Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Abusing the term ‘anti-Semitism’

Judaism is an important part of my identity. As a high school student, I served on my synagogue’s board of trustees and worked at its Hebrew school. I am now involved in Stanford’s Jewish community, so I was horrified this past week to hear the story of SOCC’s interview with Molly Horwitz and the events that followed. But my horror was not directed at SOCC. Rather, I was shocked at what I believe to be the completely inappropriate response to the incident.

Regardless of whether Molly’s accusations are true, they do not qualify as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is a real problem that causes physical, emotional and financial harm to scores of people around the world, including here at Stanford. Bringing in the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and The New York Times to cover frivolous complaints like this one trivializes anti-Semitism, diluting it to the point of meaninglessness.

Let’s assume the allegations are true. According to Molly’s op-ed, a SOCC interviewer asked her, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”  Molly then writes, “Did me being Jewish mean I wasn’t qualified to serve on Senate?” If this were the implication of the question, we would indeed have a major problem on our hands. But it’s quite a stretch to claim that the questions are equivalent or that one implies the other, and Molly fails to explain the logical acrobatics she used to reach this conclusion.

The fact is, divestment is an important issue for SOCC, and it would be bizarre for a group not to ask candidates about their views on important issues before issuing endorsements for those candidates. Of course, the more controversial part of the question was its opening (“Given your strong Jewish identity”). But this is also perfectly reasonable.

It is true, as Molly points out in her op-ed, that Judaism and Zionism are not synonymous and should not be equated; I myself do not feel a personal connection to the state of Israel. But divestment is still a major issue in the Jewish community, and the vast majority of Jewish student groups opposed divestment. SOCC’s question does not presume that Jews are incapable of serving communities of color in the ASSU. It merely acknowledges that much of the Jewish community strongly opposes part of SOCC’s platform. It is a specific question asking her position on a specific issue and has nothing to do with her being competent or “qualified.” Could the question have been phrased better? Absolutely. Was it anti-Semitic? I don’t think so.

The other allegation was that SOCC had candidates sign a contract preventing them from associating with the Stanford Israel Alliance and the Jewish Student Association. This sounds bad, although it appears to be untrue (multiple candidates were endorsed by both SOCC and JSA) and, frankly, still does not qualify as anti-Semitism. It was not alleged by any reliable account that the contract prohibited “affiliation with Jewish groups” in general, as the New York Times article on this story so clumsily implies, but rather that it prohibited certain kinds of affiliation with specific groups on campus, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that officially endorsed opinions which conflicted with those of SOCC, a reasonable requirement for candidates wishing to represent SOCC’s platform.

The handling of this case was atrocious all around. Molly Horwitz called the ADL. The Stanford Review published an article before obtaining all the facts. It later issued corrections and updates, but the damage had been done. News organizations worldwide, ranging from Buzzfeed to The Times of Israel, had already picked up the story.

Jews have historically faced persecution around the world, and anti-Semitism remains a problem today. We Jews have plenty of opportunities to play the victim card. This was not one of them. Crying wolf on anti-Semitism stifles legitimate open discussion and renders the term “anti-Semitism” severely weakened. Additionally, turning this insignificant incident into an international news story is divisive for Stanford and alienates us from other minority groups, especially students of color. As Jews, we must be vigilant in fighting anti-Semitism on campus. We must be equally vigilant in fighting the abuse and misuse of the term.

— M. Hetfield ‘18

Contact M. Hetfield at moseslh ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Mr. Hetfield does a disservice to SOCC’s wrongful interview of Molly Horwitz by accusing Horwitz of unfairly playing the Jewish “race card” — allegedly accusing SOCC of anti-Semitism. But that is not what Horwitz did. I read Horwitz’s complaint as one of discrimination and harassment — that SOCC discriminated against Horwitz by making the assumption that her Jewish identity implied anything negative (negative to SOCC, at least) about her views or values, and constituted harassment by making her feel pressured and/or intimidated about her views on divestment as a necessary function of her Jewish identity. Yes, given its agenda, SOCC had every right to ask Horwitz about her views on divestment (though many legitimately question what relevance this has to do with student life on campus), but SOCC did not have the right to link Horwitz’s views on divestment to her Jewishness. Yes, SOCC had every right not to endorse Horwitz if it felt that her views on divestment were inconsistent with its agenda, but SOCC did not have the right to link the question of its endorsement to Horwitz’s Jewishness. By framing the question as it did (linking Horwitz’s religion to her political views), it crossed the line from an arguably legitimate question into an indisputably illegitimate one. In America, how one goes about a job interview is just as important as the information elicited because in America we believe that job interviews should be fair. Whether SOCC’s questioning of Horwitz rises to the level of anti-Semitism is a question which, as a Jew, I believe should be left for Jews to decide for themselves. Personally, I can live with the U.S. State Dept’s definition of anti-Semitism (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/156684.pdf), and I’m not sure that SOCC’s question rises to that level, though it’s fair to wonder what was in the heart of the interviewer. Nevertheless, Mr. Hetfield does a great disservice to the Jewish and Stanford communities to imply that SOCC’s interview of Horwitz was proper even if it may not have been anti-Semitic. As phrased, the question posed was improper and, in my professional opinion, constituted unlawful discrimination and harassment. And THAT is why the national and international spotlight has been focused on this matter. The New York Times may raise the Jewish “race card” to sell more papers, but the arguable impropriety of raising that card belies the impropriety of SOCC’s misconduct.

