Anti-Israel Times at Kent State

It is well known that pro-Israel university groups have not been able to get their message across on campus, especially when in a constant battle with the anti-Israel university groups. The main one being Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP’s tactics on campus are well documented by pro-Israel groups like CAMERA, StandWithUs, and Hasbara Fellowships. While SJP tries to use their extreme narrative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to “relate their oppression” to other minority organizations, Jewish students should have the advantage. Our history and narrative has many more commonalities with these disenfranchised groups, it is the SJP and their allies that prevent these connections and ultimately denies Jewish students their social justice.

While most universities have SJP on campus, Jewish students generally in the northeast and west coast of America feel their influence the most. Universities like California Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, and Northeastern are the usual hotspots and often in the news for Israel apartheid walls, events by anti-Israel speakers, and strong amounts of tension between SJP and the Jewish and/or pro-Israel groups. Over this past year SJP has become stronger in the MidWest; looking at Kent State University, the situation has become unhinged.

Kent State’s SJP members are unabashedly against Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and apparently also against personal space. In one recent case, while Kent State’s Hillel was tabling for Taglit-Birthright (the free trip to Israel) as well as the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat, members of Students for Justice in Palestine approached their table just to started yelling slurs against Jews and against Israel. Racist rhetoric like “Jews have no homeland” was chanted. Incidents against pro-Israel students are common, targeting Jewish students is as well.

Another reported incident of SJP members occurred when members had spotted pro-Israel leader on campus, despite the fact he was on his own private time, they proceeded to stalk him to the building he was attending. Should we in the Jewish community be hiring bodyguards to protect our students fighting for the rights of the Jewish people? Even at non-university events like Chicago’s Pride parade, Jewish students who came in support were shunned from participating after fellow protestors saw their pride flag with a Star of David on it. While, they were marching as fellow protestors, members of Kent State’s SJP took to Twitter to applaud the protestors who turned gay pro-Israel students away from the parade. 

Sadly, discrimination against pro-Israel students is common, the Students for Justice in Palestine publishes a plethora of anti-Israel articles written in the public school newspaper, Kent State’s pro-Israel activists like Lilly Romond have their articles rejected when they try to write rebuttals, challenging the falsities of their narrative. One article in particular was why Gal Gadot should not be permitted to play “Wonder Woman” due to the fact that she is an Israeli and a Zionist. According to Lilly, this was just one obvious case of anti-Israel bias by a core institution of free speech at Kent State University. This is at the fault of the university; if the student editors are unwilling to publish articles by pro-Israel students, the university should press the issue to make them.

Kent State Pro-Israel activist Lilly Romond

At Kent State, Hillel is one of Students for Justice in Palestine’s big targets, this is in addition to the campus’ Students Supporting Israel. Students Supporting Israel (SSI), an international pro-Israel student organization that supports Israel as a Jewish Democratic nation-state. As the founder of SSI Columbia University Rudy Rochman commonly says: “I judge a campus not by how strong the anti-Israel movement is, but by how weak the pro-Israel movement has been.”

In most cases, the Kent State University administration has refused to investigate incidents further, categorizing any disruptive action by a SJP member as “freedom of speech”. If the KSU administration continues to deny the relevance and possible escalation of Students for Justice in Palestine’s incidents, they could be playing with fire. They should be investigating any on-campus disturbance and take action against the crowd in the wrong. Kent State’s Students for Justice in Palestine bullies pro-Israel students, stalks them on campus, and does not miss a chance to confront an event.

American Universities are supposed to represent a country that values freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, for the administration at Kent State to allow the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to continue their destructive and in some cases criminal tactics on campus is discrimination. It must not be tolerated. Though the pro-Israel group’s fight has continued despite the actions of the radicals in Kent State’s SJP. This is the time to push the administration into acting, I wish the pro-Israel groups at Kent State University and at all universities strength in their battle against the anti-Israel forces, especially as Passover, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut are coming up.

Taking a Stand on Poland’s New Law

Recently, a new controversial bill was debated by the Polish Parliament, a move condemned by the United States, Israel, others around the world, and was still signed into law by the Polish Prime Minister. The bill addressed Poland’s actions in the Holocaust, specifically addressing the phrase “Polish death camps”. The phrase challenges the historical fact that the Polish government (under German orders) and anti-Semitic Poles were complicit in the building and running of concentration camps by Nazi Germany in World War II, as well as the rounding up of 3 million Polish Jews, sending them to their deaths.

