“Sorry, not sorry.”
That’s the official TL;DR summary of the “Revised Department of Ethnic Studies Revised Palestine Support Statement” from the University of Colorado-Boulder’s ESD.
For anyone who missed my previous column, the ESD came out swinging for the antisemitism fences on Oct. 27 with a manifesto dripping with Jew-hate thinly veiled behind a mesh of obfuscatory so-called anti-Zionist rhetoric so riddled with nonsense that it calls into question the entire department’s credibility in their supposed area of study.
In this latest revised, revised statement, the ESD cries victim from the outset — with world-class tone-deafness considering they’re opining from the comfort of their Boulder enclave, 6,000 miles away from a war started by the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
“Because the Department of Ethnic Studies and our faculty, staff, and students find ourselves under attack for the statement we had previously shared on our website, we are removing the statement because we do not wish anyone in our community to feel unsafe.”
Here’s the original statement they released, since it has now been removed from their page:
Whatever shred of irony that may have still existed after the Trump administration’s term ended was certainly obliterated here, as they claim they’re “under attack” because people dared to hold them accountable for their choice to take the bully pulpit to espouse blood libel against Jews.
Again, let’s be clear: There is most assuredly room to have a reasonable discussion about this entire conflict, and it’s absolutely reasonable to criticize the choices of the Israeli government. But even the link to the Amnesty International (which has long been notoriously one-sided in its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian situation) article that the ESD linked to in their original “revised statement” stops short of engaging in the unadulterated intellectual dishonesty the ESD trotted out in their post. The AI article at least acknowledged how this latest conflict started:
“In Israel, more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, have been killed and some 3,300 others were injured, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health after armed groups from the Gaza Strip launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on 7 October. They fired indiscriminate rockets and sent fighters into southern Israel who committed war crimes including deliberately killing civilians and hostage-taking. The Israeli military says that fighters also took more than 200 civilian hostages and military captives back to the Gaza Strip.”
But the original ESD “revised statement” delivers a nearly 900-word missive all about the Gaza-Israel war that obviously refuses to mention Hamas even once and doesn’t bother to address the Hamas terrorist attack that precipitated the war. It then even goes so far as to justify terrorism against non-combatant civilians — from 33 countries in addition to Israel, including American citizens — as a morally acceptable form of resistance from “occupation” (in a place Israel completed a total withdrawal from in 2005, even dragging Israeli settlers from their homes in Gaza at the time).
Between my column responding to their original revised statement (revised because it was updating another statement they wrote back in 2021 regarding the Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik conflict in Israel and the West Bank), the additional condemnations of their statement from CU President Todd Saliman and chancellor Philip DiStefano, and the dozens of letters, emails, and social media posts demanding retraction and accountability, it’s not surprising the ESD would address it in some way. Though they never bothered to respond to my questions in an email I sent to ESD Chair Arturo Aldama, it’s clear they heard us all.
But they certainly weren’t bothering to listen.
“We will continue to center and challenge the oppression of those who are marginalized,” reads the second paragraph of the revised, revised statement, “including scholars, students, and community members here in Colorado and around the world. We as a department are staunchly against antisemitism and Islamophobia in all forms. We condemn the rising incidents of harm and harassment toward Jewish, Muslim, and Arab, specifically Palestinian, peoples.”
Thanks, but no thanks, ESD. We know that there’s zero truth to that statement — at least when you’re referring to Jewish community members here in Colorado and around the world. For one, you refused the invitation from your own university’s Jewish Studies department to engage in a panel discussion with them and other Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, and you never even bothered to consult with anyone from the Jewish Studies department when you crafted the first “revised statement.”” You’re actively engaged in silencing one of your own constituencies with this behavior — Jewish students and faculty on campus. Simply claiming otherwise certainly doesn’t make it true.
The third and final paragraph starts with this sentence: “This removal should in no way be seen as a lack of commitment to our mission statement. We support the work on the ground to educate and empower all of us still learning the nuances of this unfolding situation by organizations Jewish Voices For Peace and If Not Now.”
