Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Yes, In Our Name!

The Song and the Letters: Yes, there have been good happenings this week. Not a lot of them - especially when compared to the slew of bad happenings this week - but Abq Jew says we'll take what we can get.

And keep fighting for what we deserve.

Eden Golan

First among those happenings we'll take is, of course, the splendid showing of Israel's wonderful Eden Golan in this year's Eurovision competition, held in Malmo, Sweden.

Eurovision officials and angry attendees did almost everything possible to silence her voice - including altering the title (October Rain became Hurricane) and lyrics to her song.

October Hurricane

After being booed and bullied, after receiving too many hateful messages on her social media. Eden Golan had to be escorted to the Eurovision venue by armored police cars and dozens of police officers.

And yet she stood there on the Eurovision stage - in front of the whole world - and sang. Twenty years old, with the strength and courage of a lioness. 


Thanks to support from the 'Rest of the World', Israel was able to achieve 5th place in the Eurovision competition. An entirely respectable result. Eden Golan returned to Israel with her head held high.

But wait there's more
From Jewish Students at Columbia University

Columbia Jewish Students

Sharon Otterman of The New York Times recently reported:
In Letter, 540 Jewish Columbia Students Defend Zionism, Condemn Protests

The students wrote that “Zionism remains a pillar of our Jewish identities” and argued that many classmates do not understand its meaning.

A group of Jewish Columbia students has written an emotional and forceful public letter that takes on one of the most divisive issues on college campuses: whether opposition to Israel should be equated with antisemitism.

In the letter, the students argue that “Judaism cannot be separated from Israel.” They also charge that anti-Zionist Jews who deny Israel’s right to exist and stand with pro-Palestinian protesters “tokenize themselves” and try to delegitimize the experiences of Zionist Jews on campus.

Excellent. ICYMI - here is the letter

In Our Name:
A Message from Jewish Students at Columbia University

To the Columbia Community:

Over the past six months, many have spoken in our name. Some are well-meaning alumni or non-affiliates who show up to wave the Israeli flag outside Columbia’s gates. Some are politicians looking to use our experiences to foment America’s culture war. Most notably, some are our Jewish peers who tokenize themselves by claiming to represent “real Jewish values,” and attempt to delegitimize our lived experiences of antisemitism. 

We are here, writing to you as Jewish students at Columbia University, who are connected to our community and deeply engaged with our culture and history. We would like to speak in our name.

Many of us sit next to you in class. We are your lab partners, your study buddies, your peers, and your friends. We partake in the same student government, clubs, Greek life, volunteer organizations, and sports teams as you.

Most of us did not choose to be political activists. We do not bang on drums and chant catchy slogans. We are average students, just trying to make it through finals much like the rest of you. Those who demonize us under the cloak of anti-Zionism forced us into our activism and forced us to publicly defend our Jewish identities.

We proudly believe in the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity. 

Contrary to what many have tried to sell you – no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.

Our religious texts are replete with references to Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem. The land of Israel is filled with archaeological remnants of a Jewish presence spanning centuries. Yet, despite generations of living in exile and diaspora across the globe, the Jewish People never ceased dreaming of returning to our homeland — Judea, the very place from which we derive our name, “Jews.” 

Indeed just a couple of days ago, we all closed our Passover seders with the proclamation, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Many of us are not religiously observant, yet Zionism remains a pillar of our Jewish identities. We have been kicked out of Russia, Libya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Poland, Egypt, Algeria, Germany, Iran, and the list goes on. 

We connect to Israel not only as our ancestral homeland but as the only place in the modern world where Jews can safely take ownership of their own destiny. Our experiences at Columbia in the last six months are a poignant reminder of just that.

We were raised on stories from our grandparents of concentration camps, gas chambers, and ethnic cleansing. The essence of Hitler’s antisemitism was the very fact that we were “not European” enough, that as Jews we were threats to the “superior” Aryan race. This ideology ultimately left six million of our own in ashes.

The evil irony of today’s antisemitism is a twisted reversal of our Holocaust legacy; protestors on campus have dehumanized us, imposing upon us the characterization of the “white colonizer.” 

We have been told that we are “the oppressors of all brown people” and that “the Holocaust wasn’t special.” Students at Columbia have chanted “we don’t want no Zionists here,” alongside “death to the Zionist State” and to “go back to Poland,” where our relatives lie in mass graves.

This sick distortion illuminates the nature of antisemitism: In every generation, the Jewish People are blamed and scapegoated as responsible for the societal evil of the time. 

  • In Iran and in the Arab world, we were ethnically cleansed for our presumed ties to the “Zionist entity.” 
  • In Russia, we endured state-sponsored violence and were ultimately massacred for being capitalists. 
  • In Europe, we were the victims of genocide because we were communists and not European enough. 

