Hundreds of Jewish Students Affirm Support for Campus Protests to Stop Gaza Genocide


  • May 7, 2024
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The Jewish students’ open letter—which circulated as U.S. President Joe Biden again linked campus encampments to antisemitism—urges institutions of higher learning to “take immediate action” to stop Israel’s Gaza genocide.

 

Groundxero | May 8, 2024

 

Against the backdrop of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Capitol Hill speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day  condemning antisemitism, hundreds of Jewish students at U.S. universities signed an open letter supporting the nationwide pro-Palestine campus protests, decrying the false smearing of the encampments as antisemitic, and urging institutions to take action to stop Israel’s “genocidal assault on Gaza.”

 

The letter said that “As Jewish students, we wholeheartedly reject the claim that these encampments are anti-Semitic” and added “We believe that safety for Jewish students can only come when all students are safe, including Palestinian students, BIPOC students, and queer and trans students.”

 

The letter continues:

The narrative that the Gaza solidarity encampments are inherently antisemitic is part of a decadeslong effort to blur the lines between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. It is a narrative that ignores the large populations of Jewish students participating and helping to lead the encampments as a true expression of our Jewish values. The beautiful interfaith solidarity by Jewish students observing Passover seders and Shabbat at encampments across the country show that the rich Jewish tradition of justice is on full display inside the encampments. The denial of Jewish participation in this movement is not only incorrect, but it is an insidious attempt to justify unfounded claims of antisemitism. As neo-Nazis are marching in the streets and fascist politicians are campaigning on the antisemitic Great Replacement theory, we wholeheartedly reject the lie that these student activists are targeting Jewish students in their protest.

 

The Jewish students’ letter stresses that “while the world’s focus is on students, we cannot forget that Israel is continuing its genocidal assault on Gaza,” and concluded by saying “we demand that academic and political leaders stop misrepresenting and demonizing protests and their organizers, protect the voices of student activists, and take immediate action to stop Israel’s genocidal acts before more Palestinians are killed.”

 

“We as Jewish students demand divestment from Israel and an academic boycott of all Israeli educational institutions contributing to the Israeli military assault on Gaza or protection of settlers in the West Bank,” the open letter states—which as of Tuesday afternoon had been signed by more than 750 Jewish students.

 

The full letter can be found here.

 

We the undersigned are Jewish students on college campuses in solidarity with student encampments for Gaza. 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.

 

In the last week, we have watched the movement of student encampments for Gaza spread across the country. We have also watched as these protesters have been met with repression, arrests, violence, and false claims of antisemitism. As Jewish students, we wholeheartedly reject the claim that these encampments are antisemitic and that they are an inherent threat to Jewish student safety. We believe that safety for Jewish students can only come when all students are safe, including Palestinian students, BIPOC students, and queer and trans students.

 

While journalists, students, and even police have consistently reported encampments to be peaceful, school administrations and city officials have intentionally and consistently escalated through state violence. Their tactics have included arresting and brutalizing students, and denying students access to housing, medical care, and religious spaces. The majority of these acts have targeted Arab, Muslim, Black, and brown students. This violence we’ve seen this week does not make any of us safer. We wholeheartedly condemn the brutal repression of the encampments.

 

Since October 7th, many of us have shown up to fight for Palestinian liberation as Jews: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, practicing, secular, and everything in between. Many of us have friends and relatives who were killed on October 7th. Many of us have faced violence, arrest, and harassment for our participation in the movement for a Free Palestine.

 

The narrative that the Gaza solidarity encampments are inherently antisemitic is part of a decades-long effort to blur the lines between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. It is a narrative that ignores the large populations of Jewish students participating and helping to lead the encampments as a true expression of our Jewish values. The beautiful interfaith solidarity by Jewish students observing Passover seders and Shabbat at encampments across the country show that the rich Jewish tradition of justice is on full display inside the encampments. The denial of Jewish participation in this movement is not only incorrect, but it is an insidious attempt to justify unfounded claims of antisemitism. As neo-Nazis are marching in the streets and fascist politicians are campaigning on the antisemitic Great Replacement theory, we wholeheartedly reject the lie that these student activists are targeting Jewish students in their protest.

 

We are deeply disturbed by the small number of individuals who have attempted to co-opt these encampments to spread violent, hateful, and antisemitic messages. However, we refuse to allow these administrations to use the safety of Jewish students as political cover for their violent reactions to peaceful protest. We commend the student organizers for keeping to their values of peaceful, powerful protest.

 

While the world’s focus is on students, we cannot forget that Israel is continuing its genocidal assault on Gaza. More than 34,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis have been killed since October 7th. Israel has killed more than 14,000 children and destroyed schools, hospitals, and all institutions of higher learning in Gaza. The Israeli government has done nothing to return the remaining 133 hostages to their families as they continue to hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners without charge. Instead, Netanyahu’s far right-wing coalition — backed by the Biden administration — has chosen to escalate the war, destruction, and loss of life. In the West Bank, full villages are being depopulated after months of settler terrorism, backed by the state. While we protest on campuses in the U.S., more than 80% of schools in Gaza have been decimated by Israeli bombs, amounting to what scholars regard as ‘scholasticide.’ The devastation is unfathomable, and it is truly heinous to see individuals attempting to demonize student peace activists in our name as Israel continues to massacre Gazans, massacres that our educational institutions are complicit in through their investments and repression.

 

We as Jewish students demand divestment from Israel and an academic boycott of all Israeli educational institutions contributing to the Israeli military assault on Gaza or protection of settlers in the West Bank. We also demand amnesty for all nonviolent student protesters and an end to the brutal repression by academic institutions and law enforcement. Finally, we demand that academic and political leaders stop misrepresenting and demonizing protests and their organizers, protect the voices of student activists, and take immediate action to stop Israel’s genocidal acts before more Palestinians are killed.

 

Note: We recognize that every institution is being posed with a different set of divestment demands. We urge each University to listen to their students meet their demands, now.

 

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