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Dear Butler Community,
Over the past few weeks, Butler students all over campus have heard about issues related to Palestine and Israel. You may have learned about many of the violent human rights crises that Israel is causing in Palestine, as well as one of the most effective methods of protesting these crises: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.
Unfortunately, over the past few weeks you have also seen countless attempts to silence Palestinians from speaking about their oppression. There have been social media campaigns to force the university to cancel events that were being held by Students for Justice in Palestine — SJP — and here at Butler, several Senate resolutions were written in an attempt to suppress the free speech of Palestinians. Worst of all, there has been ongoing defamation of Palestinian students and their allies through false accusations of anti-Semitism.
This strategy of personal attacks, defamation and the suppression of free speech is one that is being used by Zionist organizations on campuses across the country. The strategy, which inaccurately equates opposition to and criticism of the crimes of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, has sadly been proven to be an effective way to push Palestinians out of the conversation and suppress a movement for justice led by students of color.
Here on Butler’s campus, those who oppose justice for Palestinians have worked to reframe this issue and label Palestinians as the aggressors — a tactic that plays on racism, anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia. For example, the recent controversial SGA resolutions attempted to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. They directly attacked Students for Justice in Palestine and tried to weaponize a controversial and fallacious definition of anti-Semitism — a definition opposed by over 40 Jewish organizations — to condemn a nonviolent movement for freedom, justice and equality. This façade aims to pit Palestinians and their allies against the Jewish community.
This week, we have seen evidence that this deceptive and spurious messaging, this false equivalency between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, has spread across our campus. Some students have broadly referred to those who supported these problematic Senate resolutions as “the Jewish community,” in spite of having the opportunity to hear a multitude of Jewish perspectives — including perspectives of Jewish individuals who explicitly condemned these resolutions. Even a recent article in the Collegian has unknowingly pushed this misleading messaging out to the Butler community.
Anti-Semitism is hostility, prejudice or discrimination against Jews because they are Jews. Anti-Zionism is opposition to a political ideology that supports a settler colonial movement for the establishment and maintenance of a Jewish state in Palestine. Anti-Zionism specifically opposes the ways that the Israeli government controls, oppresses and harms Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The international movement to oppose Zionism is a multi-faith, multi-racial and multi-ethnic movement where Muslims, Christians, Jews and others work side by side in the struggle for justice.
Using the words “Zionist” and “Jewish” interchangeably is harmful to both Palestinians and Jews. Palestinians and their allies are fearful of speaking out against Israel’s human rights violations in fears of being labeled anti-Semitic. They do not want to be doxxed and defamed on campus. Similarly, anti-Zionist Jewish students do not want to be isolated and shunned by some members of their community and therefore are too intimidated to speak out about their political beliefs. It erases diversity within the Jewish community. It silences Palestinians. It creates an environment on campus in which people cannot share their political beliefs out of fears for their safety.
Importantly, it also fractures the progressive student movement on campus. We know that all marginalized communities must work together in order to defeat white supremacy and bigotry. Falsely labeling those who are fighting for Palestinian liberation as anti-Semitic simultaneously harms Palestinians and stifles the fight against anti-Semitism itself. It redirects attention away from dismantling white supremacy and towards the vilification of people fighting for justice. The fight against anti-Semitism must be linked to the wider fight against oppression — including the fight against Palestinian oppression. We are proud to be a part of an intersectional movement for justice and equality for we know our liberation is bound; and our fight for it must be as well.
Students for Justice in Palestine