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Letter to the Editor: Rising Antisemitism at the University of Utah

On the 79th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the normalization of antisemitism continues to threaten Jewish students at the University of Utah.
An+event+at+UCLA+advocating+for+the+return+of+Israeli+hostages+by+Hamas%2C+by+showing+that+our+communities+are+incomplete+while+they+remain+held+hostage.+%28Courtesy+of+Hillel+for+Utah%29
An event at UCLA advocating for the return of Israeli hostages by Hamas, by showing that our communities are incomplete while they remain held hostage. (Courtesy of Hillel for Utah)

 

On Oct. 6, 2023 we were excited at the prospect of relaxing after finishing our midterm exams. On the morning of Oct. 7, we woke up to close friends and family kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. Subsequent weeks have seen increasingly hostile rhetoric facing Jews on campus, including an Editorial Board piece published in the Utah Daily Chronicle. Terrified Jewish students have resorted to removing their yarmulkes, a traditional Jewish headcovering, and covering their Star of David necklaces. We have been labeled as “supporting genocide” for caring about our families’ lives. 

The numbers don’t lie. In October 2022, antisemitic incidents on college campuses were at record highs. Since Oct. 7, they have skyrocketed over 700% compared to a year ago. Jewish students praying at the University of Utah have been harassed by students yelling “Free Palestine,” irrespective of their views on this conflict. Even as evidence comes to light about widespread rape of young Israelis on Oct. 7, sexual assault survivor groups on various American college campuses have imposed litmus tests requiring Jewish students to denounce Zionism

The vast majority of Jews identify as Zionists. Zionism is, simply, the belief in the self-determination and statehood of the Jewish people. Beyond this there is an exceptional diversity of opinions. Many progressive Zionists do not support the current Israeli government. Zionism and being pro-Palestinian are not mutually exclusive. Using Jewish anti-war protests to disconnect Zionism from Judaism and labeling anti-Zionists as the only “good Jews” erases our community’s nuances. Many Zionist Jews — including numerous peace activists Hamas murdered on Oct. 7 — frequently oppose Israeli military action and government policy while still believing in the importance of the state of Israel. 

Today, we recognize the importance of empowering marginalized peoples to define hatred against their communities and respecting their narratives. We ask you to let the Jewish community do the same and allow us to define antisemitism, rather than dismiss our concerns as “fake” — as declared by the Chronicle Editorial Board. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism is the most widely accepted definition that addresses all different types of antisemitic behavior and rhetoric. The definition provides clear examples of antisemitic and non-antisemitic behavior creating a framework to protect Jewish students from needing to explain themselves every time they experience antisemitism. 

When campus leaders showed support for the mourning Jewish community at an on-campus vigil, people called for their resignations. The false claim that University disciplinary action against other student groups was “under the guise of protecting Jewish students” was published by the Chronicle. Blaming Jews for something we were not involved in was a favorite technique of the Nazis and helped lay the groundwork for the systematic dehumanization of Jews in the Holocaust.

Antisemitism attacks Jews for both being too powerful and for being inferior. For Nazis and white-supremacists, Jews deserve persecution for their undesirable racial status. At the same time, conspiracies about the Rothschilds and a Jewish Space Laser purport the existence of a global Jewish cabal. Applying the racial oppressed-oppressor binary to Jews mislabels Jews as “oppressors” because many of us are White-passing. This ignores thousands of years of Jewish persecution for being “other than” or “not White enough.” Over 50% of Israel’s Jewish population are Jews of color whose families were ethnically cleansed from across the Middle East and North Africa.

None of this should be interpreted as us opposing a future Palestinian state alongside Israel or supporting the murder of innocent Palestinians. But when standing up for Palestine requires chanting for “Intifada” or declaring “From the River to the Sea”, then it calls for violence against the Jewish community and alienates our advocacy. For the Jewish community, the term “Intifada” or “globalize the Intifada” refers to violence targeting Jews across the world and reminds us of widespread suicide bombings. When you say “From the River to the Sea” we hear a call for our ethnic cleansing illustrated by the Hamas Charter. This rhetoric exacerbates the same hateful ideological divisions that brought us here instead of facilitating solution-focused dialogue on campus and learning from affected communities.

