Palestinian Solidarity is Not Anti-Semitism

By Independent Jewish Voices McGill

In debates regarding Israel and Palestine, both on campus and in the world beyond Rue McTavish, groups in solidarity with Palestinians are often accused of being anti-Semitic purely because of their political stance against Israel. We are here to debunk that myth. Granted, anti-Semitism is a real, toxic, and harmful form of oppression. But, those engaged in anti-colonial work in Palestine can be against the Israeli state and not engage in anti-Semitic tropes and language. Often, gentiles (or non-Jews) that come out strongly in support of the Israeli state are incredibly anti-Semitic, contrary to popular conceptions.

The notion that being pro-Palestinian is somehow anti-Jew is problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, it equates being Jewish with unequivocally supporting Israel, denying Jews the opportunity to criticize the Israeli state and erasing the diversity of Jewish identities. Many Jews find within their Jewish heritage the very teachings that make them vehemently oppose, rather than unconditionally support, the Israeli government. Then McGill first year, Tali Ioselevich wrote in The McGill Daily: “It is precisely because Jews are so intimately familiar with violence and persecution that we must fight against them in all their forms, especially when they are being perpetrated by a government that claims to act in our name.”

Another way the association between opposing Israel and anti-Semitism is problematic is that it dangerously overlooks Israel’s shameful history of discriminating against Jews of Colour, like Ethiopian Jews, and Mizrahim, or MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Jews. Furthermore, as Ioselevich  maintains in their article, “to claim that Jews must relocate to Israel to be considered whole is to deny the range of Jewish experiences across the world that cannot be collapsed into one tangible identity. Jews from New York,  Yemen, Ethiopia, Germany, and Russia all have different histories to tell.”

The McGill chapter of Independent Jewish Voices is dedicated to resisting colonialism, standing in solidarity with Palestinians, and recognizing the violent colonialism experienced by the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. We see this solidarity as an affirmation of Jewish Identity. We support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions strategy (BDS), as it is what Palestinians are calling for in their own struggle for liberation, and we work with McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and BDS Action Network. While it is true that anti-Semitism is still a very real force worldwide, it is vital to distinguish violence towards Jewish people on basis of their Jewish identity from valid political action against an oppressive regime.