Letter to the Editor | ISG reaffirms misguided view on anti-Semitism

By Laurence Bolotin

AJC Chicago is deeply troubled by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Student Body President’s decision to reaffirm a misguided view on anti-Semitism in a campus-wide email blast on Dec. 18. The letter does harm to the community by suggesting that all anti-Zionism should be protected from the charge of antisemitism. The Illinois Student Government was wrong when it passed a resolution in October denying any connection between anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism, causing substantial harm to the campus climate by failing to seek any meaningful input from the campus Jewish community.

While, of course, it is possible to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic, this misguided statement groups all anti-Israel views together. Outright anti-Zionism, however, which the student body president bizarrely defends, is indeed anti-Semitism, according to 84% of American Jews.  The Illinois Student Government might have learned this if they had chosen to engage with the University Jewish community instead of presuming to preach to Jewish students on what is and is not anti-Semitism.

We also object to the use of the phrase “criticism of Israel” to describe the activity in question here. Criticism of Israel is not, in itself, anti-Semitic. There is a distinction between policy disagreement and hateful, quasi-genocidal ideology and calling all of that merely “criticism of the state of Israel” is bad faith.

Restricting legitimate free speech is never appropriate in open campus discourse, but it is imperative that we be precise about these distinctions and the hate that so often underlies discussions of Jews and Israel.

Laurence is the Chicago Regional Director for the American Jewish Committee.

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