Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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LTE: Let’s talk about antisemitism at the Deering Encampment

Dear Editor,

Despite attempts to normalize the rampant antisemitism spouted by the protestors on Deering Meadow, the reality is their entreaties ARE antisemitic. Let me explain why:

Chanting “intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” is antisemitic. As the only safe homeland for Jews in the world, this expression denies the Jewish people a right to a homeland that they have lived in for over 2,000 years. They are not colonizers. They are native. They are not solely white Europeans.

Almost half of Israelis are people of color evicted from countries like Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Jews make up less than 1% of the world’s population. “Israel must go” is a statement that the Jewish homeland must go. That is an antisemitic statement, not a political one.

On the other hand, chanting Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu must go is NOT antisemitic. In fact, many American Jews agree with that, especially since Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to undermine the Israeli Supreme Court. Here is the difference between the two: The former is antisemitic. The latter is political.

By the way, there appears to be not one student protest saying Bibi must go. Some say Israel must go.

Chanting “intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” is antisemitic, calling for the elimination of Jews and Israel from the Middle East. The elimination of Jews was stated in the Hamas original charter from the late 1980s.

In 2017, Hamas modified its charter to say it means the elimination of Israel. As I discussed above, this is also antisemitic. Instead of “we need a two-state solution,” which many American Jews support, they say “eliminate Israel” (and implicitly Jews). Further exacerbating the problem: It seems that most of these protesters have no idea what they are saying and its meaning. They have no idea which river or which sea.

On the other hand, if the protestors said, “we need a two-state solution,” that is not antisemitic. And, as I state above, many Jews support that.

Finally, one more comment about “from the river to the sea.” I have a lot of experience in Diversity and Inclusion. Before I retired, I spent part of two years helping to implement D&I at one of the largest businesses in the world. A basic tenet of D&I is that it doesn’t matter what you intend when you say something. What matters is how others perceive it.

In other words, just like I can’t tell African Americans what racism is, non-Jews cannot tell Jews what antisemitism is. “From the river to the sea” is an expression founded by an organization, Hamas, that the U.S., the European Union and other Western countries call a terrorist organization.

The origins of “from the river to the sea” are antisemitic. Its continued use is antisemitic. Basic principles of D&I tell us that if you say something that others think is antisemitic — you don’t say it. Can you imagine if someone were using the KKK symbol and saying, “Well, we don’t mean it to be a hate symbol. We think it means love and peace.” Do you really believe any college campus would tolerate that?

Experience at universities has shown they won’t tolerate language like this. There are repercussions. And, similarly, they should not tolerate this language in reference to Jews and Israel.

Thank you,
Brad Smith (McCormick ’81)

Brad Smith is a McCormick alum. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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