For those of you who have been following the recent vote on boycotting Israel at the University of South Florida, you will be happy to know that though the decision to boycott originally passed, it has now been vetoed by Student Body President Andy Rodriguez and Vice President Michael Malanga. We aren’t out of the woods just yet as there could be plans by SJP (Students for Justice Palestine) to present the resolution to Senate again.
Below is an article by CAMERA Fellow Jesse Davidson that should have been shared in October when the ugly harassment by SJP members occurred. This example will shed light on the supposed human rights activists who use intimidation and censorship to further their cause.
**UPDATED** February 7th, 2016: The SG Senate approved a new BDS resolution on February 4th. The new resolution does not require the signatures of the executive branch of leaders. An article on the resolution in USF campus paper The Oracle, which includes remarks from Jesse, can be found here.
The Hallmark of Jewish identity, both physical and spiritual, is the land of Israel. The world over, generations of Jews feel religiously, ethnically, and culturally compelled to pay homage to the land that has hosted their Hebrew ancestors for thousands of years. Taglit-Birthright, a free 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish men and women aged 18-25 is the medium to make their pilgrimage to the holy land possible. To the Jewish community, no program is so important, as one that escorts blossoming minds to their ancestral homeland, so that they may fully realize the significance of their Jewish Identity.
It is well documented that on college campuses, that this subject of Israel is met with hostility. The subject elicits more rage and indignation than any other nation. Even more sadistic than the intent of those that envision an Israel that ceases to exist, are those that wish to designate all Jewish life as open to demonization in the same manner that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slandered.
During my collegiate experience, I have come to see the anti-Israel movement on campus become increasingly aggressive and obsessed with targeting the Jewish community on campus alongside the nation of Israel. This ugly head of anti-Semitism reared itself on my campus just two short weeks ago (October 13th). While stationed at the Birthright table to register students for a winter trip to Israel, the USF Hillel staff member was aggressively confronted by a student. The student demanded that it be answered why she could not travel to Israel. After realizing the staff could not be solicited into a heated argument, the student retreated towards the rest of the Students for Justice in Palestine cadre holding signs that read, “I’m from Tampa, Florida. Israel would pay me to move to their land… if I was Jewish,” and, “I’m from Palestine and I can’t return to my land because I’m not Jewish.
After witnessing several students departing, leaving only one member to staff the table, the protesters proceeded to advance on the table and form a barrier with their bodies to prevent students from approaching the table. When the staff asked the group to leave, they began to berate and goat her into arguing with them. Screaming their accusations, the protesters demanded to know why the trip only catered to Jewish students.
Later posted on their Facebook page, the protesters attempted to exonerate their actions with an equation to confronting the Israeli occupation and supposed human rights abuses on Palestinians. Their actions prove that there is no perceived difference between a deeply complicated conflict and Jewish existence.
This is discrimination. Specifically, the focus on the Jewish Student Center and the way these students blocked the freedom to speak, express their views, and educate students about Jewish culture is clear-cut anti-Semitism. Instead of highlighting the vast bevy of human rights abuses in the Middle East, or even last summer’s war between Hamas and Israel, they confronted the table to address their paranoid notions of supposed Jewish privileges that they were deprived of.
The anti-Israel movements perception of no distinguishable difference between demonization of Israel and demonization of pillars of Jewish existence is what makes the Birthright program fair game in the eyes of this group. When faced with this accusation of racism, their immediate defense is the facade of fighting against Israel’s policies or against Zionism. If all this constitutes is a righteous fight against Israeli oppression; why are Jews always in the cross hairs?
Contributed by University of South Florida CAMERA Fellow, Jesse Davidson.