Letter to the Editor: Rae Ferrara

On April 15th, President Wheeler sent a campus-wide email circulating the Anti-Defamation League’s Campus Antisemitism Report card, wherein SUNY New Paltz received a D. In it, the ADL cites the protest against IOF members, and New Paltz’s lack of a stance against BDS. Otherwise, New Paltz ranked high with clear processes for reporting antisemitic events, clear religious accommodations policies, an active Jewish life on campus, and Jewish studies programs. According to this report, the material conditions of Jewish students are acceptable. The report card does not actually grade antisemitism, but uses it to justify zionism and genocide. As a Jewish student, I am sickened by President Wheeler’s blind obedience, and with our university’s spineless attempts to silence activism on campus.

34,000 people have been killed in Gaza along with thousands more displaced, injured, and homeless. We are privileged to be here organizing on our campus, our place of learning, but there are no universities left in Gaza.

The actions of the Israeli state do not represent the Jewish people. Our religion teaches at every junction to resist oppression, to live as good citizens, and to think of every human life as precious. Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign does nothing to protect Jews because our Palestinian brothers and sisters are not the cause of our endangerment— white supremacy and fascism are. A “Jewish” ethnostate has not, and will not protect or save us, because the violence necessary to create one feeds the same racist war machine that is the root cause of antisemitism.

One group who absolutely does not benefit from the weaponization of title VI and the equation of antisemitism and anti-zionism are Jewish people. In fact, Zionism endangers us. It dilutes reports of antisemitism so that when we are actually targeted or harassed, accounts aren’t believed. It sets us up to be scapegoated for a genocide that most of us have nothing to do with. The ADL, a group known for openly cheering genocide, has no right to tell us what bigotry looks like. Zionism, which has historically allied itself with Nazism and fascism has no right to tell us what antisemitism looks like.

We’re fighting for something tangible: divestment from Israel and Increased transparency. We deserve to know what we buy into when we pay our tuition. The encampment at Columbia has lit a fire; the message to higher-ed is clear: do better. Jewish students have been leading the vanguard, and the media ignores both their contributions and their demands. They don’t want to hear the ways that we keep ourselves safe, the love and care and faith– shabbat dinners and seder tables– at the core of this movement. If the university cared about antisemitism, it would not treat the ADL’s report as legitimate, and it would stop stifling student activism on campus. There is no Jewish safety without Arab safety, without Muslim safety, without queer and BIPOC safety. There is no freedom until we are all free– there is no freedom until Palestine is free.