At Hillel for Utah, we are committed to building bridges and holding hard conversations. We are deeply concerned by the rising antisemitism targeting Jewish students nationally, and at the U. And we are outraged at the role played by longstanding and well-respected student organizations in fostering an unsafe campus climate following Oct. 7. We cannot handle the fight against antisemitism alone, we need your help to make Jewish students feel safe on campus again. 

 

— The Hillel for Utah Student Board

@hillelutah

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Comments (3)

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  • C

    CamFeb 9, 2024 at 10:17 am

    I read the entirety of the Daily Utah Chronicle editorial being criticized in this article, and found nothing hostile to my Judaism. I didn’t even find anything mildly critical of my religion.

    Instead I found a call to end the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, and a well reasoned critique of the way powerful institutions frame it in America. I appreciated the way the editors made their case using ample citations of historical fact.

    This editorial on the other hand makes some dubious claims, such as equating students vocally expressing their desire for a “free Palestine”, with “harassment” of Jewish students. Though I imagine some people of the Jim Crow south also may have felt harassed by public protests for civil rights for Blacks. So perhaps harassment is a matter of perspective when ones sense of freedom is predicated upon the unchallenged and silent oppression of another group.

    It also seems dubious to make claims that “the majority of Jews are Zionists”, based on polls that ask about emotional attachment to Israel, or being generally pro-Israel (with the implication that to fail to answer in this way would mean being anti-Israel, or against the people currently residing in Israel). An accurate polling question would be something straightforward as “do you identify as Zionist?” Or if one feels that a primer is necessary, one could ask “Do you believe that the majority of Palestine should be governed by Jewish government?” Or “Do you believe that Palestine should be governed by a Democracy that includes Jews along with residents of Palestine belonging to other faiths?”

    Reply
    • J

      John HedbergFeb 13, 2024 at 2:11 pm

      Cam,

      Do you read books? Talk to witnesses? Watch interviews? Seen the photos from the death zones? I’ve been studying the Israel dilemma since 6th grade, from books, from liberal international news sources, and from first-hand accounts of people who survived the Holocaust and who lived in Israel (Palestinian Israelis are about 20% of the population, with full voting rights, so that puts to rest the lying farce about supposed “genocide”, or maybe you just don’t know what that word actually means). You sound indoctrinated with anonymously-funded propaganda websites. Study makes it less liable you’ll commit injustice and genocide yourself through being duped and manipulated by the anonymous.

      The people of Jewish descent settled the area of Palestine thousands of years before Christ, so they are the natives of Palestine. After the Nazi’s exterminated more than 6 million men, women, and children (much like Hamas “fighters” did to Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu civilians on October 7th), people around the world donated money for Jewish survivors to buy property in the land (Palestine) their ancestors had been dispossessed from. Jewish people today are European, Asian, African, North and South American and otherwise because they were forced to flee to all corners of the world when their homeland was repeatedly occupied, so there’s now no way to know how a Jewish person looks by sight, which is why Hamas kidnappers, rapists and murderers couldn’t tell that they were also committing crimes against humanity against fellow Palestinians on October 7th, as well as against visitors from around the globe, a great many of whom were minorities who were oppressed in their own homelands, but not in modern Israel, where they had equal legal and voting rights, where it was legal to be a woman and still drive a car, and where having a different lifestyle doesn’t target you for murder… unless Hamas or other Marxists happen to go on a genocidal killing spree in the name of an oppression that never happened, when they themselves are actual colonialists in Palestine.

