The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Let's recap what happened at NYU Law School recently. NYU Students for Justice in Palestine sent out an email in essence justifying Palestinians terrorists murdering Israeli civilians. In the course of doing so, the author of the email threw some antisemitic tropes regarding Jewish control of the media, including arguing that "framing is everything and the Zionist grip on the media is omnipresent" and referencing the "Islamophobic, Zionist-funded US and Western media." Several other NYU student groups chimed in to endorse the email.
Defenders of the email, as one would expect, argue that vehemently criticizing Israel and Zionism, even arguing that Palestinians have the right to murder Israel civilians to resist "occupation," is not antisemitic. However, as I noted in my original post on the matter, the lines noted in the above paragraph criticize neither Israel as a state nor Zionism as an ideology. Rather, they claim that "Zionists" fund and control the media. And as I noted, the most obvious form of antisemitism that tries to obscure itself behind antizionism is when one can substitute the word "Zionist" for the word "Jew," and one is left with an obvious, longstanding antisemitic trope, as with the NYU SJP email.
I can easily imagine a student or student organization signing on to the statement, not recognizing or noticing the obvious (at least to those with some knowledge of the history and practice of antisemitism) antisemitic implications of claiming that Zionists fund and control an Islamaphobic media. And I can easily imagine them regretting this language, even if they decline to publicly apologize for it or retract it. Indeed, I would think that even antisemitic students would regret the language in question, because it associates a cause they support with antisemitism, which simply isn't a good strategy, at least in the US.
More generally, when someone uses antisemitic language, I'm inclined to point it out, but not suggest that the individual himself or herself is antisemitic. Some people pick up antisemitic tropes unknowingly or negligently. Some use overly provocative language without really thinking of the implications.
I'd prefer that such individuals retract and/or apologize for their language. But even if they don't, I'm still hesitant to judge them more harshly than what I suggested in the previous paragraph. I'm also inclined to give the benefit of the doubt in general to people who are speaking (or tweeting) off the cuff.
But I draw the line at people who, once their antisemitic language has been pointed out to them, choose to double down on it. That includes NYU law student Yosmin Badie, previously best known for repeatedly tweeting "fuck Israel," along with the occasional "fuck Amerikkka." As reported by JTA:
Yosmin Badie, a member of NYU Law's Students for Justice in Palestine, said in a statement to the New York Jewish Week that the response to the [Student of Justice in Palestine's] emails was "shameful."
"The effort to silence those who choose to speak out against apartheid and violent occupation is shameful, and equally shameful is the purposeful conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism," Badie said.
"I will not be intimidated by those who wish to deny this right and will continue to unequivocally stand with Palestinians in their struggle," she said.
According to Ms. Badie, you see, not only was the email not antisemitic but only "antizionist" (please tell us, Ms. Badie, who these "Zionists" are who control and fund the media?), but pointing out and criticizing the underlying antisemitism is an attempt to silence her.
I'm not here to silence or "cancel" Ms. Badie. But I also don't see that Jews need to sit back and let antisemites like Ms. Badie hide behind "antizionism" while purporting to represent anti-racism and progressive values and not call them out for it. (And by the way, in case you are inclined to think that Ms. Badie must have been traumatized by her experiences as a Palestinian victim of Israel or whatever formulation people use to excuse Palestinian extremism, she identifies herself on Twitter as an "Iranian American" and has been affiliated with the National Iranian American Council, known for running interference in the US on behalf of the Iranian theocracy. Always interesting to find self-proclaimed "human rights activists" with origins in horrible dictatorships who focus their energy on Israel instead.)
So, Ms. Badie, you have a right to spew whatever antisemitic (and genocidal) rhetoric you wish. And I may point out that you are an antisemite. And, for what it's worth, the same applies to any of your classmates who continue to defend the email SJP sent out.
And while we are on the subject, readers should check out NYU law student Tal Fortgang's essay at Bari Weiss' substack, To the Antisemites Who Sit Next to Me in School.
UPDATE: If you thought that perhaps by now SJP at NYU Law would have second thoughts about using antisemitic tropes in its communications, and might acknowledge that it was a mistake to use such tropes, you would be wrong.