Administrative note: It’s finals week at the University of Chicago so there will be little activity here on SMP until after I get through these exams. Rest assured, though. SMP will be back on track soon.
Chicago activists, we’ve been called out.
Waiting in my inbox today was an email from a colleague linking me to an opinion piece in The Times of Israel. Written by Michael Kotzin, a Senior Counselor at the Jewish Federation who spends much of his time trying without success to rebrand Israel as a humanitarian state, the article complains that campus groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are effectively linking Israel to apartheid and calls on Israel’s advocates to counter SJP and other likeminded movements who have the potential “to shape the American mind”.
I took most of the article with a grain of salt. I’ve seen dozens of these opinions try to frame any activism against occupation as an imminent threat to Israel’s existence. At the end of the day, what individuals like Kotzin are telling us is that Israel needs to occupy and oppress Palestinians to survive. Being unable to do so would lead to the destruction of the only beacon of hope in the Middle East. So, they say, put your morals away and keep Israel strong.
As you can see, Katzin’s article is laughable at best. But he’s got one paragraph in there that hits hard, and that’s why I couldn’t take the entire article lightly. Regarding Israeli Apartheid Week, he writes (emphasis mine):
Here in Chicago, where the anti-Israel group known as Students for Justice in Palestine is particularly active on a number of campuses, and where last year’s observance of the event brought “apartheid walls” plastered with inflammatory signage to three local campuses and other activities carried out elsewhere, things were quite quiet.
He’s right, and it’s unfortunate. We got caught up in our midterms, our research projects, our thesis defenses, our law school applications, and our involvement with other social justice groups. Still, other cities pulled off tremendous events so we have no excuse. We were quiet, yes, and weren’t as effective as we should have been. But no worries. As us college students chip away at Israel’s institutionalized discrimination, we will gladly save you a front-row seat so that you may witness just how loud Chicago can get.
Someone, please relay this message to Katzin.