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29 Battling Anti-Zionism at City University of New York John Jay College Tomer Kornfeld Tomer Kornfeld provides a chilling account of the tactics of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on his campus. These anti-Israel activists have adopted the antinormalization policy, refusing to engage in any way with Jewish students’ groups. Instead, they repeatedly intimidate non-Israel-hating students, sponsoring die-ins, co-opting others’ causes for their own ends (such as converting antiracism rallies into anti-Israel diatribes), producing maps that remove Israel, and so on. Their coalitions with radical students of color and others regularly paint Israel as the epicenter of racist oppression. Kornfeld himself was targeted for social media abuse by one activist, leading him to conclude that “the Jewish student on campus who feels connected to his ancestral homeland is automatically [seen as] evil for that fault alone.” Bigotry against Israel and against Jews is growing dramatically on college campuses, where Israel is regularly demonized, delegitimized, and held to double standards. It is happening here at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, and this essay is meant to give you a glimpse of what it looks like through the eyes of a student. As a rising freshman in September of 2013, I was determined and focused on ensuring I had the best four-year college experience possible. Unlike perhaps most high school students, I was already aware of what was happening on campuses. Still, I felt prepared for it, ready to be on the front lines of the war against Israel being waged on college campuses, as I had done some training for it through high school with the help of several organizations, most notably the StandWithUs High School Internship. Nevertheless, even I was stunned to discover just how real, pervasive , and strong the hostility is to Israel and to Jews on campus. Before I even arrived on my campus, I experienced my first battle—with the Middle Eastern Club. Researching the club online revealed that Israel was wiped off the map on its Facebook page and replaced with Palestine. I experienced this 380 | Tomer Kornfeld almost personally as a slap in the face, as an attempt to deny or delegitimize my identity as a Jewish student with strong Israel ties. I immediately reached out to StandWithUs, who helped me compose a letter to the president of the club. He responded promptly and removed the map. With that issue resolved and feeling confident from this small victory, I came to campus to begin my college years. Little did I know this was the first battle of many. I promptly became involved with Hillel at John Jay. In December of 2013, we attempted to set up a mock peace talk with Students for Justice in Palestine, to be moderated by the United Nations club. Perhaps we were naive, but we were peaceloving students, sick and tired of hearing about war and conflict, and we wanted to try to bridge the divide at least on our campus. Perhaps, we thought, if we could get along with those on the other side here, that would be one small step toward helping the antagonists get along better over there, in the Middle East. At the bare minimum, each side could get to understand the other side a little more clearly. SJP simply rejected our olive branch. They refused even to dialogue with us. Instead of participating in a peace talk, they sponsored an important workshop, with a “prominent civil rights attorney and Palestinian activist,” Lamis Deek, on the topic of “normalization with Zionist groups.”1 Their promotional announcement for the workshop indeed helped us understand their side a little more clearly. They wrote: “Many of you have suggested that we work with Zionist groups on campus (like Hillel) and have a debate or something of the sort. If you do not understand why we refuse to cooperate with such groups, this would be the perfect learning experience for you.” I was very appreciative of their concern for our learning experience. One thing I did learn was that they were not very interested in getting to understand our side. In October of 2014, SJP, as well as other campus groups, combined to hold a die-in/vigil for Ferguson and Gaza. Although the connection between Ferguson and Gaza is not very clear to me, I suppose they can do whatever they want. A die-in, of course, is when students lie on the ground covered in sheets...


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