How a student was accused of being a “genocide supporter”.
On many college campuses, large and small, in the United States, anti-Semitism is growing. This type of hate affects a wide range of people, from students to staff to faculty members. A few weeks ago, during Judaism’s holiest days, three anti-Semitic incidents occurred at the University of Michigan, Rutgers University and American University. Anti-Semitism is clearly alive and well on campuses.
According to some reports, anti-Semitism is the most reported hate crime on college campuses. Anti-Semitism is not an epidemic in one school, but a kind of pandemic that is slowly spreading through all school spaces, organizations, and even classrooms across America.
No matter how “diverse and inclusive” our school spaces may be, the Jewish people are often unwelcome, especially since our identity is intertwined with the actions of a Middle Eastern state so close to our hearts but so often seen as problematic.
It’s funny, really, I went to a Jewish high school that made sure we were ready to take charge during an anti-Semitic incident. Our version of “college prep” told stories about anti-Semitism on college campuses and how to tackle it directly. I never really thought that would happen to me at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. I don’t fit the stereotypical Jewish “look”. I consider myself open minded and I’m not overly religious.
I was very wrong. From the beginning, in the middle of my first year, I experienced anti-Semitism directly. At that time, I became heavily involved in a student organization that worked for the benefit of refugees across the country. I had already volunteered with refugees in high school, so I thought I was an ideal member for the club.
However, someone in the club’s management didn’t think so. I had voiced my support for Zionism on my social media accounts, leading this student leader to ask if they could dig deeper into my “political alignments.”
As a Jew who has explicitly defined Zionism as supporting Jews for self-determination in their homeland, but who has a lot of critical feelings about Israel, I thought I was clear. After several heated conversations with this person trying to prove to them that I was a “good Jew” and not a bad person, they finally called me as other Jews are called on campuses across the country, a genocide supporter. I was likened to a supporter of killing and imprisoning Palestinians, going so far as to say that I akin to an American Confederate supporter.
No matter how progressive I was, how critical of Israel I was, or even how historically the Jewish people were persecuted, I was described as an “evil Zionist.” I didn’t know what to do as my possible leadership position in the organization, my relationships with other members and my sanity were at stake. I went through every job opening I could find, including administration school and filing a discrimination complaint, both to no avail. I found support from other Jewish students who had experienced similar incidents.
Serving on the board of my Hillel campus, I know that support for Jewish students is deeply needed and, at the same time, I am fed up with the lack of protection for Jewish students in academia. American colleges of all sizes and locations are beginning to pride themselves on diversity and inclusion where all opinions can be heard and valued.
However, when students ignore and reject a belief such as Zionism, which many claim is inextricably linked to Judaism, and by many estimates a significant majority of Jews in the United States believe it, many discriminate. by default.
When campuses welcome a group, a religion or a culture, they do not welcome an individual who “aligns” with general beliefs, they welcome a whole people. This should not be a consideration made just for Jews, but a principle of common human decency. @
Joseph Shumunov is a sophomore at Kalamazoo College.