goal. Adenwala commented on the organizations’ aims to promote an understanding of what it means to have student rights on a college campus.

“It means not having your events shut down by CSI; it means having a place to organize, not being targeted by Canary Mission or other student organizations who don’t agree with us,” Adenwala said.

When asked if Zionist groups should have the same rights to exist on campus, Adenwala said they should not.

“Zionism is an ideology rooted in racism, imperialism, colonialism and the subjugation of Palestinians,” Adenwala said. “The line is not arbitrary. When you’re a Zionist, you’re arguing that you are okay with the violence and the brutal subjugation that Palestinians endure every day.”

While many see Zionism as an endorsement of the modern state and government of Israel and anti-Zionism as a renouncement of that government, Professor David Biale has a different understanding.

“Many fall somewhere in between,” Biale said. “The term Zionism needs to be understood in its historical context. The problem today both on the side of the Palestinians and to some degree on the side of the Zionists, has become more and more narrow in terms of its definition.”

Biale is the director of the Jewish Studies Program at UC Davis and has been teaching courses on Jewish history and the Holocaust for over 40 years.

“Zionism arises out of a quite desperate need of the Jews to get out of Europe,” Biale said. “It was the idea that the Jews should have their own society in which they could govern themselves. Given where they were coming from in Poland, they were a minority, they were discriminated against, there was violence against them and Zionism offered one option for trying to save them from that situation.”

Events organized by MSA and SJP showcased different speakers, including filmmaker

Rebecca Peirce, who works with Jewish Voice for Peace.

Peirce’s lecture focused on the militarization of the modern Israeli state and the violence Palestinians and other marginalized groups have faced.

“Part of the division has to do with people having experienced being scapegoated by nationalist groups,” Peirce said. “It’s not just Jewish minorities, it’s other groups that experience this too.”

Peirce also addressed the historic emergence of the Israeli state which Biale conceptualizes as emerging out of the need for Jews to escape Nazi-occupied Europe.

“A lot of this is happening in an explicitly colonial framework,” Peirce said. “Today you

will hear [that] a lot of people strongly object to the idea that Zionism has anything to do with


While the events highlighted current points of conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and its impacts on individuals and diasporic communities, they did not include the future aims of either organization or alternative ways to address the conflict.

Biale commented on the purpose of SJP and MSA organizing on the Quad.

“If the goal of the Palestinian side of this is dismantling the state of Israel and its replacement by an Arab state, then that goes against the reasons there is a Jewish state there in the first place, that Jews and the world community feel there is a justice in the Jews, after centuries of persecution, having their own state,” Biale said.

Biale does not believe it’s possible to dismantle the current state of Israel.

“As a practical matter, the state of Israel is not going to be replaced,” Biale said. “We’re talking about a state that has something like the fifth most powerful army in the world; it has nuclear weapons. This is not a state that is going away just because there is a demonstration on the Quad.”

Adenwala spoke more on the purpose behind Anti-Zionism week.

“We are interested in talking about real solutions to these issues, and we are being pragmatic with our role as students,” Adenwala said. “The purpose of the lectures, workshops and demonstration at the Quad were not only to advocate for the replacement of Israel, but to expose other students to their unjust actions in the present day and throughout history.”

Adenwala commented on the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, beyond being simply one with clear-cut sides.

“We expressed and still do express solidarity with our Jewish, Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters,” Adenwala said. “Political ideologies should not interfere with the rights of those that should be united.”

Written by: Ally Russell — campus@theaggie.org


  1. I’m honestly disappointed that we would allow an anti-belief week on campus. I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but if we extend the rights of students to being able to peddle actions against another group of students on campus we incite tension if not violence. Can you imagine if we had had an anti-republican week on campus, an anti-caucasian week on campus, an anti-libertarian or anti-socialist week? No? I would hope not. Each group could even have (well-founded) reasons for vilification lobbed at them. Speaking FOR your beliefs instead of AGAINST the beliefs of others are vastly different territories. One is advocacy and education. The other is condemnation and non-discriminating plays at retribution against specific groups of people.


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