When reading this passionate account by Batya Ungar-Sargon at The Forward, a paper that has repeatedly published not only attacks on Israel, but defenses of anti-Semitism, due, in no small part to her own choices, I can’t help but shrug.
“Do you really not know?”
I think of German Jews, some who woke ever so slowly to the realization of the obvious. “Can you not see what’s staring you in the face until it actually slaps you in the face?”
Ungar-Sargon was slapped in the face when she went to a panel on anti-Semitism at Bard College.
When the conference began Thursday morning, I was warned that protesters from the Bard chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine planned to interrupt my panel with Wisse and Mor. I was surprised they were not targeting the one on Zionism, but the one on anti-Semitism, the only panel of about 20 over the course of the two-day program where three Jews would be discussing the topic.
“But we’re not even talking about Israel,” I said to the conference organizers. “How does that make sense?”…
As the protesters started to gather in the lobby, I approached them. I told them that I respected their passion and commitment to what they thought was right, but asked why they had picked this panel.
“Come to my panel tomorrow,” I said. “Come protest my comments on Zionism. I’ll be talking about the occupation. Bring your signs.”
I told them I’d reserve the first and second audience-questions for members of their group, but that protesting the all-Jewish anti-Semitism panel was undercutting their work.
“Don’t you see that?” I asked. Didn’t they see that protesting Jews over Israel when they are not even talking about Israel is racist? Didn’t they understand that saying we were responsible for the behavior of the Israeli Jews just because we shared their ethnicity was racist? That making every conversation with Jews about Israel is racist?”
“The conversation about anti-Semitism is already inherently about Israel,” one of the students archly explained, repeating a deeply anti-Semitic trope that has been voiced across the spectrum from David Duke to Louis Farrakhan to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. Right-wing anti-Semites see any accusation of anti-Semitism as a Jewish conspiracy to take away the rights of whites, while left-wing anti-Semites sees the same accusation as an attempt to silence Palestinians.
Apparently, so do some Bard students.
I started to respond, but was beat to it by member of my panel on Zionism and racism, Shahanna McKinney-Baldon, who was, astoundingly, encouraging them.
“I disagree with what she is saying,” she told them. “I support what you’re doing. I think you should protest.”
I was shocked that someone the Hannah Arendt Center had invited to discuss racism and anti-Semitism was actually egging on what was a blatantly anti-Semitic protest. But she would not be the only one.
When the protesters proceeded to interrupt Wisse, they were applauded by several of our fellow conference speakers in the audience. These vaunted intellectuals, flown in from across the country to discuss racism, were commending a display of racism against Jews…
And some were explicit about it. At a party for conference speakers at Berkowitz’s house right after the panel, Etienne Balibar, a French philosopher currently teaching at Columbia University, told me he thought the protest was wonderful.
“Why are you silencing Palestinians?” he demanded. “There should have been a Palestinian discussing anti-Semitism. They have many thoughts about it!”
Is this supposed to be a surprise?
Students for Justice in Palestine is an anti-Semitic hate group. It’s participated in numerous anti-Semitic protests. It disrupted Holocaust memorials.
Anti-Israel activists distinguish between Israel and Jews only for strategic reasons to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism. They routinely conflate the two when it comes to their activism. The distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is wholly fictional.
The number one reason for opposing Israel has always been its Jewishness.
How often do you have to be slapped across the face with that reality before you get it?