“Sometimes I'm scared to admit that I'm Jewish.”
This is the message I received after the National SJP conference from a member of Hillel and Students Supporting Israel at SDSU. This conference was to take place October 9th through 11th on the San Diego State University campus. As the president of Students Supporting Israel at SDSU, I prepared my team for the possible outcomes of the conference and came to the conclusion that we should not clash with the group, but rather respect their right to host a conference – even if we don’t agree with their message. While Students Supporting Israel at SDSU was planning a campus wide beach cleanup that bettered the community, SJP leaders from all around the country were listening to speakers such as the convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh. Leading up to the conference, multiple SJP chapters around the country had posted their support for the murderers who had stabbed Jews in Israel over the past few weeks. Just a few days before the SJP conference took place, a swastika was graffitied on a wall on campus. It was naïve of me to think that the conference would not affect my group members. A handful of new SSI members had never faced anti-Semitism and felt frightened that a conference calling for their homeland and the land of many of their family members to be decimated. Many SJP chapters publicly stated their support for the Third Intifada which was referring to the atrocious murders and attempted murders committed by Palestinians against Jewish Israelis. This type of radicalism prevents any peaceful dialogue to be made.
The first day of the conference was quiet. I was pleased that the national SJP members were being respectful and not inciting violence. However, things took a turn for the worse on Saturday, October 10th. As some of my colleagues walked around campus, they found that many of the conference attendees wore shirts displaying the phrase “Down with Israel”. The call for the destruction of the state of Israel is nothing new to the radical anti-Israel group. Throughout the second day of the conference, I was getting messages from students who were walking on campus with a Star of David necklace – a clear symbol of Jewish faith – stating that they were subjected to comments and snarls whenever they walked by SJP leaders attending the conference. On Saturday night, one of my SSI members had reported to me that SJP was marching in the street with Palestinian flags chanting anti-Israel slurs. It made her so uncomfortable that she no longer felt safe on her university campus. On Sunday, the beach cleanup brought together many different groups on campus to share a positive experience together and create light in the darkness of a war against anti-Semitism. A handful of beach cleanup attendees had worn t-shirts that showed their support with Israel and walked home after the event was over. On their way back, three members were harassed on separate accounts by SJP members yelling, “F*** Israel!” and following them for at least 20 feet while chanting anti-Israel slurs. In addition to that, on that Thursday afternoon, my home was egged. This was a strange coincidence considering the conference was just days earlier and Palestinian Day of Action was on October 13th, the day before this occurred.
In the aftermath of the conference, I reached out to my members, lending them a hand as they coped with the hate they experienced only to receive the message written above: “Sometimes I'm scared to admit that I'm Jewish.” Why is SDSU allowing these events that target and victimize students on campus to take place? In an educational setting, students should feel free to be who they are. Instead of providing students with the safe space they want and deserve on college campuses, they are met with synchronized chants calling for their demise.