Does the UC System Have an Anti-Semitism Problem?
The Times of Israel Blogs, September 25 2015
It was her first week back at the University of California, San Diego, and Sara Ahdoot had already become the target of an anti-Semitic attack.
A psychology senior at UCSD, Ahdoot had planned to celebrate the start of her last year of undergraduate studies with a bang: by going out to a club. However, what was supposed to be a fun night out soon became a nightmare that many Jewish college students hope to never encounter. Shortly after arriving, Ahdoot noticed a familiar face — a male member of the pro-Palestinian group at her school, Students for Justice in Palestine. He noticed her too.
“I have felt uncomfortable around this student for the past two years and he saw me at a night club,” she recounted. “And after he saw me, he confronted me with nothing but hate and would not leave me alone.”
Throughout the night, Ahdoot was harassed about her Persian origins, yelled at and flipped off.
“They followed me, and called me by my first and last name. They were yelling that I was a ‘racist Zionist cow.’ I have never felt so unsafe in my life.”
Fearing that the attack would turn violent, she fled the club on the verge of tears. For her whole college career, Ahdoot was proud of her Judaism and her love for Israel — the Jewish state. She wore her Star of David necklace everywhere she went, letting the world know that she wasn’t ashamed of her identity, or her homeland.
And yet, the night after Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, she experienced attacks from a fellow UCSD student that saw her identity and homeland as patently unacceptable. Ahdoot said, “I didn’t know anyone would actually come in my face or put me in danger until tonight. This problem is way more serious than I had imagined.”
The University of California’s Anti-Semitism Problem
Long-time examiners of anti-Semitism within the University of California system know that Ahdoot’s story is nothing new. Over the past academic year, Jewish students across the UC system have experienced an unsettling rise in anti-Semitic attacks on their identity. Just as the racism once manifested within Jim Crow laws has evolved and choked the basic equal protections enshrined in our criminal justice system, so too has anti-Semitism transformed and seeped its way through the bedrock of these universities. It has evolved to become as a new political anti-Semitism — the result of an overwhelming tide of anti-Israel activism on campuses that overstep reasonable criticism of Israel’s domestic policies into demonizing perceptions of Israel and those who call it home.
Yael Steinberg, an alumni of UC Davis is no stranger to this demonizing rhetoric when she encountered anti-Israel sentiment on campuses across the UC’s overstepping into anti-Semitism. “I have seen discussions of [boycotts against Israel] turn nasty — from describing Jews as ‘privileged’ and ‘rich,’ to calling Jews ‘baby killers’ and told to wipe the blood off their boots. It’s terrible. Jews on campus face this intolerance the most when in conjunction with discussions about Israel, which often crosses the line from debate into hate speech.” Continue reading