To the Editor:
We are writing to express our concern about the allegations of a climate of anti-Semitism on the University of Chicago campus. We question a core assumption behind these allegations—that criticism of Israeli policies must be equivalent to anti-Semitism. As a diverse group of students engaged in debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we feel that legitimate criticism of Israeli policies must not be conflated with anti-Semitism.
At the University of Chicago, labeling events that may criticize Israeli policies as anti-Semitic is the rhetorical strategy of a small minority, a strategy aimed at inflaming an uninformed audience, and silencing informative reasonable debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only open debate and meaningful dialogue will bring about a just solution to the conflict. Publicizing criticism of Israel as "anti-Semitic" intimidates people into silence, and prevents such dialogue from taking place. This attempt at silencing debate serves to further a political agenda of unquestioned support for the Israeli government's continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Ironically, this minority's loose and frequent use of the term "anti-Semitism" follows the same dangerous logic as do people who defend hate crimes as political acts. If criticizing Israeli policies is anti-Semitic, then burning a synagogue can be construed by anti-Semites as criticizing Israeli policies. Neither side of this dangerous coin is valid. Given the terrible history of real anti-Semitism, we feel obligated to call attention to such heinous logic, which simply spreads confusion and hate.
Finally, it is important to consider how this minority uses such logic to irresponsibly jeopardize the careers of good scholars and mar the reputations of fellow students. By involving Campus Watch—a self-proclaimed watchdog of criticism of Israel—this small minority seeks to intimidate members of our university community with the label "anti-Semitic," often on the basis of distorted or even false reports. It is vital to state that the University investigate every allegation against faculty, and exonerate them of all charges.
We hope to calm concerns resulting from the hysterical outcries of this small minority of students: no "climate" of anti-Semitism exists at the University of Chicago. We will continue to promote an open dialogue within an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Students for peaceful coexistence
The University of Chicago
Students for peaceful coexistence is a student organization established at the University of Chicago