On May 14, 2019 a guest speaker came into one of my anthropology classes at UCLA. Her speech was supposed to be on Islamophobia but instead her speech became anti-semitic and anti-Israel. She classified a “good” Jew from a “bad” Jew based on their stance on Israel, labeled Jews who support Israel as having ties with white supremacy, made false allegations about Israel, and villainized many Jewish people and pro-Israel groups. This was not an academic speech, it was hate speech against Jews and those who support Israel.
I stood up, extremely upset, and told the guest lecturer that I did not appreciate that she has classified me, a Jewish and pro-Israel person, as a white supremacist. She then began to attack me throughout the lecture, saying that she was correct and then telling me to be quiet when I was not speaking as the Q&A of the lecture continued on.
I was horrified, hurt, and upset. My own teacher looked away from me as the scene unfolded, ignoring my feelings and opinions as a Jewish student in the class. Suddenly, another student got up and came to sit by me; she was tearing up. She sat with me for the remainder of the class. She said that she is Armenian and that her people too faced similar hate, she was also shocked by the teacher’s reaction to the situation. Another student from the African-American community also stood up and called the guest lecturer out for the hate speech. The guest lecturer then told the young lady that she was “mansplaining.” After the other student spoke up, I stood up again, explained that what she was saying was hate speech, and then the class ended. There was no apology given by the professor, TA, or guest lecturer.
These other individuals who made an effort to comfort and stand up for me, a random Jewish student who they did not know, gave me the strength and assurance I needed to follow through and make sure that someone was held accountable. Many people have labeled me as a hero and brave for standing up but in reality, without those other students I don’t think that my story would have been told. It is one thing for a Jewish person to stand up against anti-semitism, but it is important to have allies who stand up for us as well, and vice-versa. Hate is hate and the only way to combat it is to call it out when you see it. Whether it is happening directly to you, a classmate, or a stranger on a street. Don’t be complicit, make noise. Your solidarity means more than you know. I will forever be grateful to the students in my class who stood up alongside me. Thank you for giving me the strength and support I needed that day. I hope that other students take away from this that Israel and Judaism should not be a “right” or “left” issue and that your voice as a Jewish student matters.