A very strong case can be made that anti-Semitism is not simply about prejudice towards a particular ethnic group—those of Jewish extraction.
A very strong case can be made that anti-Semitism is in fact emblematic of what quickly can turn into the hatred of peoples of all stripes. If hatred of one is inflamed, history shows it soon spreads like wildfire into hatred of many, and of any. No one is immune. No one is protected. No one is safe.
Dalia Zahger is an ardent advocate of making such a case. She is the co-founder of the Columbia University chapter of Students Supporting Israel. Its mission is to “promote a better understanding of Israel throughout America, with a right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state, within secure borders.
We are changing the anti-Israel climate many students encounter on campus.”
Rare Area Appearance
On Sept. 15 at 3 p.m., at Congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield, Conn., Ms. Zahger will be making a rare appearance in this area to discuss the group’s hard-won efforts pushing back against Anti-semitism that has found a virulent voice among college students.
She considers what’s happening in academe an especially insidious form of anti-Semitism, because it hides behind the political position of “blaming the only Jewish state for all the wrongdoings in the world.
“One may criticize Israel as they wish,” she says, “but it is when you criticize only Israel, and hold the only Jewish state to a higher standard than all the rest, that the purpose is clear. This is evident today across all America and definitely on college campuses.’
Professors Who Preach Hate
Ms. Zahger alleges that “Columbia, like Berkeley and many others, is a hotbed for professors who preach hate.”
She offers examples...
“One professor posted on his public Facebook page that behind every horrible thing in the world, if you wait a few minutes, Israel’s ugly name will come up.”
“Another professor chose to teach about the Israel-Palestinian conflict with a mandatory reading of a book called “The Invention of the Jews,” claiming Jews are invented people with no connection to their historical homeland.”
Demonization and Bullying on Campus
The Columbia University senior, who is majoring in political science, and studying to practice international law, adds, “That’s only the beginning. I can share stories about harassment, demonization, and bullying of pro-Israel students who choose to stand up for our indigenous rights.”
She makes no bones about her sentiments toward the first-term congresswoman from Minnesota whose remarks harshly critical of Israel have made international headlines: “Ilhan Omar represents the modern face of anti-Semitism,” says Ms. Zahger, “just like those I face on campus.
“By casually tweeting anti-Semitic statements about Jewish money controlling the U.S. government, she is reviving the oldest prejudices by enhancing such statements with public support of the [Palestinina-led] BDS Movement [Boycott Divestment Sanctions], which was outlawed by about 24 states because it was found anti-Semitic.”
Commander of Israeli Field Intelligence
Dalia Zahger grew up in Israel. “In eighth grade,” she says wryly, though without hyperbole, “I learned how to live under missiles.” At 18, she joined the Israeli Defense Forces, rising to the rank of commander in field intelligence. At 21, she traveled to Central America, and “learned even there I need to stand up for my country.”
She exhorts her audiences to “not turn a blind eye believing this does not concern you. Hate is hate... and we must fight it and act against it in all its shapes and forms. The consequences can be unimaginably severe for everyone in America. History has shown us this time and again.”
To help make her point, Dalia Zahger quotes renowned religious leader Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in remarks he made to England’s House of Lords: “We forget how small beginnings lead to truly terrible endings. Once hate goes unchecked, the road to tragedy is short.”
If anything, the challenges and prejudice faced by Dalia Zahger and her compatriots have only served to steel her resolve and fire up her fierce pride for the rich heritage of her country: “I feel very lucky,” she says, “to be from Israel.”
To make a reservation for the Sept. 15 event featuring Dalia Zahger, contact AdultProgramming@OurShirShalom.org. A donation of $10 is requested at the door. Israeli and Middle Eastern small bites will be served. Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties, 46 Peaceable Street, Ridgefield, Conn.