UM Students Behind Anti-Israel Resolution: 'Jews Are Not a Nation'

'Zionism is a dirty political ideology'

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November 24, 2017

Students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (UM) supporting an anti-Israel student government resolution were caught on hidden camera rejecting the concept of Jewish nationhood and denying a Jewish student the right to participate in a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In one of the exchanges in the footage obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon, students agree that Palestinian activists should engage in a "re-evaluation of the past nonviolent stance."

In another conversation, Ahmed Ismail, a member of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), the group that led the coalition of clubs supporting the resolution, is seen having an extended argument with an unidentified male and female about the existence of a relationship between Judaism and Israel.

"Jews are not a nation," he said repeatedly. "There's no nation called 'Judaism,'" Ismail said. "Where on the map is there a country called ‘Jews'?"

"Zionism is a dirty political ideology," said Ismail, co-founder of the Michigan Muscle Club, which endorsed the SAFE motion. Zionism, a term coined in the nineteenth century, refers to the goal of rebuilding a Jewish state in the land of Israel. There are political, religious, and cultural forms of Zionism.

Ismail reinforced his comments in a phone call with the Free Beacon, saying that Zionism was the Jewish version of the Ku Klux Klan or ISIS.

"Any person who is a Zionist believes in the State of Israel, even though it oppresses and kills millions of Palestinians—which I call terrorism," said Ismail.

"Most Jews are Zionists," he added.

As proof, though, that Zionism has no inherent tie to Judaism, Ismail said there are more non-Jewish Zionists than Jewish Zionists. Ismail noted that he has "lots of Jewish friends," and that "terrorism in Israel has nothing to do with it being Jewish."

He said that his views were formed by literature given to him by SAFE, and his experiences growing up as a Muslim in Egypt. He said he has never taken a class on Zionism or the history of Judaism.

Another exchange documented the practice by Palestinian activists of "anti-normalization," or a refusal to speak with or participate in ordinary conversation with those they believe to be pro-Israel.

A Palestinian female student is seen cutting off the discussion on Palestinian politics she was leading in a public hallway, when she noticed that a male student wearing a traditional Jewish skullcap and ritual tassels known as tzitzit had started to listen.

"You are not welcome into this conversation," she told him, prompting praise from other students on "the strength" it takes to "say that to someone's face."

A man, who said he was Muslim and supportive of the divestment motion, later approached the group and asked if his friend was sent away because he's Jewish.

"No, it's because he's Zionist," he was told.

She later instructed someone to tell the Jewish student that he is "welcome to ask permission to stand and listen and not ask questions."

Conditionally invited to ask permission to be an observer of the discussion, the Jewish student is granted permission to listen.

"You can’t ask me questions though," said the Palestinian student. "I’m not going to have a conversation with you. Those are my guiding principles."

The Palestinian student who steered the exchange could not be reached for comment.

The footage was taken on the night of the eight-hour student government meeting last week, during which student representatives debated and ultimately passed in a secret ballot vote the SAFE anti-Israel resolution. The motion asks the university regents to create a committee to "investigate the ethical and moral implications of our investments" with Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, and United Technologies, which are accused of being "involved in human rights violations against the Palestinian people."

SAFE leaders are also seen in the footage repeating the group's public stance that the resolution is not intended to harm Israel, even as the SAFE co-president then admits the goal is to "put economic pressure on Israel," and is aimed at "people in the government," naming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

It was the first ever successful divestment vote at the Ann Arbor campus, after 15 years of SAFE campaigning and 10 failed motions.

Hours after the vote, the UM administration released a statement saying it would not allow political considerations or the student vote to influence its investment decisions.

SAFE did not respond to a request for comment.

Published under: Israel