Antisemitism is racism, which is illegal in the United States. Anti-Zionism, that is, “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity,” according to the US government, is a manifestation of antisemitism, and therefore illegal. Yet, this did not stop nine student groups at the UC Berkeley law school from signing an openly racist statement against Zionists, anyone who supports them, and the State of Israel collectively. The nine organizations pledge to ban “speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views … in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine,” and to support the BDS movement. They signed it, purportedly for the purpose of “protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students.”
You could argue that nine student organizations out of more than a hundred that exist in UC Berkeley’s law school is a small minority, but only a few years ago, the very idea of composing such a statement would have been unthinkable, let alone signing it.
Also, if you consider that even though antisemitism is illegal in the US, no one has taken any measures against these groups, other than condemning them, and that, too, was voiced mainly by Jews, it is clear that antisemitic views are far more prevalent under the surface. If this trend continues, and it seems to be accelerating, it will not be long before the observation of Berkeley Law alum Kenneth Marcus comes true, that the incident is a sign of “university spaces go[ing] as the Nazis’ infamous call, judenfrei. Jewish-free.”
When I spoke to students in California in 2004 and warned them that this is where things were going, they did not believe me. When I spoke in 2014 to organizations trying to fight against antisemitism on US campuses, and warned them that this is where things were going, they did not believe me. Now they are alarmed that it is happening, but they still resist the only solution to their plight: their own unity.
It needs to be said in plain words: If American Jewry does not unite, and unity may well begin with Jewish students, the demand to make Berkeley Zionist-free will spread throughout the country. The demand will not confine itself to banning explicit Zionists, but also those who might be covert supporters of Zionism, namely all the Jews.
Just as Spain expelled all the Jews because it suspected them of secretly aspiring to convert Christians to Judaism, anyone who supports, or might support Zionism will become a suspect, and therefore an outcast. Just as it did not help the Jews to declare, sincerely by the way, that they were not trying to convert Christians, it will not help American Jews to state that they do not support Zionism or the State of Israel.
Antisemitism is already omnipresent in the “Land of the Free.” If an Arab student shows support for Palestine, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or any other explicitly Muslim country, that support is fiercely protected by human rights groups and by university faculty and administration as a legitimate expression of free speech. But on campuses, that same right is denied of Jewish students who support Israel; they are afraid not only to show support for the Jewish state, but even to identify as Jews or wear Jewish insignia such as the Star of David.
The best lesson that Jewish students should learn is why they are hated. They feel that they did nothing wrong, but this is clearly not the view of many of their peers, and many more are joining their indicters. The cycle of Jewish history has not changed since the inception of the nation: They are welcome, tolerated, hated, and finally expelled (or exterminated) everywhere they go.
The only antidote to Jew-hatred is Jewish unity—not against antisemitism, but caring for the sake of caring. Solidarity has been our only source of strength, since our vocation is to show exemplary unity, mutual responsibility, and caring for others as ourselves.
Our strength is in our unity because the universe is a united entity, and only people feel apart. The Jewish people became a nation when they managed to unite above their separation and become similar to the rest of nature; this is why they were tasked with being an example.
Since then, humanity has fixed its eyes on us and follows our example. When we are apart, we are willy-nilly an example of division, so the world accuses us of inciting conflicts. When we are united, we are an example of unity, so the world embraces us.
This is the message I have been trying to convey to Jewish students in America since 2004. If they embrace the message and unite, it will be the most valuable lesson they will ever learn, and the world will thank them for it.