By Aliyah Jacobson
Published: March 6th, 2019
Alejandro Villa Vasquez, an NYU student and former deputy managing editor at NYU’s Washington Square News, tweeted multiple race-sensitive posts on December 6th. “I hope every Zionist kkunt @ New York University is crying right now,” and “I want all Zionists to die”. Vasquez tweeted this as a reaction to NYU Student Government’s decision to pass a divestment resolution that targets NYU’s assets and interactions with Israel. He also went on to say, “My views on Zionism do not reflect my views on Judaism.” It is also interesting to know that Vasquez’s opinions on Zionism were not recent, as he has once reminded his Twitter followers in 2014, “to spit on Zionists, it is proper etiquette.” While I do not claim that Israel is perfect, I believe in its right to exist and my right to express this as a pro-Israel student without being harassed or violently discriminated against.
Following those tweets, staffs at The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU took safety precautions to what they called, the inexcusable “harassing and potentially threatening” posts on social media, and closed down its campus on Wednesday, December 12th. According to The Algemeiner, the head of the Bronfman Center, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, sent emails that said, “Due to “heightened tensions at NYU” — where a resolution supporting the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel passed last week — “we are taking all threats seriously and have notified NYU Public Safety and NYPD”.
Vasquez claimed his views against Zionists are aggressive as his tweets reflected because he believes, “That individuals supporting the Jewish nation’s right to self-determination …” believe in the genocide of ethnic and religious groups.” This belief is false and only ignites hate and prejudice against Jewish students.
Alan Dershowitz, a Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of several books such as The Case for Israel, wrote that BDS and its messages are anti-Semitic tactics directed against Jewish citizens and supporters of Israel. Sarah Disselkamp, a student and CAMERA fellow at Ohio State University, where a BDS resolution was also recently passed, feels that she is being discriminated against for supporting Israel. Disselkamp writes, “There are legitimate ways and reasons to criticize Israel and there are ways to express these criticisms without BDS. There is no nuance in BDS”. (BDS does not take into account different backgrounds, identities and race as amongst the citizens of Israel include Jews, Muslims, and Christians.) In a video released by Realize Israel, a pro-Israel club at NYU, one student said, “Our campus has become an unsafe environment for students of different backgrounds, identities, and race.” One instance of this took place at Realize Israel’s celebration for Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) on May 2, 2018, where an Israeli flag was burned and a Zionist student was injured by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.
According to a former pro-Israel senator at NYU, “There are no longer any pro-Israel students in student government now that she has stepped down. There is a senator from Jewish Voice for Peace, a fringe anti- Israel organization that does not represent ‘the values of Zionist students,’ and a senator from Students for Justice in Palestine in student government.” In addition to having to present in front of a student government, several of which members who are biased against Israel, Jewish clubs were given an unfair amount of time to speak. Thus, the resolution was left to be decided by a biased student group.
The recent BDS resolution at NYU was endorsed by 61 student groups and 35 faculty members. Anti-Semitism on campus tends to follow BDS resolutions with recent statistics showing that anti-Semitism increased by 40% in 2016 on more than 100 public and private colleges and universities. The Amcha initiative shows that the presence of BDS-promoting groups and faculty were strong predictors of acts that have once targeted and harassed Jewish students on campus. A blatant example of this is when a BDS resolution passed at the University of Oregon last year, the welcome sign of the campus Hillel was vandalized with anti-Semitic messages, one of which said, “Free Palestine, you fucks”.
As a Jewish college student in New York City, I see the rise of anti-Semitism that follows BDS resolutions being passed and that worries me. The same hate and discrimination felt in Greenwich Village at NYU could have ripples spread to my institution, Brooklyn College, located in Flatbush, New York City. It is a place rich with diversity that welcomes and loves all walks of life and it must not become a breeding ground for racism and conflict. Individuals in my school and city must feel safe to practice their beliefs and religion on campus and/or in their daily lives.The President of NYU, Andrew Hamilton, as well as NYU leadership overall, unequivocally opposed previous BDS resolutions including this recent resolution. The student government at NYU should focus on bettering the student’s lives and not passing discriminatory and unenforceable resolutions that serve no purpose other than to intimidate.
Aliyah Jacobson is a junior at Brooklyn College and a CAMERA 2018\2019 Fellow.