I am the president of Hillel Jewish Student Union (though my views do not necessarily reflect all Jewish students). I have met both members of the Israeli consulate in the United States, members of the Israeli Defense Forces and Arab Palestinians living in Israel. I am pro-Israel. That is, I celebrate Israel’s right to exist as a democratic and Jewish state on the land to which it has historical ties. This does not mean that I support every action of the Israeli government and indeed, I am very concerned for the plight of the Palestinian people. I care deeply about suffering of any kind, which is why I am pro-Israel for the Jewish people and favor a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians. It is also why I am critical of people who criticize Israel as the reason for Palestinian suffering and ignore the fact that they are governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets Jews and in many ways targets Palestinians as well in the Gaza Strip, as well as the corrupt Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank. I am pro-self-determination in general and long for that for all peoples — Palestinians included — and I would never deny that the Palestinian people have a suffered a great deal. Israel is not free of blame, but it would be myopic to not acknowledge that a large amount of the suffering has come from Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority there.
Being critical of Israel in a way that is not rooted in anti-Semitism is necessary in order to improve the democratic Jewish state. However, anti-Zionism is in its definition anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish because Zionism is the movement that advocates for a Jewish state and its right to exist, as well as the protection of it. To criticize the only Jewish state’s right to exist while allowing states of other groups to mistreat their people without the same level of outrage boils down to being anti-Israel because of its religious affiliation.
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s dialogue must be stifled because it is rooted in anti-Semitic tropes, as her recent tweet suggests. “Benjamins” alludes to stereotypes of Jews controlling governments and money nefariously. Criticizing Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, but criticizing the only Jewish nation and ignoring human rights violations in other countries of that area is. Doing so when a person like Rep. Omar has a history of making anti-Semitic remarks, is.
The op-ed piece published Tuesday is dangerous because though its writers claim it does, it has not opened a dialogue. Instead, it has unilaterally tried to define what anti-Semitism is and is not for the Jewish community, and has dismissed the valid concerns of such sentiment.
– Carolyn Brodie, Hillel Jewish Student Union President