And today, we face the accusation of being too European, painted as society’s worst evils – colonizers and oppressors. We are targeted for our belief that Israel, our ancestral and religious homeland, has a right to exist. We are targeted by those who misuse the word Zionist as a sanitized slur for Jew, synonymous with racist, oppressive, or genocidal. 

We know all too well that antisemitism is shapeshifting.

We are proud of Israel. The only democracy in the Middle East, Israel is home to millions of Mizrachi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent), Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Central and Eastern European descent), and Ethiopian Jews, as well as millions of Arab Israelis, over one million Muslims, and hundreds of thousands of Christians and Druze. 

Israel is nothing short of a miracle for the Jewish People and for the Middle East more broadly.

Our love for Israel does not necessitate blind political conformity. It’s quite the opposite. 

For many of us, it is our deep love for and commitment to Israel that pushes us to object when its government acts in ways we find problematic. Israeli political disagreement is an inherently Zionist activity; look no further than the protests against Netanyahu’s judicial reforms – from New York to Tel Aviv – to understand what it means to fight for the Israel we imagine. 

All it takes are a couple of coffee chats with us to realize that our visions for Israel differ dramatically from one another. Yet we all come from a place of love and an aspiration for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

If the last six months on campus have taught us anything, it is that a large and vocal population of the Columbia community does not understand the meaning of Zionism, and subsequently does not understand the essence of the Jewish People. 

Yet despite the fact that we have been calling out the antisemitism we’ve been experiencing for months, our concerns have been brushed off and invalidated. 

So here we are to remind you:

  • We sounded the alarm on October 12 when many protested against Israel while our friends’ and families’ dead bodies were still warm.
  • We recoiled when people screamed “resist by any means necessary,” telling us we are “all inbred” and that we “have no culture.”
  • We shuddered when an “activist” held up a sign telling Jewish students they were Hamas’s next targets, and we shook our heads in disbelief when Sidechat users told us we were lying.
  • We ultimately were not surprised when a leader of the CUAD encampment said publicly and proudly that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and that we’re lucky they are “not just going out and murdering Zionists.”
  • We felt helpless when we watched students and faculty physically block Jewish students from entering parts of the campus we share, or even when they turned their faces away in silence. This silence is familiar. We will never forget.

One thing is for sure.
We will not stop standing up for ourselves.
We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists.   

We came to Columbia because we wanted to expand our minds and engage in complex conversations. While campus may be riddled with hateful rhetoric and simplistic binaries now, it is never too late to start repairing the fractures and begin developing meaningful relationships across political and religious divides. 

Our tradition tells us, “Love peace and pursue peace.” 

We hope you will join us in earnestly pursuing peace, truth, and empathy. Together we can repair our campus.

But wait there's more
From Jewish Students at UNM

UNM Open Letter

Nick Catlin of KOAT recently reported:
Open letter to University of New Mexico regarding antisemitism 
The letter was published to express concerns about possible actions taken to divest from Israel amid its ongoing war with Hamas

An open letter addressed to University of New Mexico administration responds to student protest demands.

It starts by stating it is responding to student protesters who demand the university divest resources from Israel. This is due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas since October 2023.

The letter states it is against using university resources to single out Israel. It goes on to state the proposed actions will not end the suffering in Palestine. Rather, it will increase hate and division among the campus community.

Excellent. ICYMI - here is the letter

An Open Letter
To the UNM Administration

To the UNM administration, in particular the Board of Regents and President Stokes,

This letter is a response to the student protests that demand that UNM divest from Israel in response to the war in Gaza.

Before we say anything else, let us state the obvious that the death and destruction happening in Gaza is a horrible tragedy. Far too many civilians in Gaza are suffering terribly and dying through no fault of their own. Just as much as anyone else, we want to see the violence in Gaza end. 

This letter is not a call for or against any proposed solution to the conflict in Gaza, and it is not a call against student protestors' right to freely express their opinions on campus. 

It is a statement against proposed actions that will not help end the suffering in Gaza, but instead will only serve to increase division and hatred at UNM.

Using university resources to single out Israel as a target for condemnation will not help Palestinians' cause. Instead it will be harmful for the following reasons.

The protests around campus calling for divestment from Israel are not limited to only calling for specific actions against Israel, but rather those demands are heavily intertwined with frightening calls for violence against Jews that UNM would legitimize if they accepted the protestors' demands. 

While criticism of Israel on its own does not imply antisemitism, in the case of protests on campus criticism of Israel is heavily intertwined with calls for violence against Jews. They are chanted by the same crowd one after another, and UNM must not consider them separately when planning their response.

Taken seriously, their chants call for violence that is magnitudes worse than what is happening in Gaza today. In the immediate aftermath of the October 7th attacks in which over 1000 innocent Israeli civilians were intentionally killed, protestors at UNM shouted "resistance is justified". Now they can be heard shouting "Israel out of the middle east" among other chants that explicitly deny Israel's right to exist. 