  • Commenting

    Thank you so, so much for writing this. I am also Jewish. Yes, I’m worried about attitudes against the Jewish community, but Molly’s “logical acrobatics” either to justify a genuine but misplaced sense of victimhood or to feed a politically-motivated story (I won’t pass judgment on which it could be, because I don’t know) do a complete disservice to the legitimacy of anti-Semitism. When students on this campus face police violence, blatant workplace discrimination, and other manifestations of American racism in their lives regularly, it falls a bit on deaf ears for a community of primarily wealthy, primarily white students to complain incessantly about discrimination only when it occurs to us and not when it happens to other communities. Anti-Semitism is real, but crying wolf in extremely questionable situations like this one lends that same questionability to other, more blatant and dangerous forms of anti-Semitism.

    Molly Horwitz is not Rachel Beyda. And she’s definitely not Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen or Francois-Michel Saada, killed in Europe for being in the wrong Jewish place at the wrong time.

  • maliban

    wow. a non idiot addresses the issue. bottom line: zio mafia uses the antisemitic label to try to destroy anybody who criticizes israheil.

    First, israheili intel is running a worldwide propaganda op
    with its agents planting stories about “rising tide of anti semitism”. but

    it is all a lie, just propaganda designed to get sympathy for the “poor
    jews, i.e. zionist thugs” who are committing mass murder in gaza. Just google:
    risingtide of anti semitism…………you can see the operation for yourself.

    Second, see the link below for an example of the zio mafia trying to turn
    legitimate ciritism of israheil into a crime. under their definition saying
    “that sure was horrible of israheil to mass kill all those kids last
    summer” or “israheil killng all those kids in gaza reminded me of the
    warsaw ghetto” would be hate speech and therefore a crime.

    ,

    http://www.amchainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/CNES-Report.pdf

    go to page 16-17 and you will see the methodology.

  • maliban
  • rab

    “it falls a bit on deaf ears for a community of primarily wealthy,
    primarily white students to complain incessantly about discrimination
    only when it occurs to us and not when it happens to other communities”

    Wow. Ugly and ignorant. Here’s a little test for you: of what faith were the founders of Human Rights Watch? Of what faith was the co-founder of the NAACP? What religious group was instrumental in the civil rights movement to a degree where some advocates were killed alongside African-Americans? Which country identified with this faith air-lifted tens of thousands of black Africans and moved them to come and live in Israel? Why did Nelson Mandela appoint a Jewish, white former judge of the apartheid era to represent South Africa at the UN as the first chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal?

    The list goes on and on. While what Horwitz faced is not as blatant or serious as the matters presented in your final paragraph, things don’t happen in a vacuum and they tend to happen incrementally. Once you allow open bigotry, even on a minor scale, to occur and to go unpunished, you open the door to events of greater severity.

  • asdafdsf
  • Buddha

    Moses, two of your underlying assumptions here are incorrect

    A) Molly never used the phrase “anti-Semitic” to describe her experience – probably intentionally so to avoid complaints like yours. She alleged discrimination.

    B) The national level that this has risen to is not on account of Molly but on account of SOCC. In parallel with Molly’s request for an apology (which SOCC ignored causing her to go to the review a month later which THEN led to the NYT article), other accusations from knowledgeable sources alleging that SOCC had students sign a discriminatory document were floating around campus. The Review, Daily and FoHo all received this information. Again, SOCC had an opportunity to dispel these rumors by releasing SIGNED documents, but has to date neglected to do so. They released an unsigned document, but that proves nothing. Prohibiting the NYT reporter from entering their Town Hall while the NYT was researching the story probably didn’t help their case that much either.

