Never again is now.
For almost three excruciating months, we as Bruins have sat idly by and witnessed the delegitimization, implicit praise, and neutrality to the horrors of October 7th, where Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and slaughtered, kidnapped, raped, tortured, and burned Israelis, Thais, Americans, Arabs, Jews, and more.
This darkest day since the Holocaust coalesced the Jewish community in a way we haven’t witnessed before. Vigils, rallies, peaceful protests, and now we bite our tongues as our family members, our Jewish people, are returned from the extremist behemoth.
But why write this Op-Ed? Why not bite my tongue? Because I will not sit idly by.
I will not sit idly by as the flames of antisemitism are so callously fueled on our campus. It is our duty to call attention to it, condemn it, and push for more clear-cut action from our leaders.
From the post-October 7th days, our lives as Jewish Americans were irrevocably changed. There was the immediate disregard and lack of empathy displayed by many other community members towards Jewish students who were suffering in this intense moment. With the Anti-Defamation League highlighting the dramatic increase of antisemitism worldwide, at 400%, there was bound to be a conversation to be had on college campuses, hotbeds of intellect, and healthy discourse. So we naively thought.
Right here on our very own campus, we heard the chants of “Intifada,” “From River to the Sea,” and “Israel, we charge you with genocide.” Reflecting on this ever-growing list, I realized the fundamental problem at hand. A language problem.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? We attend the number one public university in the nation, yet ignorance is pure bliss. We have student government members who are free to yell antisemitic pejoratives and utilize their governmental account to spew hate, students who tear down posters of innocent, kidnapped Israelis with knives, wielding them around campus, and a population that is so quick to hop on the bandwagon, that they won’t spend a minute of their time to seek a fruitful education on this complex issue.
We have seen, in full scale, the consequences of a lack of fruitful action. Presidents of our nation’s leading universities issuing statements before the government that calling for the genocide of Jews is “context-dependent.”
I, therefore, write this Op-Ed as a call to action. A call to the administration to explicitly condemn calls for the genocide of Jews and for the erasure of the Jewish homeland, and to issue a framework of illustrative repercussions for spewing hateful rhetoric. Instead of the vague, wishy-washy responses that heap on the undertones of the First Amendment, I urge our Administration, and our Bruin community, to condemn hate. It is that simple.
Many idealists would like to call attention to our beloved First Amendment, the hallmark of Americanism. True, the right to freedom of speech includes hate speech protections. However, that line is immediately crossed when there is speech that incites “imminent lawless action, that threatens serious bodily harm (true threats); or speech that causes an immediate breach of the peace,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Do protests down Wilshire, that disrupt the flow of traffic, graffiti buildings, or include knife-wielders not constitute lawless action? Does speech that calls for an intifada, or the genocide of Jews, or chants of “From the river to the sea Palestine Will Be Arab,” not threaten Jewish students’ intrinsic bodies simply because they are Jewish, and fundamentally rupture any notions of peace?
To put things into a final perspective, the takeaway here is that words have definitions. Definitions are fixed. They are not malleable to one’s liking. The crux of the issue is that we have a language problem on our hands. We have ignorance festering on our college campuses, where students feel unperturbed by the liminal systems or consequences in place to quell these pure violations of free speech, ushering in this new wave of antisemitism. The true obstacle to peace is ignorance, and a lack of proactivity in protecting Jewish, as well as Arab, Israeli, and Palestinian students, from rhetoric that indulges hate. Wanting peace for all is not mutually exclusive, but Jewish hate is a virus that must be quelled. The first step is admitting a desire to seek the truth and issuing consequences for incitement.
Cover image: Flickr.
The views expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and not UCLA or the ASUCLA Communications Board.