      Israel captured Gaza after genocidal neighbors invaded more than 50 years ago, but in the interest of peace, Gaza was given to the actual colonialists (who call themselves Palestinians, but who are no more Palestinian than the Israelis) almost 20 years ago, and they’ve chosen their own government since then. Despite this, Gazans knowingly chose chartered genocidal terrorists to rule Gaza, which is why none of the Arab states who invaded in their name 50 years ago when Gaza was captured will take any more of these genocidal psychopaths to live in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else: these jihadis bring their poisonous hatred with them wherever they go, and if you build them a school, they turn it into a terrorist training center, and if you build them a hospital, they turn it into a military command compound (look at Lebanon~). Tens of thousands of their own people who’ve renounced jihad live peacefully in Israel today with full civil and voting rights, and many of these were killed October 7th by fratricidal “brothers” who are unwelcome anywhere else in the world, not because they are “oppressed”, but because they can’t be trusted not to have a tantrum and kill anyone who wants to live a life of their own choice that’s different from their neo-Marxist hatred, misogyny, racism, and cultural suicide.

      When Arabs and Allies drove the Nazi’s out of North Africa in 1943, nobody said they were committing “collective punishment” against fellow Arabs as they systematically destroyed Nazi tanks, airplanes, munitions, command bunkers, and any genocidal haters who refused to stop shooting at them. Hamas deliberately hides behind its own citizens as human shields, even as it spends the humanitarian aid it receives from around the world for more weapons, more tunnels, & more training for the next murders of innocents they tantrum their way into, while talking (lying) about a compassion they never practice, and talking (lying) about ending an oppression which they themselves perpetuate (as Marxists historically do).

      My own ultra-liberal public school teachers taught Massachusetts students all about who the real oppressors were, not just in Palestine since WW2, but around the world. I’m not Jewish, more ecumenical Christian, with touches of Buddhism and a liking for true religion wherever it’s practiced. True religion teaches that we’re all equal brothers & sisters in God’s eyes By Any Name, equally fallible and forgivable, and equally lovable as diverse, unique & beautiful individuals in God’s eyes and in each other’s, if we’re honest with ourselves and look at each other with those same eyes of our shared human identity. For these things, true religion finds a home (safe space) in individual human hearts among every nation, and has from the beginning. This is our only real safe space: each other, as Family.

      Do you truly desire to stand against these things?

      Reply
  • J

    John HedbergJan 31, 2024 at 10:40 am

    Very well said~!

    “Subsequent weeks have seen increasingly hostile rhetoric facing Jews on campus, including an Editorial Board piece published in the Utah Daily Chronicle.”

    Members of that Board have targeted my protected speech repeatedly over the last 18 months, just for pointing out that they’re suppressing marginalized voices which don’t agree with their Marxist/Equity hate-narratives, like their transphobic attacks on anyone who favored allowing Chloe Cole’s voice to be heard on campus, whether on film or in person (just as one example).

    ” The false claim that University disciplinary action against other student groups was “under the guise of protecting Jewish students” was published by the Chronicle. Blaming Jews for something we were not involved in was a favorite technique of the Nazis and helped lay the groundwork for the systematic dehumanization of Jews in the Holocaust. ”

    It’s worth pointing out that neo-Marxists, under the guise of Equity (defined as narcissistic hatred, discrimination, prejudice), are using these same dehumanizing, divisive, and destructive semantic techniques and tactics which the Nazi’s did.

    Amen to EQUALITY for every human being, but Equity is just hatred searching for any pretext to vent itself, as if Equity gets to decide our human value just by glancing at us. That’s why it’s egomaniacal, pathologically narcissistic (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the list of these so-called “oppressed” committing violence in the name of fabricated claims of “Equity” is long).

    Love Thy Neighbor, for in God’s eyes (By Whatever Name), we’re all equally children, equally fallible and full of clumsy learning behaviors, and equally full of promise as well, equally forgivable as we grow and mature into a more perfect union of good habits, principles, attitudes, and culture which lead to well-being and peace for every unique human, and equally beloved by God as we grow up, despite these momentary flaws, scrapes, scratches, and grass stains, since this is what good parents do; this Love is what they are~!

    Best Regards Kindly~

    Reply