OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

It takes a village to fight Jew-hatred

Changing one mind, winning one vote, knocking down one unwritten rule. We learn lessons today that will seem like unfair advantages tomorrow.

Yehuda Jian
Yehuda Jian

It takes a village to fight hatred.

It can take even more to fight Jew-hatred. Particularly on a college campus.

College is where tomorrow’s leaders find their voices. The newfound freedoms they discover while pursuing an undergraduate degree are as addictive as they are intoxicating—freedoms that unlock untold passions and abilities as yet unexplored during their young lives.

College is also where a group of teens who believe themselves infallible come together, jockeying for the top rung on the academic ladder, the caring ladder, the activist ladder or on any number of other ladders suddenly laid out before them.

The debates can turn ugly and headline news can draw lines of division too tall to surmount. Nineteen-year-olds are universal experts, and they’re not shy about saying so.

College campuses can explode over the weather. So, you can imagine the inferno when actual controversy comes knocking, like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Campuses that are otherwise harmonious houses of learning can turn into warring camps dug in behind lines of fire when someone starts talking about Israel or Jews.

At the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), lines have become an actual wall. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) built an “Apartheid Wall” featuring anti-Zionist and antisemitic content as part of a renewed campaign in support of BDS. Similar efforts to push through BDS legislation and an agenda of Jew-hatred are sweeping college campuses across the country.

That’s why End Jew Hatred decided it was time to build our own village. Not just to fight the vitriol and venom spewing from groups like SJP, but also to educate Jews and non-Jews alike about what it means to be Jewish and the significance of fighting for our own civil rights; about how to empower ourselves as a minority community, and how we all have the same hopes for a better tomorrow.

Not to say that we are naïve. We’re also on campuses to respond to crises.
We are boots on the ground when a school administrator brings in a speaker like Leila Khaled, a convicted hijacker and a member of U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Or when a student senate votes to boycott products made in Israel. Or when the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus Student Union passed a motion pledging to only order from kosher caterers who “do not normalize Israeli apartheid.” End Jew Hatred not only fights fires; we also work to build or rebuild what the fires of hatred have destroyed. Sometimes we used lessons learned from other successful civil rights movements in order to do so.

And we endeavor to prevent fires before they ignite. In addition to our education and mobilization efforts, we follow trends on social justice and antisemitism, identifying potential conflagrations before they can even be lit.

We have batted down efforts to institutionalize BDS on campuses. We use our own wall of defense to deflect the usual litany of charges hurled against us—”All Jews are white settlers,” “Zionism is racism,” “The wall in Israel is similar to Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.” It is an all-hands-on-deck effort to push back against the mantras that have been shouted at Jews for hundreds of years. And it draws lines between friends. People who agree on everything but BDS suddenly paint one another as monsters.

Yet even small advances are major victories. Changing one mind, winning one vote, knocking down one unwritten rule. We learn lessons today that will seem like unfair advantages tomorrow.

It’s hard. It’s depressing. It’s discouraging.

It’s thrilling. It’s fulfilling. It’s meaningful.

It’s what we do. Jew-hatred is not an option.

Let’s end it together.

Yehuda Jian is the End Jew Hatred campus coordinator. A graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), he was previously an Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) Fellow, and the president of the UCSB chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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