Resolution passes during controversial ISG meeting
October 28, 2019
Resolution 03.29: “Condemning Ignorance of Racism and Equating Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism” was passed Oct. 23 by the Illinois Student Government during their grand assembly.
The vote on this Resolution was a culmination of the response from a Massmail sent by Chancellor Robert Jones condemning anti-Semitism on campus.
The Resolution condemns the “constant conflation of Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism,” and requests a retraction of this Massmail, along with an apology from Chancellor Jones.
Over 400 students, both for and against the resolution, met yesterday in the audience of the ISG general assembly.
Those against the resolution, predominantly Jewish student groups on campus and fellow supporters and allies, stood in protest of the lack of Jewish input in forming the resolution, and in support of the Chancellor Jones’ comments.
“The student body assembled here today, they have rushed a resolution through, without the consent of the Jewish people. They have not listened to a single word we have said, refused to adopt our definition of anti-Semitism,” said Max Shapiro, one of the organizers of the protest.
During the public comment section, Lauren Nesher, junior in AHS, said that the resolution shows that community leaders believe that, “Jews on this campus do not have the right to define what hatred against them is.”
“We do not negotiate anti-Semitism,” Nesher said. “We do not negotiate our safety. We do not negotiate our fear. We do not negotiate our homeland. And again, we do not negotiate anti-Semitism.”
She urged “all Jewish students and their allies” to walk out, and proceeded to lead protestors out of the room.
Those in support of the resolution stayed, and parts of the audience started chanting “Free, Free Palestine.”
The public comment section continued, and many organizations and community members on campus made speeches to show their support for the resolution.
Students Against Sexual Assault, Students for Environmental Concerns and Women of Pride among other groups gave speeches in support of the resolution.
“Anti-Zionism is the critique of Israel, and everyone is allowed to criticize a state,” said Ahlam Khatib, president of Students for Justice in Palestine.
Bruce Rosenstock, professor in LAS, quoted selected Israeli scholars about anti-Zionism vs. anti-Semitism.
“Zionism like all other modern Jewish movements in the 20th was harshly opposed by many jews, as well as by non-jews, who are not anti-Semitic. Many victims of the holocaust oppose Zionism. On the other hand, many anti-Semites supported Zionism,” Rosenstock said. “it is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”
Khatib agreed with Rosenstock and said that the effects go even further.
“This ridiculous conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is offensive, distracting and extremely harmful to the mental health and physical well-being of Palestinian students,” she said.
Dunia Ghanimah, senior in LAS and creator of the presentation, said she had received multiple threats and intimidation over the phone and through social media. Various members of the ISG said they had experienced similar threats.
Ghanimah also said that she asked Chancellor Jones in person what was anti-Semitic in her presentation, and he said nothing was.
“It was just interpreted that way by a student,” Ghanimah said.
The authors of the resolution eventually spoke. Bugra Sahin, chair of the Committee on Environmental Sustainability and one of the authors, said that there are a lot of lies that have been told about this resolution.
“This crowd (protesters against the resolution) did not know what was going on, and these same organizers that lied to them have led them out before they can be exposed to what is actually happening,” Sahin said.
Sahin said there were actually Jewish voices that contributed to the resolution, but many were scared of being ostracized from the Jewish community.
He reiterated the resolution, and everyone in the room, is not anti-Semitic.
“We were there when a Holocaust denier, Nazi, was on the quad. We were there for hours until we drove them out,” Sahin said. “How about we see a Massmail next time a holocaust denier is on the quad?”
Only one member of the ISG debated whether there should be more time to think about this bill or to hear more people’s opinions.
Jack Langen, Student Body Vice President, said he believes Jewish student voices do not feel like they are being heard due to the events that occurred earlier in the assembly.
He asked whether there should be more time given to review the resolution and have more Jewish student involvement.
Langen was quickly taken off of the floor, as most of the room disagreed with him.
“The Jewish voices that left do not have a problem being heard,” Rosenstock said. “No voice is threatened except those who criticize Israel.”
The ISG Senate voted 29 votes in favor of the resolution, four against and four abstaining.