Last year, GW’s Student Association Senate passed an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic BDS resolution. On the same night, they failed to remove a publicly known anti-Semitic senator, Brady Forrest, from voting. The SA failed the Jewish and pro-Israel community at GW, allowing anti-Semitism on campus to go unchecked.
While President LeBlanc denounced the passage of the divestment resolution and the pro-Israel community has remained steadfast in their activism on campus, damage was definitely done. The actions of last year’s senate cannot be forgotten, but the SA can do something to alleviate the tension and attempt to mend their relationship with the Jewish community here at GW: pass anti-discrimination legislation.
A resolution that condemns anti-Semitism would show the Jewish community that the SA has not forgotten about them and that they strive to repair the damage they caused last year. Anti-Semitism, like all other forms of discrimination, should not be tolerated on any college campus. The fact that the Jewish community felt betrayed by the SA should signal to them that their actions were harmful and detrimental. Therefore, if such a resolution was put before them, they should not hesitate to pass it. Those who vote against it would show their bias against the Jewish community, failing them yet again.
There is one caveat: this legislation would have to admit that anti-Zionism is commonly just a thinly veiled form of anti-Semitism, include examples of unacceptable anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions commonly perpetuated by anti-Israel activists, and admit that the passage of BDS resolutions have led to an increase of anti-Semitic activity on college campuses.
Other universities, like UCLA, have passed resolutions that condemn anti-Semitism on campus. Additionally, they adopted the US State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, including demonizing Israel, delegitimizing Israel, and holding Israel to a double standard as anti-Semitic behavior. Since GW does not have a formal definition of anti-Semitism, including one in a resolution would be extremely beneficial to the community. In addition to condemning anti-Semitism and expressing support for the Jewish and pro-Israel community, this could serve as a good teaching moment for the student body as a whole.
Any attempt to water down such legislation, such as removing anti-Israel examples or references to BDS, would show that the student government is completely naïve to modern-day expressions and manifestations of anti-Semitism. The SA would be ignoring and disregarding the fears that many Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel students face. They would be disregarding facts.
With anti-Semitism on the rise globally, the Student Association would do well to acknowledge the unique threats Jews face, here and abroad. By acknowledging that anti-Zionism has become a socially acceptable form of anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses, the SA would admit that they made multiple mistakes last year and are actually learning from those mistakes. Finally, by passing anti-discrimination legislation, the SA could educate themselves and the GW community about what anti-Semitism is. The SA should follow in the footsteps of other universities and make a grand gesture to the Jewish community here at GW. It’s the least they can do.
Contributed by George Washington University CAMERA Fellow Emma Enig.