January 22, 2019

The University of California is guilty of Zionophobia

There is a new, dangerous epidemic throughout the world — Zionophobia. The disease has stricken the world at large, but students on campus are left trying to combat it alone with no proper action by their university administration. The University of California is guilty for not addressing the issue, and so recently they have taken responsibility to change the course of the epidemic by assigning a task force to respond and effectively address the issue of anti-Semitism on campus.

As a proud Zionist on campus, I am constantly forced to defend my identity and its inherited connection to the State of Israel, because nobody else will.

I was born a Jew. Jew comes from a Greek root referring to the geographical location of Judea, which lies in the modern day state of Israel. My identity is more than a religion, culture and nationality. Zionism describes all of those things. Jews are bonded by a common history, culture, language, and values and therefore, Zionism is an inextricable part of the Jewish identity and my identity. In all past proclamations, UCLA Chancellor Block has talked about civil discourse and mutual respect.  He has even talked against anti-Semitism, but not once did he mention the core of the problem: anti-Zionism. But let me make it clear that Zionophobia is racism. Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls agree.  Each have stated that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.  And just last month, Secretary of State Kerry stated at the U.N. that the U.S. “will condemn anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, no matter how their proponents attempt to cloak it in some false mantle of respectability.”

How dare any member of the University community attempt to destroy or denounce my identity. I am ashamed that the university has allowed my identity to be politicized by swastika signs, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaigns that repeatedly cross the line from criticism of Israeli policies into blatant anti-Semitism, Apartheid Week and Anti-Zionism Week. All these activities have one thing in common they are not an attack on policy rather a personal attack on Zionists. These events are scare tactics geared at the Jewish community. They are used to incite disruption on our campus and widen the bridge between communities. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine pride themselves as the antithesis to Zionism. Their slogan “from the river to the sea” is nothing but a call to destroy and annihilate the Zionists.

There is a loud call and action to condemn all hate groups against other minorities, with the exception of those who are anti-Zionists, which today is one of the clearest and rampant form of racism which marginalizes and calls for the elimination of a people — the Zionists. Thankfully the UC Regents understand the problem plaguing my school.  They have appointed a committee to address all types of intolerance and specifically the frightening rise in anti-Semitism which has been spurred by condoned Zionophobic racism.

If the UC Regents deliberation ends up with another condemnation of anti-Semitism, we have accomplished nothing to curb anti-Jewish assault on campus, because the hate mongers will continue to hide under the slogan “Zionism is not Judaism”. The University must gather the courage and name the hate at its core, i.e., Zionophobia.

The Regents must declare the University of California campuses a “hate-free” zone, and this should include all forms of racism, explicitly Zionophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-black incitement. Religions and skin-color do not have a monopoly on racism. All identity-forming symbols should be respected equally.

The Regents must take responsibility and not allow others to unrightfully and hatefully define my identity and experience at this University. I am the physical manifestation of Zionism and I am proud.

Menna is an undergraduate student at UCLA and a board member of the Bestemming Project, a movement to combat anti-Semitism through the arts.