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Since the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allied Powers in 1945, the subject of the Holocaust has been an emotional topic for the Jewish People, but also for many other groups tied to the atrocities. Mostly unexplored, until the legislation was raised, was the historical revisionism held by the Polish people. As a result of holding back for 70 years, the recent “Polish death camps” bill was an action taken by Poland’s Parliament to try to soften the shame of Poland’s complicity. The phrase was even used by President Obama in his Holocaust remembrance speech in 2012The law imposes a three year prison sentences for using the phrase “Polish death camps” as well as for implying publicly that the country of Poland or the Polish people took part in Nazi Germany’s crimes.

Though the question still remains; on what historical grounds does the Polish Parliament stand to make the claim that they and their government were not involved in the Nazi’s crimes? After much World War II research, consulting with historical experts, and looking over the textual content of the bill, it can been seen that there is just as much falsity than accuracy in the legislation. The truth is that the country of Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany September 1, 1939, and was under the Nazi’s control until the end of the war, therefore clearing the allegation that the Polish government acted by themselves against Jews in Poland. Though, the falsity rests in the fact that the Polish nation as a whole did not act against Polish Jews. This bill therefore takes the responsibility off the Polish government and passes the blame to the Polish people at the time.

Before the war, Poland was referred to as “the most progressive country in Central Europe”, though did this continue during the war? Yad VaShem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust), tells the stories of Poles who risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors and even Jews that had came to them pleading of their lives. It is reported that within Poland there were 6,706 recognized acts of heroism, more than in any other country. Many Polish individuals never took credit for their courageous actions, fearing the possibility fo violence after the war. Significantly, Pope John Paul II (who was just a priest at the time) was heavily involved in helping to rescue Jews during the war, and was praised in the war’s aftermath.

The research shows the other side of the coin too. While many of these heroes who saved Jews were isolated and feared what their neighbors would do, even after the Nazi occupation. During the war, Poles wasted no time ransacking Jewish homes, stores, and other property once the original Jewish owners were taken by the Nazis. Polish individuals guarded the entrances of Jewish ghettos and murdered many Jews running for their lives. Even though the Poles who capitalized on their inner cruelty did not know about the Nazi’s genocidal intentions, they were complicity in crimes against humanity. The “Polish death camps” bill was eventually signed into law by the current Polish Prime Minister, though his predecessor Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, explained during the bill’s debate that he was embarrassed by the legislation and acknowledged that “of course Poles took part in the Holocaust”. 

In the end, the Polish government may not have had the power to break away from the Nazi regime, but many Poles were complicit in their crimes. Even today, we have yet to see major protests and activism against the law. Not to mention the egregious fact that people are arrested for singing Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah”, and that they must pay to enter the national museums built at Auschwitz and other concentration camps, a primary source of Holocaust education. This bill might soften the shame that Poles feel, but to face their actions head on, as the German government does with their Holocaust education, will truly prevent history from repeating itself again and again.

Praising Pence: An Israeli View

Yesterday concluded Vice President Mike Pence’s first official visit to the Holy Land. After his previous planned Middle East trip was delayed by the all-important Congressional Tax Reform, using his Vice Presidential tie-breaking vote to pass it, he has kept his promise to make an official visit. After two months have passed since President Trump confirmed what the Jewish people have known for over 3,000 years, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel; now his Vice President has met with Egyptian, Jordanian, and Israeli officials at a vital turning point in the Middle East.

Since the Trump Administration’s announcement, there has been some push back, which was generally accepted to happen. Though, the push-back on recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 20 years ago could have started a major conflict against Israel. Today, we have seen a sharp change in the region, with the Sunni Arab states inching closer to normalisation with Israel, the push-back has only come from the misguided Palestinian Authority.

Over his trip, Vice President Pence gave his address to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem. He spoke on the recognition of Jerusalem, Iran’s destructive actions in the region, the strength of the US-Israel relationship, and on bringing about a final peace agreement between Israel and their Arab neighbors. He also met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin, another great opportunity for these world leaders to speak on the challenges facing Israel and region. Not to mention the Vice President’s solidification that the United States is keeping their promise to move their embassy to Jerusalem by 2019!

On the Vice President’s scheduled to visit Yad VaShem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, he was able to pay his respects. A visit that many world leaders make, understanding the lessons of the Holocaust is of global importance. As a proud Jew, I thank the Vice President for taking the time to learn about the atrocities that in the modern era has heavily impacted the decisions of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

Since President Trump’s historic decision to give full American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, there has been tension and much banter between the Trump Administration and the Palestinian Authority. Now the Vice President has finished his first state visit to Israel. As the Israeli people embraced the decision, we welcomed the Vice President with open arms. I praise Vice President Pence on keeping his trip, especially when he has had many opportunities to cancel, mostly due to Congressional votes and backlash from the Palestinian Authority. I hope the Vice President has had an enjoyable and productive trip, I know that there will be another visit here, where he will be able to complete his tour with a trip to Bethlehem and much more of the Land of Israel!

Originally Published in Times of Israel