Letter from hundreds of Jewish students at Columbia Uni consolidates divisive views on pro-Palestine campus protests - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Letter from hundreds of Jewish students at Columbia Uni consolidates divisive views on pro-Palestine campus protests

May 08, 2024 11:00 PM IST

The new letter from pro-Israel Jewish students surfaced just days after pro-Palestine Jewish students published their version in an open letter.

On Wednesday, May 8, a new letter penned (and under-signed) by hundreds of Jewish students at Columbia University surfaced on social media. Shai Davidai, an assistant professor at the Columbia Business School (as it says on his X/Twitter bio), shared the Google document on the microblogging platform.

In this grab taken from video, protestors protesting the Israel-Hamas war stand outside near the campus of George Washington University, in Washington, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Tensions have continued to ratchet up in standoffs with protesters on campuses across the U.S. and increasingly, in Europe, nearly three weeks into a movement launched by a protest at Columbia University. (WJLA via AP)(AP)
In this grab taken from video, protestors protesting the Israel-Hamas war stand outside near the campus of George Washington University, in Washington, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Tensions have continued to ratchet up in standoffs with protesters on campuses across the U.S. and increasingly, in Europe, nearly three weeks into a movement launched by a protest at Columbia University. (WJLA via AP)(AP)

Linking the document to his post, he wrote: "Hundreds of Jewish students at @Columbia just published one of the most incredible student letters I have ever read.

It's not only magnificently written, but it also clearly articulates their experiences on campus for the past six months.

Their letter tells the story of what's it like being a Jewish student right now better than any professor like myself could ever do.

Please take 4-5 minutes to read their letter. Give Jewish students a voice."

What's in the letter shared by Jewish students at Columbia University?

Titled, “In Our Name: A Message from Jewish Students at Columbia University,” the publicly shared letter opens with the message that “many have spoken in” their community's name. This statement may be seen as a dig at those Jewish students standing in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

These claims can be linked to a previous report of a Jewish student addressing concerns of “anti-Semitism” on US campuses. On April 23, Jared Kannel, yet another fellow Jewish student, spoke to TRT World and asserted that he felt “100% safe” on university grounds.

Also read | Pro-Palestine protesters arrested at NYC's Fashion Institute of Technology as Israel moves into Rafah

Kannel, who's been partaking in pro-Palestinian protests and joined the demonstration in the Gaza encampment at Columbia University, said, "I'm a Jewish student at Columbia. When we talk about antisemitism on campus, that's taking the spotlight away from Gaza, away from Palestine and Palestinian students on campus, and putting it back onto me. I am perfectly safe here. And this has all been a distraction because they don't want us talking about the nonstop massacre of Gaza, of Palestinian civilians…”

However, the new letter from hundreds of Columbia students of Jewish faith highlighted that such “people claiming to represent ‘real Jewish values’… delegitimize (their) lived experiences of antisemitism.”

The letter addresses that most of these students “did not choose to be political activists,” and “are average students… trying to make it through finals.” However, with the other side of the narrative allegedly “demonizing them “under the cloak of anti-Zionism,” they've “forced” these students into their “activism and forced (them) to publicly defend our Jewish identities.”

The letter continues: “We proudly believe in the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity.” This particular huge group of Jewish students at Columbia claims that “Judaism cannot be separated from Israel.” Adding on to that, they also declare, “Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.”

Moving on, they foreground that their religious texts are filled with “references to Israel, Zion and Jerusalem" and that Israel is replete with “archaeological remnant of a Jewish presence spanning centuries.”

Also read | Watch: Police use bulldozer to halt pro-Palestine protest at Amsterdam University

Also underlining how, despite most of them not being “religiously observant,” “Zionism remains a pillar of (their) Jewish identities.”

Addressing generations of suffered trauma, the students underscore a sense of collective alienation tied to their community. Eventually, they proclaim that Israel isn't merely their “ancestral homeland,” but also the “only place in the modern world where Jews can safely take ownership of their own destiny.”

Prevalent cases of alleged antisemitism highlighted

Thereafter, the students correlate “the essence of Hitler's antisemitism” with the “evil irony of today's antisemitism,” which is addressed as a “twisted reversal of (their) Holocaust legacy” as pro-Palestine protesters have allegedly “dehumanized them on campus and imposed the “white colonizer's title on them, as mentioned in the letter.

What other claims have been made in the letter?

Columbia's students of the Jewish faith alleged that these “antisemitic” slurs have branded them as “the oppressors of all brown people,” while others have supposedly hurled the “Holocaust wasn't special” claims at them.

Additionally, the student body reportedly also included how their fellow university mates at Columbia have chanted the following lines:

  • “We don't want no Zionists here.”
  • “Death to the Zionist State.”
  • “Go back to Poland (where [their] relatives lie in mass grave)”
  • In another statement, they've also pointed out alleged instances of demonstrators holding up a “sign telling Jewish students they were Hamas' next targets.”t
  • The ones writing this letter also spoke of a CUAD encampment leader declaring, "Zionists don't deserve to live," “and that (they're) lucky that (anti-Israel protesters) are ‘not just going out and murdering Zionists.’”

The Jewish student body further goes on to accuse society of “blaming” and “scapegoating” Jewish people “as responsible for societal evil of the time.”

The lengthy petition addressed to the Columbia community then lists several instances of the violent history faced by Jews, as the students label themselves “victims of genocide” for not being “European enough.” Their claims again drive the divisive wedge between them and their fellow college-mates, who're standing with the Gaza cause and claim Palestinians to be the victims of a genocide fuelled by Israel.

Other statements also allege that many “misuse” the word “‘Zionist’ as a sanitized slur,” which is believed to be synonymously associated with being “racist, oppressive or genocidal.” Notably speaking of how “antisemitism is shapeshifting,” these students proudly hold on to their firm love for Israel

Before signing off, this group of Jewish students also accused “students and faculty” of physically blocking access to the campus entrance.

Are there any pro-Palestinian Jewish protesters?

Beyond the claims made in this latest letter update, other media reports have previously spotlighted other Jewish students standing in support of the pro-Palestine campus protests.

CommonDreams.Org shared an open letter signed by another set of hundreds of Jewish students at US universities condemning Israel's “genocidal assault on Gaza.”

An extract from this particular open letter in solidarity with student encampments for Gaza, read: “We demand that academic and political leaders stop misrepresenting and demonizing protests and their organizers”

The original five Jewish student authors of this letter reportedly highlight that they are from different college campuses in the US. However, identifying themselves as “members of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and Students for Justice in Palestine chapters and a number of independent campus organizations”, they claim that this letter has been penned independently and does not share any affiliations with the aforementioned organizations.

Their public address further states, “We reject the ways that these encampments have been smeared as antisemitic, and we call on our institutions to take action to stop Israel’s assault on Gaza.”

Also, taking note of those people who've spread “violent, hateful, and antisemitic messages,” the signers assert they “wholeheartedly reject the claim that these encampments are antisemitic and that they are an inherent threat to Jewish student safety.”

Sources:

  1. The first (pro-Israel) letter posted by Jewish students at Columbia: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/e/2PACX-1vRQgyDhIjZupO2H-2rIDXLy_zkf76RoM-_ZIYsOfn9FkI7TETgRtOfXK9VobMvGh6iEZfDPgALXJTCR/pub 
  2. The second (pro-Palestine) letter posted by Jewish students from various colleges across the US: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScBV5XUZq2-F4kOIIcblWfC1chTcc_f27YnD9rednFNu2mZGA/viewform 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, June 17, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On