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Evicting Zionism
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Thursday 17/06/2021

By Emma Rosenau.

In April of 2019, I visited Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I had committed to go to school there and was going for accepted students’ day to meet my future classmates. Sitting in the hotel with my mom, we saw a post in an Emory Facebook group. Jewish and non-Jewish students alike had woken up to flyers posted on the doors of their dorm rooms. They read “EVICTION NOTICE. We regret to inform you that your suite is scheduled for demolition in three days.” (Emory Students for Justice in Palestine, 2019) At the bottom of the notice in small print the flyer states, “THIS IS NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE. This is intended to draw attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a regular basis” (Emory Students for Justice in Palestine, 2019). I was shocked, I had thought that Emory was an open-minded, welcoming community with a large Jewish population (a little less than 20% of students at Emory are Jewish). Now, my first experience on campus was witnessing the Jewish community protest the flyers that were a part of Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’

The university’s response was bleak. They had approved the posting of the flyers in communal spaces but said that the only rule that had been broken was that they were hung in unapproved areas (on students’ doors). The flyers were viewed as a form of free expression; despite the mental toll it took on Jewish students. SJP’s “free expression of ideas” quickly crossed into the realm of antisemitism. The flyer demonizes Israel when writing that “Palestinian homes are destroyed as a part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively ‘Jewish’ character of the state” (Students for Justice in Palestine, 2019)

There is a fine line between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism, and it can be distinguished by using the 3D test, a guide created by Israeli politician, Natan Sharansky. The 3D’s are demonization, delegitimization and double standards. These flyers perfectly fit into demonization of Israel: they imply that Israel is an evil state trying to accomplish ethnic cleansing of Arab citizens. A claim like this is not only wildly inaccurate, but it is also dangerous to the Jewish community. Israel has never engaged in mass-murder or ethnic cleansing and its Arab neighbors have always been the one to initiate conflict. Immediately upon the creation of Israel in 1948, neighboring Arab states began a war in an effort to destroy Israel, and hostilities have continued ever since. Since its founding, Israel has never been motivated by the destruction of the Palestinian people, rather its goal has been simple: defend its existence.

To imply that Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians puts Jews around the world in danger. Many people are unable to separate the Jewish people from the Israeli government, thus resulting in an increase in antisemitism worldwide when fighting breaks out in the Middle East involving Israel. In May of 2021, Europe saw an almost 500% increase in antisemitic attacks as a result of many people claiming that Israel was ethnically cleansing Palestinians during the unrest between Israel and the terrorist organization, Hamas (Community Security Trust). The false claims of ethnic cleansing demonizes Israel in the eyes of the rest of the world, thus putting all Jews at risk.

Emory University does not have a working definition of antisemitism and as a result, SJP was not held accountable for their harmful and antisemitic flyers. The university even told Jewish leaders on campus that they agreed the demonization on the flyers was antisemitic, but without a working definition of antisemitism, there was no path towards disciplining the creators of the flyers.

Two years later, Emory still has not adopted any working definition of antisemitism, but not for lack of trying from Jewish student leaders. Members of EIPAC (Emory Israel Public Affairs Committee – the university chapter of AIPAC) and other student leaders have spent the last two years working on proposals to urge the university to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which states:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities” (IHRA).

These flyers are not the only act of antisemitism that has occurred on Emory’s campus in the last two years. Many Jewish students face antisemitism on a regular basis and until Emory University adopts the IHRA definition of antisemitism, its Jewish students will remain susceptible to normalized acts of antisemitism similar to these eviction notices.

Works Cited

“CST Stands against Anti-Jewish Hate – Blog.” CST, cst.org.uk/news/blog/2021/05/19/cst-stands-against-anti-jewish-hate.

Emory Students for Justice in Palestine. Eviction Notice. 2019

“Working Definition of Antisemitism.” IHRA, www.holocaustremembrance.com/resources/working-definitions-charters/working-definition-antisemitism.

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