J Street U on Antisemitism — Rejecting Weaponization, Embracing Solidarity

April 29, 2021

J Street U, as a movement of pro-peace, anti-occupation, pro-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian college students, many of whom are Jewish, and all of whom care deeply about the American Jewish community, is called to respond to antisemitism. We have come of age in a world where incidents of antisemitism are on the rise, and we know too well the reality of attending vigil after vigil for members of our Jewish communities whose lives were lost to acts of baseless hatred. It is with this knowledge that we approach our organizing — as members and friends of a community which has faced far too much hate, we see it as incumbent upon us to call out the systems of power which enable and tolerate acts of white supremacy both when they are directed at Jews, and when they are directed at others.

Antisemitism is a real and existential threat to Jews in the United States and around the world. Unfortunately, this legitimate fear for Jews’ safety has often been harmfully weaponized, frequently against non-Jews, especially people of color, to bolster unconditional support for Israeli government policy towards Palestinians. Time and time again, we have seen politicians and activists who speak out against the occupation unjustly and outrageously accused of antisemitism. At times, such hurtful and baseless accusations of antisemitism have even been directed at Jewish public officials and activists, including members of J Street and J Street U. Meanwhile, American political figures who support and spread toxic white nationalist, xenophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories seek to deflect criticism by hiding behind their unwavering support for the right-wing Israeli government, claiming that this somehow absolves them of their antisemitism.

For decades, the Israeli government has illegally expanded settlements and trampled on the rights of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. We feel that criticizing and advocating against these destructive policies and unjust policies is a vital part of living our Jewish values, which place a premium on human rights, justice and equality, and which inspire us to work towards a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Furthermore, we understand that the only way we can truly confront and help end antisemitism is by confronting white supremacy, and standing with the many other vulnerable communities that white supremacy targets and victimizes. We will not allow the pain caused by antisemitism to be used as a tool to divide us from our allies or to justify the unjustifiable treatment of Palestinians and other communities of color.

When antisemitism permeates our lives, we take solace in the fact that we can stand together not only with other Jews, but with all those who similarly take it upon themselves to speak out against injustice in all its forms, even and especially when those injustices are perpetrated by members of our own people. To address antisemitism, we must reach out to other groups, and engage fully in the hard and tangible work that moves us towards a place of genuine solidarity and understanding. Doing so thoughtfully and with nuance is a daunting task. Nonetheless, with solidarity, humility, and the goal of collective liberation, we can move forward together.