When he arrived at George Washington University last year, Blake Flayton assumed that he would continue to be involved in left-wing activism. But now he has come to find himself “pushed to the fringes” of campus progressive circles and labeled a racist for being a Zionist—the fact that he is a Zionist of the liberal variety being no help. He writes:
Given that almost all American Jews identify as “pro-Israel,” even as the majority of us are also critical of Israeli government policy, this intolerance affects huge numbers of young American Jews. . . . The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is repeatedly dragged into discussions ranging anywhere from LGBTQ equality (where to mention Israel’s vastly better record on gay rights compared with that of any other country in the Middle East is branded “pinkwashing”), to health care, to criminal-justice reform.
At a recent political club meeting I attended, Zionism was described by the club’s leaders as a “transnational project,” an anti-Semitic trope that characterizes the desire for a Jewish state as a bid for global domination by the Jewish people. . . . The next month, on May Day, I eagerly attended a student rally for higher wages for the university’s custodial staff, excitedly carrying a “Fair Wages Now” poster I had made. The rally attracted dozens of students. We all gathered in the quad where we chanted for fair wages, cheered for speakers, and booed the names of [university] executives.
Then the organizers of the rally invited speakers from the organizations Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. . . . [A]s they began to speak, the gathering suddenly transformed from a “fair wages” rally to a “Free Palestine” rally. The speakers railed against the oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which, according to them, had everything to do with janitors making less than their fair share. The students saw no reason to decry labor conditions or human-rights violations in any other university, city, state, region, or country.
This is our new normal. On college campuses and in progressive circles across the country, it does not matter if you strongly oppose the right-wing leadership in Israel; if you are a Zionist, you are seen as the enemy.