We have been blind to the shadow of a rising threat on our own campus and community. As a Jewish student at Florida International University I know I’m part of a minority, but it is a minority which is under constant attack. As Eli Cohen once said, “Jews are hated for remaining insular and for assimilating, for participating in leftist politics or rightist politics, for being white and for being non-white, for Communism and for Capitalism, for being weak and for being strong, for being stateless and for having a state.”
Hatred of Jews is baseless hatred, no matter how you look at it. Its perpetrators create justifications for their hate in order to convince others and themselves that they are still moral people. In this day and age, the Arab world seeks to justify its antisemitic rants by claiming they are anti-Zionist, not antisemitic. I am here to show you why that is wrong and to expose those on our campus who seek to indoctrinate our own student population.
At the beginning of December 2018, members of the Student Affairs staff and the Dean of Students himself managed to bring several usual opposing groups together to a table of discussion. Among attending groups were members of the Interfaith Council, Hillel, Shalom FIU, Students for Justice in Palestine, Young Democratic Socialists of America, Muslim Student Association and Pakistani Student Association.
SJP and YDSA students practically took over the meeting and began to accuse Shalom FIU and Hillel of supporting Israel’s “genocide” against the Palestinian people. While we wholeheartedly disagree, we were willing to come to the table. SJP and YDSA students, however, made it quite clear to us, “We are not your friends, and we do not want to work with you.”
When we expressed to them our desire to see coexistence between our two peoples, they flat out told us that they want to see Israel completely destroyed, and that means every Jewish man, woman and child “from the river to the sea.” To witness such fervent hatred welcomed as a legitimate voice on our campus is an insult the core values of Florida International University.
These students and faculty members present a twisted view of Middle Eastern history, teaching students that Islam is the only real culture of the Levant, while completely ignoring indigenous minorities like Jews, Druze, Kurds, Yazidi, Armenians, and others. I recently sat down for a lecture which an adjunct professor gave on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian culture and its contemporary issues. Now having known this professor previously, I was looking forward to an educational unbiased look at the situation, but boy was I wrong.
He claimed that Jews in the Middle East were just fine before Israel and that Jews were treated far better in Arab lands than in Christian ones. And while I nostalgically look back upon a time when Jewish and Arab society did get along more, the facts of history clearly show it was never all sunshine and rainbows. There are several historic accounts of Middle Eastern Jews suffering through brutal persecutions, public humiliations, and even the massacre of entire villages in both ancient and modern times. There are some heartfelt accounts of Muslims protecting their Jewish neighbors and Jews helping Muslims, but since the beginning of Islam in the 7th century, Jews were mostly ostracized and treated as second class citizens.
He depicted historic defense forces like the Haganah as terrorists, while calling for the global community to engage Hamas, a known terrorist organization, suggesting that somehow the normalizing of relations with Hamas in the Gaza strip will encourage them to renounce their violent tactics against Israel. Hamas’ charter clearly and unapologetically calls for the destruction of Israel along with the murder of every Jewish soul that “occupies Palestine.”
When the lecturer turned his attention to “two state solution or one,” he was quick to share his opinion that a two-state solution is impossible at this point, and that only a single “democratic” state of Palestine would work. When I asked him what would happen to my people in such a scenario and why Jews don’t deserve a country of our own, he said that Jews would have to settle for a “metaphoric state,” and that the idea of a “religious ethnocentric state” is equivalent to apartheid and what he called complete “baloney.” I found his response to be extremely hypocritical seeing as it was coming from a professor who represents Islamic Middle Eastern culture at FIU.
Now just to be clear, the State of Israel, whom I proudly represent at FIU, isn’t perfect. It is, however, a democracy and not an apartheid state. In Israel both Arab and Jewish Israelis have full and equal rights under the law and are even represented in the Israeli government. The Israel Defense Forces do constantly operate in the West Bank because that is where most terror threats in the region emanate from.
Finally, I would like to address this professor’s most disturbing claim, that Jews are a religious group, not an ethnic people, and that Arab Jewish families somehow consider themselves Arabs. Not only is that completely wrong, but it is definitely antisemitic. Judaism is the religion of an ethnic group of people called Jews, aka Hebrews, or Israelites who were mostly, but not completely, expelled from their native land of Judea/Israel.
To say we are not a people is to say we have no place in the world, and that is why I am compelled to stand against these views. Israel represents a better, multicultural, more prosperous future for the entire Middle East and that is why I represent her culture at FIU. To allow student groups and professors like these to spread their propaganda under the guise of “free speech and education,” is to deceive ourselves and will only set the FIU community on a dark and dangerous path of extremism. The time to act is now!