Violent anti-Semitism is now accompanying criticism of Israel's actionsAL jAZEERA

This is a well-worn subject in other parts of the country, but in Cambridge I don’t feel we’ve really talked about it. So I’m throwing in my two cents’ worth, more in the hope that this will reach a new audience than because I think I have anything new to say.

Anti-Semitism exists on the student Left. I know this for a fact because I experience it and many other Jewish students experience it. We feel it in the word ‘Zio’, flung around in left-wing groups, in the assumptions made about our political views and financial situation based on our heritage, and in the raised eyebrows when we define ourselves as an ethnic minority. But most of all, we feel it in the stark denial of the existence of anti-Semitism itself. When student journalists tell their audiences that “anti-Semitism is a tired old accusation from Zionists” and the article gets 486 shares, I start to feel vulnerable. When a friend posts an article about an anti-Semitic attack on a liberation-themed Facebook group and the overwhelming response is “discrimination against Jews isn’t discrimination”, I feel vulnerable. When I lie about my summer holidays rather than telling someone I was in Israel visiting family, it’s because I feel vulnerable. When there’s an anti-Semitic attack at a JSoc Friday night dinner and the student media fails to report it, we all feel vulnerable. And then we feel vulnerable telling people that extra security has been provided for us because we expect people to tell us that that’s an example of our privilege rather than a sign of our weakness.

The thing is, I shouldn’t have to give a list of true accounts to convince anyone that anti-Semitism is alive and going strong. Let me remind you of one of the core rules in liberation politics: you do not question other people’s lived experiences. You do not say to anyone “You’re crying wolf”. You do not tell them that they’re imagining their oppression. You do not tell them they’re making it up or that they should consider their privilege. You do not make it their fault. So when we, Jewish students en masse, say that we find the student Left a threatening place to be right now, we expect the student Left, in accordance with its own principles, to take us seriously and do something about it.

I strongly recommend that the student Left sorts itself out, because it’s losing an awful lot of dedicated campaigners due to the hostility they feel. Many of the Jewish students calling out left-wing groups at the moment are left-wing themselves – we also struggled to get Labour elected last year, volunteer to help refugees in Calais, and argue bitterly with our close friends and relatives about the need to end the occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. On so many issues, we are on the same side, and we want to support and engage with these campaigns. The problem – the denial that there is a threat to our well-being in these movements, rather than a sincere attempt to fix it – makes me want to disengage with student politics entirely. And if I try and get involved, and then hear the word ‘Zio’ being used in Women’s Forum, as I have, it makes me feel more unwelcome than you could possibly know. It reminded me of the feeling I got when someone casually called someone a “fucking Jew” in front of me without knowing that I myself am, in fact, a fucking Jew.

I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I’m a Tory. I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I’m rich. I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I have Palestinian blood on my hands, and as such I shouldn’t have to feel nervous about conversations in Hall when an Israeli speaker visits the Union or during Israeli Apartheid Week, when Facebook becomes a violent and aggressive space. I’ve tried to keep this as far away from any discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the record, most of the time I’m a liberal Zionist, and I believe in a two-state solution according to the pre-1967 borders with complete dismantlement of the Israeli settlements. I hope for the development of an economic partnership between the two countries to foster interdependence and, hopefully, peace. The rest of the time I despair at Israel’s recent and current administrations for their significant part in continuing a conflict that does no service to its moral integrity or the principles of my religion.

But I don’t think my views on Israel are necessarily relevant, because I believe that it is possible to separate anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism. I just don’t think that people are very good at doing that at the moment, and if anyone would like to know how or why, all they have to do is listen up. Throughout the Jewish community debates are being held over how we address this current wave of hatred from the Left, and as with all other oppressed groups, you just have to open your minds to our narrative, offer your friendship, and reform your spaces so that they don’t feel so hostile. If the student Left can do that, and demonstrate that it really isn’t anti-Semitic at the core, then we can engage with a political movement which shares so many of the values that Judaism itself upholds.

@NoaGendler

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