The Israeli-Palestinian conflict made its way onto SF State's campus on Friday, Nov. 10 when a pro-Zionist group that's been touring university campuses encountered an anti-Zionist group handing out literature.
A group called Students Supporting Israel (SSI) set up a table outside the J. Paul Leonard Library on Friday afternoon that was adorned with a banner proclaiming "Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism."
Meanwhile a few hundred yards away, two SF State student members of International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) were handing out literature that read, in part, "Anti-Zionism is Anti-Racist."
Neither student would provide a name to the Xpress.
"We've seen Zionism be a force for destruction," said one student. "Israel is occupying Palestine. They're being forced off their land because of someone else's atrocity."
SSI member and Columbia University student Rudy Rochman said SSI wants to "unite students" under the idea that Jewish people have the right to self-determine their homeland based on Jewish and Israeli culture, "and also help maybe even promote co-existence on the ground itself."
"Anti-Zionism is the destruction of Israel's right to exist," Rochon told the Xpress. "Zionism just means the self-determination of theJewish people in their homeland. It has nothing to do with the current ethnic conflict that is happening."
The conflict arose 70 years ago when Jews fleeing persecution in Europe wanted to establish a nation in their ancestral homeland in what was then an Arab- and Muslim-majority territory.
An early United Nations plan to give each group part of the land failed, and Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought several wars over the territory.
A 1967 war left Israel in control of two territories that were home to large Palestinian populations, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the main conflict zones today.
Rochon reached out to passing students to initiate conversations about the controversy while another member caught interactions on video for Rochman's vlog.
The vlog has caught on with supporters of his ideology like Matthew Finkelstein, who travelled from Vallejo to hang out with the SSI crew during their SF State campus visit.
"I've never seen them in person, I've only watchedthe videos. I'm a longtime fan," Finkelstein said. "We need people like SSI… to be able to come together and stand up against that rhetorical wave that's alienating Jewish students from their own identity."
Passersby had a variety of reactions to the SSI table, some looking on curiously while others chanted "Free Free Palestine!"
Rochon approached the SF State students and IJAN members handing out literature.
"I'm completely against Palestinian suffering," Rochon told the students. "There's no real future without Palestine and Israel coming together."
The literature stated IJAN's position that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, "it's anti-racist."
"Zionism serves to justify the colonization of Palestine and the dispossession of the Palestinian people through land confiscation, forced exile, and massacres," states the literature.
One student said they didn't want to talk out of concern for their safety, saying Zionists have "targeted" people on SF State's campus before.
SF State professor Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi has appeared on an extremist website called Canary Mission, which targets people it deems anti-Semitic, accusing her of "cultivating terror ties at SFSU."
"[Conservative Zionist organizations like the Canary Mission] are very upset with that because I'm saying, 'I'm sorry you don't own Jewishness'" Abdulhadi said. "Zionists don't own Jewishness."
A drawn out court battle alleging that Abdulhadi was encouraging anti-Semitism was dismissed by a federal judge on Oct. 29.