We are inclined to interpret our fellow students' statements charitably, so we like to think that they do not literally want to uproot the 7 million Jews in Israel from their homes and cause mass forced displacement and death of Jews on a scale not seen since the Holocaust, as a literal reading of their statements would suggest. Rather, we take the generous interpretation that they do not seriously think through the meaning of the words they say, that they latch onto catchphrases without critically thinking about what they are saying.

Still, it is imperative that UNM not give any credence to these dangerous, antisemitic statements that overshadow any legitimate criticisms of Israel the protestors are trying to get across, even if these statements are likely nonserious. 

Doing so would send a loud and clear message to Jewish and Israeli students, faculty, and staff at UNM, that they are not safe and not welcome here. 

This would be an especially dangerous message to send, as always, but especially now that antisemitic incidents are on the rise in Albuquerque since the October 7th attacks.

Condemnation of the violent demands of the protestors should not be taken as undermining the significance of the violence that is happening in Gaza. The death and suffering that Palestinians are experiencing every day is real and inescapable, unlike the destruction of Israel that protestors are calling for, which is thankfully just a disturbing fantasy, albeit one that many bad actors around the world sincerely and deeply desire. 

We can and should strongly condemn both the violent, antisemitic demands of protestors and the violence in Gaza.

A central purpose of UNM, and of universities in general, is to provide an environment where people from diverse backgrounds, both within the US and internationally, can come together and learn from each other and participate in scholarly activities as equals. 

It should bring us all great pride to be a part of a diverse institution like UNM where Jewish and Israeli students, and Muslim students and those from Muslim-majority countries, can be collaborators, coworkers, and friends, without politically charged and divisive actions by UNM administration looming over their day-to-day interactions.

In fact, fostering such a safe, welcoming environment where scholars from diverse international backgrounds can come together does far more to promote global peace than putting financial pressure on one side of any not-black-and-white conflict. 

When international scholars come together and work with each other at UNM, it shows everyone that the vast majority of people from any "enemy" country are regular people just like them, interested in science, art, learning, and peacefully coexisting with their neighbors, not harming anyone. 

If they go back to their home countries, their skills and high-quality education can put them in influential positions in society where their mindset can go a long ways to promote peace.

UNM should not jeopardize its most effective method to promote peace in the Middle East—bringing people from the region together as equals and as friends—by openly condemning and divesting from Israel. Instead it should strive to provide an environment where Jewish and Muslim students feel safe and welcome and able to work together.

Divesting UNM resources from only Israel as UNM's response to this conflict paints an unrealistic and harmful picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a black-and-white, good-versus-evil conflict. Reality is much more complicated than this simplified picture, and promoting this picture will not bring both sides closer to peaceful coexistence.

Divesting from Israel is far from the only action UNM could do to distance itself from bad actors involved in this war, and doing so would fail to promote both sides making the kinds of hard sacrifices that will need to be made to have long-term peace. 

For example, one of the many funds that UNM's endowment invests in is BlackRock's iShares MSCI ACWI ex U.S. exchange-traded fund. This fund has 0.46% of its assets invested in Israeli companies. 

It also has 0.22% of its assets invested in companies from Qatar. The government of Qatar is well-known to fund and empower Hamas, which is responsible for enormous amounts of death and suffering of Palestinians and Jews during this conflict. 

Do the students that advocate for divestment from Israel also advocate that UNM divest from Qatar? No, they do not. That's because their demands are not about taking actions that promote peaceful coexistence nor have concrete positive effects on Palestinians' lives. 

They are, charitably, about latching on to popular but misguided movements without fully understanding their undertones and consequences, and realistically, at least somewhat about antisemitism too.

UNM researchers enjoy fruitful and productive collaborations with Israeli researchers. In fact UNM and Israeli researchers are joint recipients of many research grants in subjects as diverse as plasma physics, neuroscience, and nanotechnology. 

Full divestment from Israel would necessarily mean cutting off these research programs, as they entail transferring grant money for research between UNM and Israeli institutions. 

Cutting off these important research collaborations would be a disservice to students, faculty, and any other researchers whose careers depend on being able to participate in scientific research that is the product of UNM-Israeli collaboration. 

It would also be a disservice to the public in New Mexico and beyond that benefits from the results of this research, and it would harm UNM's status as an institute where world-class scientific research takes place.

Don't listen to these students' harmful demands. Reject the calls for divestment from Israel and reject antisemitism.

UNM Hillel

Our friends at UNM Hillel have asked
us New MexiJews to sign this letter.

Click here to read and sign!

Eden Golan

Here is the Official Music Video for Hurricane:

Israel 76

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