    So rather than Molly being the driver of this. SOCC’s lack of transparency is driving the curiosity, the story, and the controversy and therefore the subsequent charges of possible anti-Semitism.

  • andralaka

    As a local attorney, you must not have a lot of business if you spend working hours commenting on Daily articles that has to do with divestment and Israel. This isn’t your first time doing so frankly.

  • Doc

    I have plenty of work and am doing just fine, thank you very much. I am a 1989 alumni of Stanford (graduated with distinction, and Phi Beta Kappa honors, and represented numerous student groups, lest you think I didn’t “earn my stripes” or a leadership voice at Stanford), and actually happen to care about important events and discussions at Stanford that affect the Jewish community, both at Stanford and abroad. Believe it or not, some Stanford grads are not only interested in making money but actually care about trying to make a difference in the world and fostering an intelligent, informed, thoughtful and dignified discourse about important issues. It is unfortunate your comment does not qualify in any of those categories.

  • mxm123

    A) Molly our “victim” posed for a NYT article titled “anti-semitsm” and not once corrected the headline, I guess she was too busy with her “victim” publicity tour for such minor “corrections”

    B) Lets quit pretending that Molly was some reticent complainer. The sequence of events shows that Molly our “victim” started her “complaint’ almost immediately. Our “victim” Molly has provided not one iota of proof for any of her claims.

    However her supporters had it all lined up. A “victim” facebook page, complaints to the ADL, the NYT reporter on site. It all seems too coordinated.

    Coincidence ? Molly’s our “victims” mom , one of her supporters on the facebook page, is a supporter of the Islamophobic Stand With Us. Surprised ?

  • I have plenty of work and am doing just fine, thank you very much. I am a 1989 alumni of Stanford (graduated with distinction, and Phi Beta Kappa honors, and represented numerous student groups, lest you think I didn’t “earn my stripes” or a leadership voice at Stanford), and actually happen to care about important events and discussions at Stanford that affect the Jewish community, both at Stanford and abroad. Believe it or not, some Stanford grads are not only interested in making money but actually care about trying to make a difference in the world and fostering an intelligent, informed, thoughtful and dignified discourse about important issues. It is unfortunate your comment does not qualify in any of those categories.

  • andralaka

    Thanks for the response on here, and a quick one at that. I did read your professional page, thanks for the excerpt though. It’s very curious that you don’t want this comment associated with your Disqus account, but I won’t question it.

    I’m just more curious where you were when the debate was going on. I am more critical about voices outside of Stanford coming in. I am not for BDS, but I did not see you on campus during the debate on it. And it seems every time that divestment in particular comes up, the Daily is flooded by messages from outside campus. You mentioned your affiliation but I’m just curious if you were actually on campus for the debates, or met with any of the organizations on campus, beyond just commenting on the Daily. Forgive me if it seems my comment is rude; there are a lot of people who comment on the Daily online without contributing to the campus itself. It is truly a ‘feature’ I wish they would remove.

  • I don’t think alumni are allowed to participate in student meetings on campus, and even if they are, I think on campus student discussions are for students. But The Daily is a publication that reaches across the world and is fair game for alumni. Also, as you so lovingly noted, I actually do have work to do. And parking on campus is a real pain.

  • andralaka

    There were plenty of meetings open for the public, especially regarding divestment. I would welcome you to campus – gladly – if the parking isn’t difficult for you. Thanks for taking the last half hour of your busy schedule to have a discussion with me. I understand you’re quite booked.

  • My, I’d expect more sophistication from a Stanford lot. Alas not, so let me educate you on this important topic. Israeli Divestiture is not like South African Divestiture. The later was raw racism. The former ignores history. History of the Jewish pogroms, history of the Ottoman Empire, history Sykes-Picot, history of WW i and WW II, history of the Cold War; I can go on. My word, calling for Israeli Divestiture is akin to a having a discussion about Intelligent Design. It simply ignores the facts and will do nothing to find a cure for cancer. Having said that, all conversations, controversies, and conundrums regarding something that can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t happen – like Israeli Divestiture – are simply silly. What this Israeli Divestiture issue has done is create a perfect ‘no win’ question for Jews – like asking whites should blacks be repatriated for slavery. Yes, Bibby is a war criminal. Yes, Palestinians have no rights. But you can’t stand up for people when you are busy bending over painting non-combatants into corners with flawed campaign brushes.