First off, the organization you’re talking about is actually Jewish Voice for Peace. Not “Voices.” This isn’t a slam against a simple typo — JVP is an extremely damaging organization to Jews around the world for myriad reasons, and one of those is the impression they’re trying to create that the world community of Jews speaks in a single, unified voice. Not only is that utterly absurd, but worse, the positions they take actively engage in communities that support antisemitism across the world.
The Anti-Defamation League’s take on that is spot-on: “JVP considers supporters of Israel, or even critics of Israel who do not hew to JVP’s own extreme views, to be complicit in Israel’s purported acts of racist oppression of Palestinians. JVP leaders believe that expressing support for Israel, or not challenging mainstream Jewish organizations that support Israel, must also be viewed as an implicit attack on people of color and all marginalized groups in the United States. JVP’s energetic proselytizing of this view — especially among other social justice groups — has created a hostile environment for many progressive Jews… More troubling, JVP’s dissemination of the view that Israel and its U.S. supporters are fundamentally racist oppressors of non-Jews has the effect of perpetuating the classic anti-Jewish stereotype of Jews as self-centered elitists, disdainful of non-Jews, who are focused on their own interests, sometimes at others’ expense. Additionally, JVP’s ongoing insistence that virtually all criticism of Israel cannot be anti-Semitic gives cover to anti-Semites who couch their malice toward Jews as mere anti-Zionism.”
You could substitute “ESD” for “JVP” throughout that passage, and it rings every bit as true.
As for the other organization you refer to, IfNotNow, they’re nearly as bad as — and in some cases worse than — JVP. For example, according to the ADL the Detroit chapter of IfNotNow recently shared out a flier which featured an image of a paraglider — a reference to the Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel on Oct. 7 — literally celebrating the slaughter of well over a thousand innocents and the kidnapping of more than 200. Such is the company you’d like to keep, ESD.
The last sentence in this “revised, revised statement” is arguably the most damning, in terms of the antisemitic undertones: “Finally, we are aware that as scholars, many of whom identify as non-white, that our critiques of power are often under attack. We condemn the intersectional oppression and attacks that our community is facing for exercising our academic freedom.”
Right there. The age-old trope of Jews being a secret monolithic powerbase that runs everything from behind the scenes, paired with the specific word choice to paint yourselves in a specific non-white portrait compared to the “whiteness” of Jews. Apparently, the Ethnic Studies Department is so lacking in their actual ethnic studies that they missed the entirety of the last 150 years of antisemitism, which was specifically based on the idea that Jews are, in fact, not “white.”
A little more history on the topic for the woefully uneducated authors of these ESD “statements”:
Antisemitism as a term was first coined by Austrian Jewish scholar, Moritz Steinschneider in 1860. He used the term in an essay he wrote in response to writings by French philosopher Ernest Renan, who claimed that the “Semitic race” was inferior to the Aryan race. That term was then seized and popularized by a man named Wilhelm Marr, a German nationalist who at the time was virulent Jew-hater. He published an essay in 1862 titled “Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums uber das Judenthum” (“The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism”).
Considered to be the “father” of modern antisemitism, Marr founded the League of Antisemites a year later, and his efforts significantly contributed to the philosophies adopted by the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler’s entire Nazi machine. At the time Marr published his essay, the common term for anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany was simply “Judenhass” or “Jew-hatred.” However, he chose to recast that term as “antisemitism” in his writing because the root “Semite” conveyed a platform based on racial difference, whereas he felt that “Judenhass” was too closely connected to a simple religious difference. He was purposefully casting Jews as an inferior race of people compared to his Aryan roots, making it far easier to apply to secular Jews as well as religious Jews.
There are only two possible conclusions I can draw after reading the ESD statements:
- The ESD is simply myopic in their educational pursuits and has adopted a binary lens with which to view the world and specifically Jews’ place in it — as well as the Israel-Palestinian situation. Their lack of educational development has contributed to this narrow view and easily adopted moral relativism, buoyed by a clear confirmation bias when it comes to what they think they “know.”
- They know the history. And they just don’t give a damn.
And while I hope it’s the prior — an ego-centric naivete that belies your so-called self-identification as “scholars” — if it’s the latter, then you owe the rest of the Jewish community you purport to support in their battle against the biggest conflagration of antisemitism we’ve witnessed since the Holocaust a sincere and genuine apology.
And no, this “revised, revised statement” does not cut it.