Some Jewish Students Say Their Views on Zionism Have Affected Their Social Life


At Yale College, a Jewish junior said she was discouraged from joining a secret society she had been admitted to when members began to suspect she was a Zionist after she mentioned attending an event at the Slifka Center, Yale’s main hub for Jewish life. The student, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared social ramifications on campus, said she was not a Zionist, and thought that members of the society, Ceres Athena, had come to the conclusion that she was by misconstruing old social media posts related to Israel — though none reached out to ask her directly. (Members of Ceres Athena did not respond to emails from The Times.)

And at Columbia University, a senior named Dessa Gerger — who says she is often “put off” by peers who are quick to label anti-Zionism as antisemitism and feels that “the story about Jewish students feeling unsafe on campus is overplayed” — decided not to continue her participation in college radio after a member of the station’s board expressed ambivalence about the idea of a program that featured Israeli music.

“I didn’t do the radio show this semester because I don’t feel any kind of desire to be in a political organization,” Ms. Gerger said. “I want to be in a radio station.”

Of course, for pro-Palestinian activists who support a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, there can be no such thing as Israeli music without politics. According to its website, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement operates according to the principle of “anti-normalization,” which forbids joint events or projects between Arabs and Jewish Israelis who do not, among other things, recognize Palestinians’ right of return to the land they were forced from in 1948.

“For Palestinians and those in solidarity, the problem is Zionism and what it’s meant to Palestinians,” said Yousef Munayyer, the head of the Palestine-Israel program at the Arab Center in Washington. “That’s going to put people in the Jewish community who are dealing with these tensions in an uncomfortable situation. They’re going to be asked to pick between a commitment to justice and a commitment to Zionism.”

For Layla Saliba, a Palestinian American student at the Columbia School of Social Work, not wanting to be friends with Zionists on campus comes down to the way she said she had been treated by some on campus: with offensive chants like “terrorist go home,” and jeering when she has spoken out about family she has lost in Gaza.



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