Last night, UCSB’s student senate met to discuss and vote on a student-written resolution calling for the divestment from companies that aid the Israeli Defense Forces. According to its authors, the resolution was written in solidarity with the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, an anti-Semitic movement that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
Because of its linkage to BDS as well as its denial of the Jewish race’s right to self-determination, I—as a Jewish student—was threatened by the resolution, as were many members of the Jewish community. We attended last night’s senate meeting and spoke at public forum, begging our senators not to pass this resolution that perpetuated hate towards our specific minority group. Similarly, many students in favor of the resolution attended the meeting to oppose my community and press for the passing of this resolution.
After eight hours of public forum, 12 senators voted to pass the resolution, 12 voted not to pass it, and one abstained. It was only due to the chair’s tie-breaking vote that the resolution did not pass. Despite the end result, I do not consider last night’s meeting a victory. I am disturbed that half of my student representatives felt it right to pass a resolution that countless Jewish students vocalized as being offensive, threatening, and blatantly anti-Semitic.
Furthermore, I am disgusted by the normalization of anti-Semitic language so casually thrown around at the meeting. In those eight hours, I was told that Jews control the government, that all Jews are rich, that Zionism is racism, that the marginalization of Jewish students is justified because it prevents the marginalization of other minority groups, that Israel sterilizes its Ethiopian women (this is obviously not true), and that Palestinians in America who speak out against Israel are sought out by the IDF and denied entrance into Israel (also a ridiculous conspiracy theory). I heard a senator—someone who is supposed to be my representative—say that people were only voting against this resolution because they were afraid of losing “Jew support.” I heard my peers laugh at the mention of terrorists hurling stones at the heads of Israeli civilians intending to kill them. I saw students smile and cheer enthusiastically as a woman stood up and said the words, “I am ashamed to be a Jew.” The rhetoric I heard from students opposing Israel at this meeting could easily be equated to arguments that I have only seen in quotes at museums or mentioned in textbooks for their use in the justification of historical persecution of the Jewish race.
Ironically, it was the people who made these statements who also argued that this resolution was not anti-Semitic and that my personal feelings of it being anti-Semitic were invalid.
If any other minority had voiced these same concerns regarding any other resolution, no administration would dare question the validity of their feelings. The resolution would be dismissed without question. Yet, my community is forced to stand in front of hundreds of people year after year and explain to them why something is racially offensive to us.
I am exhausted of constantly having to defend my own identity to everyone. It is not fair that I should have to go to great lengths to prove that someone’s words are internally damaging to my own self-worth while such measures would never be required of any other minority.
I am frustrated because, after reading this, most people still will not understand how difficult it is to wake up in a world ridden with anti-Semitism every single day. Bigoted stereotypes of Jews having power and control have become so ingrained in our society that it they have succeeded in invalidating Jewish people’s legitimate feelings of marginalization.
I am ostracized and made fun of by majority groups because I am different, yet at the same time, I am not even afforded the decency of being recognized as a minority by other minority groups. Sadly, last night’s events only reminded me how truly alone the Jewish community is and continues to remain.