In Letter, 540 Jewish Columbia Students Defend Zionism, Condemn Protests

A group of Jewish Columbia students has written an emotional and forceful public letter that takes on one of the most divisive issues on college campuses: whether opposition to Israel should be equated with antisemitism.

In the letter, the students argue that Zionism cannot be separated from Judaism. They also charge that anti-Zionist Jews who stand with pro-Palestinian protesters “tokenize themselves” and try to delegitimize the experiences of Zionist Jews on campus.

Some of the students who signed the letter, which had 540 signatories as of Thursday morning, have already spoken publicly against Columbia for the antisemitism they say they have faced there. One student testified before Congress about the issue; others have been counterprotesters at pro-Palestinian rallies. Others have not spoken out before.

In all, by Thursday the letter was signed by just over 10 percent of the estimated 5,000 Jewish undergraduates and graduate students at Columbia and its affiliated colleges. All signatories gave their names, college affiliation and year of graduation, unlike some public letters, that allow for anonymous signatures.

Titled “In Our Name: A Message from Jewish Students at Columbia University,” the letter represents the views of students who state that they love Israel, even though they do not always agree with the actions of the Israeli government.

“Our love for Israel does not necessitate blind political conformity,” the letter stated. “It’s quite the opposite. For many of us, it is our deep love for and commitment to Israel that pushes us to object when its government acts in ways we find problematic.”

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