Widgets Magazine


Not in my name

On Sunday night, I stood in White Plaza and for the first time in my life felt embarrassed to be Jewish. On stage, members of Cardinal for Israel (CFI) led the small crowd assembled below in a Jewish song for peace that goes, “indeed, peace will come upon us” in Hebrew, and then says “peace” in Arabic. I have sung this song countless times: amongst peers at Jewish day school, in my community at synagogue and with friends and mentors at Hillel at Stanford, and have always felt a soaring, perhaps naive, sense of hope. This time was different. This time, I was at a “Vigil for Recently Murdered Israelis,” an event that refused to acknowledge Palestinian lives lost, excluded mainstream Jewish perspectives on the conflict, and branded Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) as anti-Semitic. I could not sing about shalom/salaam/peace in good faith at an event that leveraged Jewish identity to legitimize ongoing suffering and violence in Israel-Palestine.

Rising tensions in Jerusalem have reignited the Israel-Palestine discussion on campus. Last year saw a fierce debate over Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine (SOOP)’s proposed divestment bill. The undergraduate senate ultimately voted to pass the resolution calling on Stanford to divest from “corporations identified as complicit in human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine,” as reported by The Daily. It was a largely symbolic victory for SOOP, as the resolution had no effect on Stanford’s investment practices.

A faction of the resolution’s losing side, Coalition for Peace, has since intensified its rhetoric. The resolution’s opposition comprised Hillel at Stanford, prominent Jewish professors and the Stanford Israel Alliance (SIA). SIA has rebranded itself as Cardinal for Israel (CFI) and has adopted a stance that is an affront to campus discourse and the Jewish community.

In terms of campus discourse, this event was troublesome because it ignored the fact that both Palestinians and Israelis have suffered as a result of the same wave of violence. There have been innocent people killed on both sides. Most recently, an Israeli mob mistook a man in Be’er Sheva bus station for a “terrorist” and beat him to death. Failure to condemn this type of violence or even acknowledge that Palestinians have died is deceptive and ethnocentric.

The event also conflated Judaism and Zionism, deeming valid critiques of Israel automatically anti-Semitic. A CFI leader told the crowd: These people were murdered simply because they were Jews. Anyone who says that there was anything else, that they were murdered for any other reason, is “a liar and an anti-Semite.” She added that some of those people were here three days ago.

“Three days ago,” SJP was at White Plaza leading a silent protest of the recent violence. Broadly (and falsely) accusing pro-Palestine activists of anti-Semitism is not only morally reprehensible, but also self-sabotaging because it creates a disjuncture between current Jewish institutional access (in Israel and in the U.S.) and past systematic violence against Jews. How can American Jews claim to be an oppressed minority when we have so much institutional power? Within this gap is an observer’s tendency to then deny past systematic injustices against Jews (and contemporary incidences of anti-Semitism).

In the Jewish community, we have allowed marginal views like those of CFI more airtime than we should. Judaism and Zionism are not one in the same. Though today many American Jews are Zionists, it does not mean we should stay silent when the Israeli government expands settlements, or when members of our own community would like to pretend an occupation is not happening. CFI initially invited other members of the Jewish community to speak at the vigil, but at the last minute wouldn’t let them on stage unless they omitted the word “occupation” from their speech. I witnessed this conversation, and was horrified to watch CFI bury its head in the sand.

Where members of the Jewish community enforce silence, mainstream American politics are filling in. In reference to the current situation in Jerusalem, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.” A large sector of the Jewish community would agree. We just have not been as vocal for fear we will labeled “self-hating Jews” or terror apologists.

Despite my grievances, I am glad I went to the vigil. It shed light on perspectives that I had not fully considered, and has made me more empathetic to students with intimate connections to the conflict. A freshman spoke movingly about a stabbing taking place near his cousin’s house in Jerusalem, and how he fears for his family’s safety. I only wish he had gotten the opportunity to hear different perspectives as well.

On my way to a meeting earlier that Sunday, I passed a line of posters advertising the vigil. Another student was there reading the posters, shaking his head in disgust, and muttering, “What about the Palestinians?” I inspected the poster that listed only Jewish-Israeli names, and saw no written mention of CFI hosting, but instead a big Stanford “S” and a Jewish star on top of it. By the time I looked up he had biked away. I wanted to chase after him screaming, “Wait! I’m Jewish and they don’t speak for me!” But it was too late. So instead, I am writing it here: Not in my name!

Contact Madeleine Chang at madkc95 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

An earlier version of this article stated that the Jewish Student Association comprised part of the opposition. The JSA did not take a position on Divestment. The article has been updated to reflect that.

  • mxm123

    Right wing pro Israeli organizations on this campus have a simple modus operandi. “Antisemitism”.

    Cause once they step away from that, they have to actually answer for Israeli apartheid, Israelis openly racist Prime Minister, lynch mobs in Israel.

    Their solution. Easy. “AntiSemitism” ad infinitum.

  • Guest

    Why should Muslims have 57 sovereign countries and the Jews have 0? This is what this conflict is really about. Read their charters. Ms Chang obviously agrees. It was the Jews who made Jerusalem an important city in the first place.

  • proud alum

    damn. thank you for writing this! thank you for being so honest. very eloquently expressed.

