Fighting Anti-Israel Sentiment at Rutgers
April 6, 2011 | 500 viewsOn My Campus
| Written by Aaron Marcus
With one of the largest Jewish student populations in the country, you would be hard pressed to imagine the anti-Israel and concurrently anti-Semitic nature of the Rutgers University campus. Sadly, over the course of the past two years Rutgers has shifted from a generally peaceful pro-Israel environment to an outright assault on the Jewish State. Peculiarly, the growing hatred toward Israel on campus has not accompanied a large pro-Palestinian movement. Rather a specific trend of trying to delegitimize the lone democracy in the Middle East has emerged. As an anti-Israel speaker proudly said this past semester, “It’s not about Palestinians against Israel; it is about getting the world against Israel.”

A group on campus called BAKA – Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, is the prime culprit behind rising anti-Israel sentiment. While the group claims to support justice in the Middle East, their actions speak louder than their title. BAKA has been silent on the various atrocities committed by governments in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and so on since the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East. They have been silent on the mass murders committed by Hamas and Fatah against the Palestinian people. Their sole mission is to delegitimize Israel in every way possible.

BAKA’s fight against Israel this year started with a fundraising event to send a flotilla to Gaza paid for by mandatory student fees. The University ultimately saw the potential difficulty that could arise from breaking international law, and told the organizers they couldn’t use the money to fund the flotilla. They have hosted infamous holocaust minimizer, Norman Finkelstein and participated in Israel apartheid week under the guise of Palestinian Awareness Week. However, no event sponsored by BAKA was as outrageous as their event on January 29, 2011 titled “Never Again for Anyone.” This was a program that brought former Holocaust survivors along with anti-Israel activists to compare the atrocity of the Holocaust to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a clear effort to delegitimize the lives of over six million Jews killed by the Nazis, the Jewish community at Rutgers and the surrounding area finally had enough.

Upon hearing about this event, I along with a group of other students planned a counter protest to the program. Urging Jews and supporters of Israel from all over the state to attend in order to make our position clear. You can hate us all you want, but when it comes to the preservation and sanctification of our relatives murdered by Hitler, you will not desecrate their name. Many supporters had difficulty arriving to the event at its scheduled time, since it was planned for 6:00 PM Motzei Shabbat. However, by 6:30 more than 400 supporters of Israel eclipsed the 100 or so anti-Israel advocates that the event was geared toward. However, while we outnumbered those comparing Israel to the Nazis by 4 to 1, the event originally billed as free and open to the public suddenly instituted a mandatory $5-$20 fee.

First, the organizers of “Never again for Anyone” asked all of those who gathered together in support of Israel to stand in a separate line and wait for seating to take place. Meanwhile, those in anti-Israel apparel, keffiyahs and hijabs were taken aside, given green wristbands, labeled as event “staff” and given free entrance. At one point, the hosts of the event, which ranged from groups like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to the International Socialist Organization, tore apart a suggested donation sign leaving only the admission fee visible. Later, IJAN and BAKA decided to come out with a statement that the fee had been introduced a week before the scheduled event. Yet they still fail to comment on how prior to the arrival of Israel supporters the fee had been voluntary. In fact, inside the event one of the organizers could be heard saying that the program had been delayed due to the protestors outside. Telling the crowd that they had instituted a mandatory entrance fee, but that supporters of Israel would probably be unwilling to pay.

In an unfortunate instance of irony stood 400 Jews barred from an event meant to delegitimize the holocaust and compare Israeli actions of self-defense to gas chambers and slave labor camps. Yet, their voices were not drowned by the hatred and arrogance of “Never Again for Anyone” organizers. Since that January night, Jews and Israel supporters across campus have joined together to fight for Israel’s right to exist on campus. Hillel has promoted peaceful resolutions to the Arab Israeli conflict and has hosted groups representing both Israeli and Palestinian concerns. Yet, the fight to protect Israel’s right to self-defense on campuses and across the country continues. Rutgers isn’t the only University where Israel or the Jewish people are attacked by hatred. However, like students at Rutgers, I urge those who believe in Israel’s right to exist to stand-up for good. In the face of evil, make sure your voice is heard and presence felt. For if we fail to protect Israel and the Jewish people today, our children and their children will suffer the consequences.

Aaron Marcus is a Rutgers University junior; he was an organizer of the counter-protest to the “Never Again for Anyone” event and is an alumnus of the National Journalism Center. His work has been published in the Washington Times and online at the Student Free Press Association.

BAKA, Israel, Jewish, Middle East, Rutgers