Source: http://www.standwithus.com/news/article.asp?id=2552

Go Down, Moses

My first reaction to the Tufts Hillel initiative to bring Trayvon Martin’s parents to campus for a discussion on gun violence was that it is unremarkable. Not in the sense of being unimportant, but rather that it is exactly what I expect from an organization that “walks the talk” in its commitment to social justice. Conversely, the Pan-African Alliance’s (PAA) petition against the event injects vitriol into a debate that needs more public discussion — not more silence, censure and sanction.

As a visitor to Tufts Hillel last Friday, I heard Rabbi Jeff Summit use his weekly sermon to encourage listeners to reach out to their Muslim peers in the wake of the tragedy in North Carolina. Shortly after were announcements about student initiatives to promote social justice in Rwanda, to train Tufts women in rape aggression defense and an intellectual discussion of the “refusenik” movement. That was just this week. Set these events against the backdrop of larger campaigns like “Tufts Students for Two States,” which promotes reconciliation in Israel and Palestine, and one starts to understand the true nature of this organization. Far more than a student synagogue, Tufts Hillel is a conduit for social justice issues on our campus.

This is why its initiative to bring Trayvon Martin’s parents to campus should come as no surprise.  It is unremarkable in the context of Tufts Hillel’s record on social justice and, frankly, unremarkable in a long history of Jewish-American solidarity with Black America. Birthed by a shared history of slavery and repression, the kinship was reflected in the congruent intellectual underpinnings of the Zionist movement and Black Nationalist Back-to-Africa movement. It inspired Jewish and Black Americans to cooperate in such lauded events as the founding of the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  Both groups were motivated by the same harsh truth that Dr. King pointed out in his statement, “The segregationists and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jew.” The event at Tufts Hillel honors this proud tradition of solidarity. The petition circling campus to cancel the event imperils this tradition at the expense of both communities.

On the subject of linkage, I am compelled to address another problematic aspect of the PAA petition.  Its proponents submit that Tufts Hillel’s stance on Israel/Palestine renders it morally unfit to weigh in on gun violence. Let’s put the fallacious link between Middle Eastern politics and racial gun violence in North America aside for a moment and reflect on the danger of linking all Jews with Israeli government policy. It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli policy. Israelis themselves do so loudly and frequently. However, to combine a diaspora Jewish organization like Tufts Hillel with Israeli policy is to start down a dangerous line of logic. It is the same line of logic that used this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza to justify the firebombing of a Jewish deli in Paris.

This petition has the effect of blurring the lines between criticism of Israel and Anti-Semitism. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls captured the phenomenon well in his reaction to last month’s attack on a Paris kosher supermarket: “Anti-Semitism, this old European disease, has taken a new form. It spreads on the internet, in our popular neighborhoods, with a youth that has lost its points of reference, has no conscience of history and who hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.”

The PAA petition foments animosity and arrogates the language of freedom fighting in favor of division and hatred. This simultaneous attack on Tufts Hillel and Trayvon Martin’s parents is diametrically opposed to the social justice ideals it claims to represent. Let’s be full-throated about our opposition to this vitriol. It’s up to us to see that it doesn’t crawl from the extremist fringe into our legitimate intellectual discourse.

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7 Responses

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  1. Arafat
    Feb 24, 2015 - 10:24 AM

    Thank you for writing this article. You, of course, nailed the hypocrisy of groups like PAA. Groups for whom anti-Semitism is their prime motivator despite their not having the intelligence to see this about themselves.
    It’s interesting that Tuft’s can provide a forum for corrupt leaders from the Muslim African world or from the black dominated African world without a word of protest or condemnation from groups like PAA. But if any Zionist organization organizes a forum – even one that promotes the things the PAA stands for, these groups go ape-sh*t.
    Amazing the seething hatred, hypocrisy and prejudice bubbling just under the surface of groups like PAA.

  2. Alum
    Feb 24, 2015 - 11:05 AM

    Very well written article that exposes the type of callous ignorance present in many forms on this campus and how important it is to speak out when you see blatant hypocrisy.

  3. The Numbers Matter
    Feb 24, 2015 - 11:11 AM

    The endless bloviation on who is oppressing who leads nowhere and means nothing. The only thing that we can rely on are numbers so let’s take a look:
    -Approximate number of Muslims in the world = 1,600,000,000
    -Approximate number of Jews in the world = roughly 15,000,000
    -If, for example, 1% of the world’s Muslim population believe the Holocaust is a fabrication, then that’s more that twice the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
    -If, for example, 1% of the world’s Muslim population sympathize with a radical, violent interpretation of Islam, then that’s more people than the number of Jews in the world.
    This is very scary to Jews, as it should be. To understand the implicit meaning in these numbers is to understand Jewish psychology. It does not excuse the murder of Palestinians but it is perspective that must be understood.

    • Muslim
      Feb 24, 2015 - 06:02 PM

      Ah, the old numbers-are-unbiased approach, and subsequently make up completely random figures. Congrats, you’re correct – a small percentage of a big number is still a big number. Now what? Does the possibility in itself allow for preemptive attacks against Muslims? I don’t understand what you’re going for here.

      • Take It as You Will
        Feb 25, 2015 - 11:44 AM

        I’m pretty sure these figures aren’t “random” as you say. They are probably much higher. Sure, you might be a Muslim that doesn’t like this assessment, but that’s exactly the point, there are a lot of Muslims, all very different. Preemptive strikes? It says it does not excuse murder. Not sure what that means. The petition was about privilege and Majority taking action against Minority. So the point is, who is actually the Majority and who is the Minority? It comes down to framing. The numbers are an exercise in framing. Look at this http://global100.adl.org/#map/meast though generally the world does what it can do discredit these kinds of things.

        • Idiot
          Feb 25, 2015 - 12:36 PM

          One COULD just as easily say Ferguson is Israel and Israel is Ferguson but that is just as idiotic as saying Ferguson is Palestine and Palestine is Ferguson. Since it’s so idiotic and comes down to framing no one should say it as the PAA did when they attempted to be “activists.”

  4. GopherPatriot
    Feb 24, 2015 - 12:37 PM

    These lines are salient: “…reflect on the danger of linking all Jews with Israeli government
    policy. It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli policy. Israelis
    themselves do so loudly and frequently. However, to combine a diaspora
    Jewish organization like Tufts Hillel with Israeli policy is to start
    down a dangerous line of logic. It
    is the same line of logic that used this summer’s conflict between
    Israel and Hamas in Gaza to justify the firebombing of a Jewish deli in
    Paris.
    This petition has the effect of blurring the lines between criticism of Israel and Anti-Semitism.”

    This is key. Criticism of Israeli policy is not tantamount to antisemitism as the author points out. Similarly, striking out against Jews elsewhere for actions taken by the Israeli government is also vile, as the author alludes.

    For those who do not know, Arafat is renown by his many posts for conflating Jews, Israelis, and Judaism with Israeli actions in order to silence criticism as veiled antisemitism. He also does to Muslims what the author of this article rightly argues should not be done toward Jews, or for that matter, anyone.

    I am happy to see Arafat agrees with this author’s premise and is also finally concerned about hypocrisy. Hopefully, Arafat will look to the plank in his own eye as well.

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