Passing by Kogan Plaza during the anti-Trump rally held November 15th, I was struck for the first time with the feeling that I may not be safe at GW. At a rally supposedly about love for one another, I was shocked to hear anti-Semitic rhetoric, hate, and demonization coming from my peers. The list of demands protesters presented to GW administration included a call for divestment from Israeli companies due to “colonialism and apartheid in Palestine” and “escalating state-sanctioned genocide.” While the demands included a statement urging protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitic behavior, this is proven insincere by the intrinsic anti-Semitism in the document.
Among the list’s sponsors was Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which is known for co-opting rallies around the country for the purpose of promoting their hateful anti-Israel message. SJP has been active at GW in the past; in February, a campaign and event were organized to teach participants how to boycott Sabra Hummus. This past October, SJP held a general body meeting promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS involves boycotting Israeli products, urging the withdrawal of investments from Israeli companies, and pushing governments to impose sanctions on Israel. BDS is nothing more than a tactic to vilify Israel, and in fact coincides with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. In reality, SJP and other BDS proponents are usually blind to the fact that economically destroying Israel hurts the very populations they want to save. As Bassem Eid, Palestinian activist, wrote for The Washington Institute:
“Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they’ll tell you they want jobs, secure education, and health. And the people who are failing them in this regard are their own leaders: Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. The focus of PA leaders is on enriching themselves and their families, rather than serving the interests of the Palestinians.”
Why does SJP neglect to condemn this corruption? Acknowledging the reality of everyday Palestinian life is essential to helping them.
Politics aside, how is this related to an anti-Trump protest? Unfortunately, it is nothing new to see anti-Israel activists take over unrelated rallies. SJP at CUNY colleges hijacked the Million Student March, blaming “the Zionist [CUNY] administration” for tuition hikes, and Jewish students were called names I refuse to repeat. How is this productive? How does this maintain the safety of all students?
Above all, I am disturbed that SJP’s BDS agenda was included in what was to be a peaceful protest. Although the original wording was taken from a national list and then open sourced, thirteen GW organizations still signed their agreement. At the most politically active campus in the US, do we really condone anti-Semitic and blatantly false rhetoric? As GW students we must condemn anti-Semitism and never permit it in future rallies.