Before I begin, let me clarify that this is not about the contents of the resolution passed on Sunday night or the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate. This is about something much more pressing that has been growing on this campus since I got here. I’m only writing now because I want to believe that people will finally have a reason to trust me when I say this: I have felt unsafe on this campus for years. Let’s talk about why.
In the few days leading up to the resolution, I reached out to several TCU senators. I expressed to them how hearing the resolution directly before Pesach would silence and marginalize many Jewish voices, and so it needed to be tabled. Everyone I reached out to responded to me and, for the most part, heard what I had to say.
However, one of the responses I received implied that the marginalization of Jewish voices by the TCU Senate was permissible, due to the continued marginalization of Palestinian voices by the U.S. government. This response is hypocritical and anti-Semitic. This does not excuse pushing Jewish students out of political processes. I wanted to say that, but honestly, I was scared. When Jews address anti-Semitism on this campus, we are seen as inflammatory, abrasive and unaware of our own privilege. So instead, I just requested that they not dismiss and belittle my concerns as they had just done. Unfortunately, they did not address that request in their subsequent response.
At this point, I became a little more direct. I clarified that what they had told me was anti-Semitic, cut and dry. In response, I was met with silence. So, I clarified further, that if I call you out for anti-Semitism, and you refuse to acknowledge it, you are perpetrating that very anti-Semitism. You are being complacent. Unfortunately, I was met with silence again.
I was home for Pesach, so I listened to the livestream posted on the TCU Senate’s Facebook page. While I was listening, I heard the same senator that dismissed me make that same statement on the Senate floor. This statement went unchallenged by the other 18 senators who chose not to table the resolution. Legitimacy was effectively given to this claim. But marginalizing Jewish voices on this campus is not a solution to the oppression of other minorities.
Now, I don’t blame these senators for acting this way. I don’t bear them ill will, and I don’t want them to fear for their safety right now. The issues that I’m addressing are much larger than the actions of any one elected TCU official. This stems from a culture of not just anti-Israel sentiments but anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments that I have felt here since I came in as a first-year — sentiments that have gone unnoticed, unaddressed and unquestioned.
I experience these sentiments as small micro-aggressions, like when my wilderfamily laughed at me for how I pronounced hummus (read: חומוס) before I even matriculated. I noticed them last year when students could not understand why the university moved Spring Fling so it wouldn’t land on Pesach. I hear it in the students’ silence, when so few people speak up when Jewish or Israeli bodies are hurt and killed (in the United States, Israel or abroad). I see it personally amongst my friends, when during my first year, two of my classmates stopped talking to me the day they realized I was Israeli. And I witness it when people in positions of power at Tufts dismiss and ignore my concerns of anti-Semitism on this campus.
I have stayed silent on these issues for so long, because I don’t want to be polarizing. I don’t want to anger people. I don’t want to lose friends over this. But it’s impossible for me to be silent. When you come from a country that people don’t believe should exist, your identity is political. The fact that I’m on this campus and have the power to say these things is controversial.
I am Israeli. I am proud to be a child of Israel. But for some reason, people here assume that my pride means I’m inherently sympathetic to every single wrongdoing perpetrated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli government. Somehow, this implies that I support the occupation, that I don’t see the inequality rooted in Israel’s foundation and that I don’t believe Palestinians deserve a home of their own. I want more than anything for these injustices to end. I have lost friends and family members to this senseless violence. I have cowered at the sides of Israeli roads and prayed that the bombs flying over my head would not strike me. I have cried and mourned at every fallen brother, Israeli and Palestinian alike. I cannot pretend to know what it’s like to suffer the countless human rights abuses that befall every citizen of the West Bank and Gaza, but I want this to end as much as anyone else here does.
When I meet Syrians or Iranians or North Koreans in the United States, I don’t presume that they support the fascist, totalitarian or militaristic regimes of their country’s governments. But I would understand if they wanted better for their communities there. I wouldn’t judge them if one day they wanted to return to the place their family once called home. I know I am incredibly privileged to be able to do that with Israel. However, it is not unreasonable to ask for that home not to be taken away from me. I need a place where I can feel welcomed, and right now, it’s not here.
Students here at Tufts have attacked more than just the government of a single country. They have unknowingly attacked my culture, my heritage and my being. And so if I call you anti-Semitic, it’s not because you’re anti-Israel. It’s because you’re anti-Semitic.
And if you are wondering, I would never call myself pro- or anti-Israel. Israel is not a policy. Israel is a country with a very flawed and imperfect government and a very flawed and eclectic people. There are things I’m very grateful for that the state of Israel provides, and there are things that I wish were different. I assume, in that same vein, none of you would call yourselves pro- or anti-America. If you are so steadfast in your convictions that you would put yourself on one side or the other, all that says to me is that you have not formed a nuanced enough opinion on the issue to have a serious discussion about it. Unfortunately, these are complex problems that demand understanding from both sides in order to reach any sort of solution.
Let me reiterate: This is not about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. This is not about Students for Justice in Palestine. This is not about TCU. This is about our community. These fears that I have spoken are real. They are not unjustified. If you don’t see them, talk to me. Let’s have a discussion. But do not dismiss my concerns. Do not tell me that I am wrong to think this way. Do not invalidate my experiences. And please, let me be proud of my heritage.