  • garyfouse

    Whatever the facts of the interchange with Ms Horwitz that have led to the controversy, anti-Semitism on college campuses is a serious problem. As an adjunct teacher at UC Irvine (and a Gentile), I have been following this problem since 2007. It is real and is growing on campuses all over the country. In fact, the university campuses represent the focal point of the resurgence in anti-Semitism in the US. University administrators have been afraid to confront it for fear of alienating those who are mostly responsible for stoking it on campus-the pro-Palestinian crowd.

    One day, we are going to have a real tragedy occur on a US campus arising out of this asinine BDS-anti-Israel movement.

  • AJ

    Regarding A and B… As a former writer, I didn’t have control over my headlines– that was up to the editors. Often I wasn’t notified when it was going to be changed. To think that Molly would have even known the headline in advance, let alone have control to change it, shows your ignorance of the publication process.

  • AJ

    Moses go share this article at the next Friday services, especially if a Holocaust survivor is in attendance. Hopefully they will give you some much needed shame.

    While there is room for disagreement within the Jewish community, the fact is that SOCC is anti-semitic and deserves all the negative publicity they can get.

  • mxm123

    Nonsense. Molly the “victim” had an entire week to issue a correction/clarification. But rather was basking in the glory of “vicitim hood”. Now that her credibility’s being actively questioned, Molly quite contrary is busy backtracking. Quit pretending that it was all an accident.

  • Buddha

    not worth your time AJ… mxm is a professional troll with little understanding for how anything works, let alone the publication process.

  • AchillesAchillesAchilles

    What would you have done, Mr. Hetfield, before Pearl Harbor? Would you have been part of the America First committee? Also, what do you think of the Hoover Institute? That President, you know, was our Chamberlain! He failed to whack the Imperial Japanese behind after the Manchurian Incident. No kidding. He thought the Imperial Japanese were a good protection against the communist menace! Look at what happened. Today, Islamic fascists want to conquer the world via Jihad. These fascists include anyone who reverences Al Banna or Qutb, almost by definition.

    The Muslim Brotherhood in fact venerates both:

    “Despite his discontents with America, Qutb would probably have been disturbed by September 11. Bin Laden and Zawahiri reversed the order of Qutb’s theory regarding societal and systemic change, Calvert argues, “which advocated as a first step the eradication of the perceived corruption at home”. More central to Qutb’s struggle and the durability of his radical message, therefore, is the fact that it was Nasser – Egypt’s first modern autocrat – who put him to death.”
    http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=26424&ref=search.php

    In fact, Qutb is the father of the conquest of the planet by Jihad! No mention of that, of course.

    A press conference organized by Maha Production is scheduled for Wednesday June 1 to announce the launching of a film and television series about the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Imam Hasan al Banna.

    http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=28657&ref=search.php

    A vicious fascist of the foulest sort, one who welcomed with open arms the founder of a Muslim SS division, Al Husseini.

    So here’s my question to you. How would you, were you a Muslim, feel if someone asked “As a Muslim, how do you feel about entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to conquer the world?” Would that not be offensive? Assuredly it would be.

  • mxm123

    Buddha, is it so difficult to issue a clarification to the Review that Molly our “victim” did not mean “anti-semitism”. Or is someone trying to worm out of the hole they’ve dug themselves with their “anti-semitism”

  • Mr. Hetfield speaks the truth about the “perennial victim card”, anti-Semitism. Today the term is over used by pompous self-important, self-serving, child twerps like Molly. The term, anti-Semitism has morphed from meaning to inspiring disgust and loathing. Congrats Molly, ADL, et al.!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0kWAqZxJVE

  • “One day?!”, how quickly you turn a blind eye towards the current tragedy of the wall in Israel. What of all the innocents currently suffering in Gaza and the West Bank? As long as your “adjunct” position in life is secure, all is well in the world, right?

    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-keep-gaza-s-only-disabled-school-running

  • Lest we not forget this college beauty…

    “Jewish student fakes a hate crime against herself. Hate breeds hate.
    Trying to fleece Whites with holohoax guilt.”…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyUQjaz2sb0

  • garyfouse

    Are you referring to that wall that is keeping suicide bombers from blowing up Israel buses and restaurants? I suggest you spend more time worrying about all the horrors and genocide against Christians going on among Israel’s neighbors. If Palestinians are suffering it is because they hitched their wagons to terrorists like Yasir Atafat and Hamas. Besides, they danced in the streets when 9-11 happened. Forgive me if I don’t care about them.

