March 11, 2019Thedreidel
Anti-semitism takes many forms, but the most recent form of pro-Palestinianism is a cheap way to hide and claim “wokeness” (as is often used on college campuses). “Wokeness” can be (and often is) beneficial to raise awareness of marginalized groups in the United States and abroad, but it is quickly being twisted into yet another vehicle of discrimination, especially anti-semitism on college campuses. The fact that the form of anti-semitism that hides its own hatred behind calling others bigots has infected college campuses far into the Midwest shows that anti-semitism is far more real in the United States, and is coming from both political sides. Young gentiles need to hold ourselves accountable now, lest we allow ourselves to become a pawn in the forces of hatred.
I want to make one thing clear: I am not jewish. I am an Italian/Scottish gentile of an evangelical-Christian background. So, I am writing about anti-semitism because people who have never experienced anti-semitism (like myself) need to recognize it when it occurs and call it out, especially on their college campuses.
I attend Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, a typical Midwestern Liberal Arts college: picturesque campus, large talks about inclusion and diversity, Greek Life, currently frozen over, etc. However, the political atmosphere is different from other liberal arts colleges in the Midwest because Rock Island is practically a straight shot west of Joliet and other southern suburbs of Chicago, and most of the student body (including myself) come from the greater Chicago area. Chicago and its suburbs are progressive; you will not find many MAGA hats there. In contrast, much of the rest of the Midwest is right-leaning, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and rural Illinois. Roughly 40% of the student body at Augustana come from the rest of the Midwest rather than from the greater Chicago area, so this results in the student body having a mixture of political beliefs. The left-leaning students are definitely the majority here, but the right-leaning students have just enough of a presence that the campus’s political map is… mixed.
With this odd “cross-road” of the political spectrum, the school does address issues of bias; however, with our location in the Midwest, the main points are gender, race, and religion (specifically islamophobia). Augustana does discuss anti-semitism, but this issue is usually discussed by the German Studies department or the campus Hillel Group. The only time of which I am aware that the Augustana administration organized to spread awareness of anti-semitism was after the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting in November of this past year when the college held a short candlelight vigil for the victims.
That being said, while Augustana does strive for gender, racial, and religious equality, anti-semitism is present on campus and rarely acknowledged. It usually manifests itself in jokes, which is sometimes the reason why anti-semitism is ‘hard to identify’ on campus. A small comment here, a jab there; once in a blue moon this is legitimate harmless fun between friends in which boundaries have already been clearly established in the relationship (though even then it is questionable). However, with a campus of roughly 2,500 students there is no way all the jokes are made within that context, if that context is even present on campus. These are minor, but given how much the College has drawn attention to jokes about gender and religion, one would think that the College would want to fight against anti-semitic jokes to the same extent.
The anti-semitic jokes are minor compared to anti-semitism being disguised as pro-Palestinianism, the view that the Israeli government are the instigators of harm in the Middle East and there should be a Palestinian state instead of the state of Israel. I remember one particular instance in which a friend, A, refused point-blank to attend Augustana’s first-ever Hanukkah party organized by our mutual friend B (who is Jewish) because A supports Palestine over Israel. (Many students on the campus share the view that a Palestinian state should exist rather than the State of Israel, to the point where it is assumed on campus that one is pro-Palestine rather than pro-Israel.) Despite me pointing out that attending a Hanukkah party does not necessarily mean someone is pro-Israel, A did not agree to participate until I stated point-blank that he would be deeply hurting B and if A were a real friend he would come to the party and support our friend B’s heritage. A came begrudgingly; he was certainly not comfortable with some of the special guests (one of whom was a Rabbi).
I reached out to B who hosted the Hanukkah party to confirm that what I was seeing in pro-Palestinianism is anti-semitism. He informed me that it is, and it’s a problem far worse than it looks. He gave me permission to share his experiences on campus and experiences from before coming to Augustana.
My friend comes from southern Missouri, and in his hometown being Jewish has resulted in him experiencing a large amount of bigotry. He shared with me that he has had people walk away from him and refuse to speak to him once they learned of his Jewish heritage, and he has been spit on by classmates in high-school hallways. He is also Latin-American on his father’s side, resulting in further discrimination while growing up, to the point where he took boxing lessons and other courses in self-defense. He told me that Friend A who claimed “pro-Palestinianism” seemed much more like the people from his hometown than the students who make bigoted jokes on campus.
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