  • Stanford Student

    Thank you. Having found a community at Hillel in my time here, I have struggled with how to make my voice heard. The fear I see in my community seems to be turning into hatred, and I don’t know how to express this in a way that will engage people instead of drive them further away. Thank you for writing this.

  • Guest

    So all you who are for justice – please answer me this: Why does the Islamic Waqf which controls the The Temple Mount, which is the holiest site of the Jews – just because there are now mosques on top of the ruins of the Jewish temples does not change this – forbid Jews from praying there? Is that not racist and discriminatory?

    Also – there are over a million Muslims who are citizens of Israel. Why can’t Jews – ‘er settlers’ be citizens of a future palestinian state?

    What about the 900,000 Jews who were persecuted and expelled from Muslim countries during the 1940’s – 1960’s. I realize they would be instantly murdered were they to return to their stolen homes in Muslim countries, but shouldn’t they be compensated?

  • OdedZ

    Just to make sure – these CFI people don’t represent all Israelis on campus. And actually they are not for Israel, in my view.

  • Guest

    Although it is true that there are issues with the settlements and Bibi and that the mob reactions including the killing of the eritrean at the bus stop are absolutely awful and should be condemned, the issue in this specific instance is that there was absolutely no condemnation of the fact that Palestinian leaders were inciting their people to kill Jews on the streets. However, the media was very quick to pick up and condemn the Jews’ crazed responses… Thus, it makes sense that CFI would want to call attention to the fact that the issue is not as unilateral as many news source make it seem.

  • Larry Saltzman

    I share your feelings. Israel is covering Judaism in the blood of innocents.

  • Sean M

    I think you raise some interesting points that I don’t think I have all the answer to, but I would still like to address a couple. On the idea of the Temple Mount, I do think it is problematic to ban another group from praying there, Yet I believe the Palestinians could see it as a piece of their limited territory that has not been taken from them. While it is problematic, one could say the same about the banning of various Palestinian men from some sights because of their age and the idea that they inherently pose a risk. Similar arguments could also be waged against sites the Israel regulates because both are based on the perception of protecting what you have from others.

    Also with regards to the settlements, I think the biggest problem is that these settlements are still being illegally built and pushing further and further into the limited territory of the Palestinians. And while you say they can just become citizens later, the big issue is a lack of trust between the parties because if the Palestinians cannot trust the Israeli government to stop the building of settlements which was promised in the past how can they trust the nation when major things like borders and rights are addressed if a two state solution is to come about. Moreover, on your idea that there are over a million Muslims who are citizens of Israel, there are also many Palestinians still living in Israel who could be characterised as second class citizens and who are not wholly accepted into Israeli society.

    Also on your point that hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from their homes during the 1940’s -60’s, I don’t think that justifies Israel doing the same thing now Nor does it justify the continued encroachment into Palestinian areas that goes against agreements and is even deemed wrong by the United Nations. I think in a perfect world those Jews should be compensated and in an even more perfect world they would not have been forced from their homes in the first place. Yet I am not sure how this is to be done, but at this time that situation does not justify doing similar things to others.

  • Cpt_Justice

    The only thing worse than the article is the comments; the one missing a crucial point & the rest praising her for it: Why should Israel have to recognize the deaths of the enemy? Even the deaths of the *innocent* are the FAULT OF THE TERRORISTS.

    When you can answer these questions, you will know why Jews call you antisemites for coming up with one-sided & false blame like this.

  • Alumna

    What a shame. I suppose that if Madeleine attended a vigil for 9/11 victims she would also say, “Not in my name” because the terrorists’ names were not included. Spare us the so called “mainstream Jewish opinions” – I truly hope that mainstream Jews have more sense than to spew pro-terrorist sentiment. In case you have not followed the news: these Israeli victims were indeed killed ONLY because they were Jews. By the way, a terrorists attack on a bus full of children was just thwarted in Israel – but I suppose you would justify the scum who tried to this as well. Try listening to/reading some Arab media to see all the hatred and incitement that is going on. Then see if you still have it in you to say “not in my name” when terror victims are being remembered.

  • David Mullens

    Madeleine lives in a protected bubble where the reality of
    terrorism is no more than an ongoing academic argument, and where she can make
    herself feel good with her self- righteous claim: “not in my name.” Would Chang pontificate from her moral high
    ground if her family lived in Jerusalem and her child was stabbed while leaving
    a candy store on the way home from school?
    I doubt it. But for Madeleine
    Chang’s family, terror-based murder is not a realistic possibility.

    So how about this Madeleine? Why don’t you publish a
    side-by-side list all of the Palestinian Muslim terrorist attacks against
    Israeli Jews during the past five years, and all of the Jewish Israeli
    terrorist attacks against Palestinian Muslims during the same time period. And please Madeleine, do the analysis of the Israeli
    and Palestinian responses to each attack.
    Come on Madeleine, you must have the academic courage and honesty to do
    this simple task “in your name.”

  • Jason Farnon

    wow a real life donna changstein

  • Isaac Rubinson

    When a Jewish Israeli is knifed to death by a Palestinian, and the Palestinian is then shot dead to prevent him or her from harming others, that is not in any way morally equivalent. What the author fails to identify is the incitement to violence being promoted by Palestinian religious and political leaders, calling on young Palestinians to stab, run over, or shoot innocent non-combatant Israeli Jews. This incitement is anti-Semitic and murderous. Blaming Jews for wanting to protest these attacks is ridiculous.