(I join with the rest of the civilized world in sending my deepest sympathies to the entire nation of India, and to the families of those murdered in the terror attacks in Mumbai, including the families of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg of Chabad).
While there is often legitimate concern about how Jewish youth in America relate to Israel, especially with the climate at many American universities being very difficult for Zionists, there are occasional bright spots that surface.
At UC Berkeley, tensions have been running particularly high lately between "Students for Justice in Palestine" (said definition of "justice" usually involving the end of Jewish self-determination in the Jewish homeland) and the pro-Israel group Tikvah. Yet despite that, one member of Tikvah took it upon himself, alone, to take a stand against the racist attitude that only the Jewish people, among all peoples of the world, are not entitled to self-determination. He delivered a speech to the student Senate that also referenced efforts to expel the president of Tikvah. Matt's speech is copied below, and needs no further comment except "Yasher Koach":
"There is much racism on this campus that should not go unreported. So, publicly, before the Senate tonight, I should like to report something that happened to me. Monday I noticed a huge crowd gathering on the opposite side of Sproul from me, by the Peace Not Prejudice sign. Many shirts were passed out, and I myself, believing firmly in the words “peace not prejudice” with all my being, almost went to get one myself. I say almost because of what I have seen people wearing such shirts do.
The group was wearing Peace not Prejudice shirts, keffiyehs around their necks, and waving two enormous PLO flags. While I will not get into how these symbols make me feel, what I will say is that if this is truly Peace not Prejudice week, then why were there no Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian, Argentine, or whatever else flags appearing on campus? I could not tell whether or not this was a part of Peace not Prejudice Week.
As I saw it fit that there should be more diversity in the symbols seen on campus that day, I stood in the middle of Sproul, alone, and waved the Israeli flag overhead for hours. I did not go over to dance with them as I felt this would lead to a confrontation, and avoiding a confrontation was a top priority of mine.
A member of Kesher Enoshi approached me, chastised me for making it seem like there was a separation between the two groups. Though I did not agree with her at the time, I do now. She took the Israeli flag and ran to dance with them.
I myself decided to run over, take the flag, wave it, and dance with all of them. Why not? Of course, then I noticed that the few people not wearing Peace Not Prejudice shirts were wearing shirts that show the map of Israel covered in a keffiyeh. This, in my mind, shows a desire to erase and hide Israel from the map. I had not danced for one minute before I was excluded from the circle of dancing, and told that I had to stand away, to the side. At this time, the group began to chant: “Palestine is Arab, Palestine is Arab.” I have confirmed this with several Arabic-speaking friends of mine. So then, by this reasoning, as a Jew, if I wanted to live in “Palestine”, would I be allowed to even though I am not Arab? If this is not racism, my friends, I don’t know what is. Peace, not prejudice. Then, Students for Justice in Palestine executives took me aside and told me that if I wanted to dance there, I had to issue a public apology on behalf of the pro-Israel community at Berkeley. I will NOT apologise for waving my people’s flag. Additionally, I was told they were worried about me being violent. How was it at all violent that I was waving the Israeli flag and dancing, smiling? Unless of course they were concerned that an anti-Semite among them might take offense and start a fight.
Refusing to let myself be baited into an aggressive reaction, as I am sure these executives were intending, I took the moral high ground and left the situation, returning to the opposite side of Sproul. As I resumed my place near the Tikvah table, very shaken and on the edge of tears, several Yemeni girls from the Muslim Student Association and several Indian girls from the Peace Not Prejudice coalition came to speak to me. They informed me that Peace Not Prejudice did not endorse this pseudo-demonstration, assured me that I was in the right, apologised, and commended me. I thank G-d there are still some sane students left on this campus. Peace, not prejudice.
This initiative to remove my colleague John Moghtader from the ASUC Senate frankly goes hand in hand with what I experienced Monday. It is a racist yes, I said it, racist attempt to shut out Jewish pro-Israel voices that have done nothing wrong and have not committed acts of violence, an initiative led by an individual who was indeed successfully sued for libel last year and continues to Facebook-stalk myself and my friends for his blog, which I liken parts of to a modern-day Protocols of the Elders of Zion."