Conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

By Samantha Brotman

To the University community,

In light of Chancellor Robert Jones’s Sept. 24 mass email, the Champaign-Urbana chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace sees an opportunity to address the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

First, we, as members of the local Jewish community, wish to express our solidarity with and support for all who have engaged in efforts on behalf of Palestinian rights. Such efforts are consistently maligned as anti-Semitic, a tactic clearly at work in the chancellor’s recent letter. In the vast majority of instances, such accusations of anti-Semitism are not only inaccurate, but seriously damage people’s livelihoods and reputations, and have had a chilling effect on academic freedom. This damage almost always disproportionately affects people of color and Muslims. This should not be taken lightly.

Pro-Israel groups (and those who take their talking points from such groups) wield accusations of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel, but the reality is not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. Israel is a nation-state, not a religion. Israel is not even necessarily a country for all Jews — it is a country for those with a specific political ideology. Criticizing Israel simply is not the same as anti-Semitism.

Every time a false accusation of anti-Semitism is lodged or insinuated, it diminishes our ability to elicit much-needed concern when true anti-Semitism occurs.

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Today, many Jews stand with Palestinians and say that Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians cannot continue and does not occur in our name. The tides are turning, and we implore those of you in our community who care about justice to be on the right side of history by standing with those, like Students for Justice in Palestine, who are fighting for Palestinian rights.

In solidarity,

Jewish Voice for Peace Champaign-Urbana

Samantha Brotman graduated from the University in 2008. 

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