Jewish Students Protest U of I Student Senate Resolution Saying Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism

October 24, 2019
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Student Senate passed a resolution denying a link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on Oct. 23, causing more than 400 Jewish students to walk out of the meeting in protest.

Fox Illinois reports that the resolution passed with 29 votes in favor, four against and four abstaining. The resolution states that the Oxford English dictionary defines Zionism as “the assured settlement of [Jewish people’s] race upon a national basis in Palestine” and condemns “the constant conflation of Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism.” 

The resolution also endorses Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) UIUC’s demands for Chancellor Robert Jones retract his Oct. 9 email denouncing a presentation titled “Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror” as being “anti-Semitic.”

Student Lauren Nesher spoke during the meeting on behalf of the Jewish community on campus and accused the student government of moving forward with the resolution without taking into account the Jewish community’s thoughts on the matter.

“Not a single Jewish cultural house was consulted, and yet it purports to speak for the campus community,” Nesher said. “We watched as it was beelined through the senate and the committee during some of our holiest of days, with the explicit intent to avoid our input.”

She added that the resolution’s passage shows that student leaders believe “that Jews on this campus do not have the right to define” anti-Semitism. 

“We will not negotiate anti-Semitism,” Nesher said. “We will not negotiate our safety. We will not negotiate our fear. We will not negotiate our homeland. We will not negotiate anti-Semitism.”

Nesher urged “Jewish students and their allies” at the end of her speech to walk out with her because “we were never invited to take part in this conversation.” As the students walked out, audience members started chanting “Free Palestine,” according to Fox Illinois.

Student Senator Ian Katsnelson, the lone Jewish representative in the student senate, told WCIA that he viewed the resolution’s lack of Jewish input “as a means to silence Jewish voices” at UIUC and that the Jewish community will not allow others to define what anti-Semitism is. “That’s something that is a Jewish right,” Katsnelson said.

StandWithUs Associate Director of Campus Affairs Liora Bachrach said in a statement, “The transparent goal of this resolution was not to oppose anti-Semitism but to shield anti-Israel groups from any accountability when they cross the line into hate speech against Jews. The fact that this was even introduced is a mark of shame on ISG, which has made a mockery of its own stated values. We are proud of Jewish students who came out in large numbers, and showed that ISG has no legitimacy or credibility to speak about this issue.”

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