  • Gary, you must be confused. Curiously as someone posting on an American site, why does your allegience seem to lean with a foreign nation? Why doesn’t what’s best for America come first for you?

    I suggest you spend more time getting your loyalties straight…

    911 – Dancing Israelis

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMkX5uemLyk

  • garyfouse

    No you are confused. My loyalty is to the US. I have served in the US military and am retired from Federal law enforcement, so I don’t need your lectures. I support Israel, but there is no loyalty involved. And what is best for the US is not supporting Hamas or the PA.

  • No soldier, it is you sir who are confused…

    Listen to your generals, or maybe you know better than they…

    **** General Mattis
    “I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians,”
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-us-general-we-pay-a-price-for-backing-israel/

    **** General Petraeus….
    “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [Area of Operations]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/when-former-cia-chief-david-petraeus-enraged-israel-lobby

  • And for the record Gary, this is not a “sides thing” for me. The only side I’m on is, the U.S. side. I’m on, the human rights side. I’m on, the all men are created equal side.

  • garyfouse

    Sounds good to me. If you care about human rights, you should care about what is happening to Christians in the Middle East and Africa. (There is a genocide in progress in case your attention has been diverted by Israel.) You should care about what is happening to the Jews in Europe.
    As for the generals you quoted, so what? I can find my generals too-those who support Israel. The Arab world is not going to love us. What’s important is that they should respect us. They hate Israel because Israel is Jewish. We don’t need to share those sentiments.

  • SantorumsNose

    Mr. Herfield, you have served your role as the useful idiot admirably. There are other commentators on here who are more eloquent then I am.

    The whole debate of whether an organization that that advocates for BDS is anti-simetic is superfluous, as BDS itself is anti-simetic. Of all the oppresive governments in the world BDS targets Israel for punitive measures.

    Your Synogogue did you a great diservice by making you a member of the board. When i was 17, with an IQ of 147, I thought I was the most intelligent person in the world. Wisdom only comes with experience and maturity.

  • I take it you’re Jewish?

  • bittergradguy

    Let’s not beat around the bush. The whole issue is pretty anti-semitic.

  • garyfouse

    ‘And I take it you’re Jewish?’

    Uh, no. I am a Gentile as I already said. I am anti-anti-Semitism.

  • I don’t believe you Gary.

  • garyfouse

    I don’r care whether you believe me or not. Unlike you, I use my full name in everything I write.
    But I find it interesting that you pursue this point. Eventually, it comes out, doesn’t it? I mean the anti-Jewish aspect to this entire issue. You just underline the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not over land. It is about religion. The Arab world and indeed the Muslim world will simply not accept a Jewish state in the Middle East.

  • Demi Boone

    If you are not jewish I pose the following challenge, go anywhere in the world and try to move into a strictly jewish neighborhood. You will Not be allowed to do it. Maybe along the edge somewhere but in the heart of the community forget about it. The jewish people do not assimilate with any other group. Communities then Cities begin to grow taking on a life of its own and always looking upon themselves as being independent from the “group” or Country they live in. One way to protect that has been to indoctrinate others into believing that they have a right to be different and separate themselves from everyone else and feel ethnocentric, and act with nepotism towards their own kind. AND if you talk against them they will hit you with the word Anti-semitism and you will (or should) feel Shame.

  • The anti-Japenese issue it would be, if we payed the most money to a tiny country that only Japanese could move to for their “birthright” while my taxes pay for it and simultaneously get 29 Standing Ovations from the American elected officials. And have the strongest lobbying group in America (AIPAC). That is if the very intelligent Japanese were in the same role, I would have the same problem.

    But you just keep sticking to your anti anti-Jewish bigotry.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asGvjbfIASA

  • Here’s your democracy in the Middle East… Oh but wait, you don’t care about that. What you care about professor is individuals who suffer from anti-Semitism. That’s right, you’re anti-anti-Semitism.

    Any country that inhibits freedom of speech becomes a dictatorship in my opinion and this is NOT what America stands for soldier.

    http://forward.com/news/306590/anti-boycott-law-gags-israel-activists/

  • JaneSmith100

    Hey Moses, thanks for bringing out the Jew Haters from Stanford. Really. Oh and, fwiw, Alfred Rosenberg’s family most likely were atheist Jews. You’re in good company!