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  • Writer's pictureSimone Ellin

Newsflash: Conservatives in Congress and Their Constituents Don't Care About Jewish Students



When I was a middle and high school student in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, in the 1970s, I lived across the street from a family with three boys. Their home was a gathering place for many other boys, and on any given day there might be five, six or seven boys throwing a football, tinkering with cars, or just hanging out. Every time I walked to and from my house, the boys made gorilla noises and gestures at me. I think they got the idea for gorillas from my maiden name which was Grill. Grill -- gorilla, get it? It was deeply humiliating and sometimes it was scary. But the bullying went beyond gorilla impersonations. The boys also called me "kike" (a derogatory term for Jew). And that wasn't the only time I would experience antisemitism growing up in my Westchester town.

Flash forward to today and the devastating and deadly war between Hamas and Israel. I have written previously about my ambivalence about the Middle East situation. I was horrified by the attacks of Oct. 7, and the taking of the Israeli hostages, but I am also appalled by Bibi Netanyahu's response, which has led to the deaths of 34,000 Gazans, many of whom are children.

I am also ambivalent about the current situations on college campuses. While some Jewish students report feeling frightened by anti-Zionist protests, others say the protests are peaceful, and that police presence on campuses is the real threat. Jewish antizionists stress that antizionism is not equivalent to antisemitism, but it's hard for many Jews to make the distinction. I am certain that some antizionists are also antisemites but I don't believe that is the case with most of the student protesters. After all, many of the antizionist students are Jews. Which brings me back to my childhood bullies.

I was scrolling through Facebook (always a mistake) several days ago, when I came across a few posts by former classmates (including one of my antisemitic former neighbors), in support of Jewish college students. Recall, that these were the same people who bullied me for being Jewish when I was a Jewish student. The irony of this situation made me literally nauseated. It sickened me in the same way I was sickened watching Republicans in Congress like Elise Stefanik grill university presidents about "antisemitic" policies on their campuses. I wasn't disgusted by legitimate concerns about antisemitism. On the contrary, these are certainly worthy of discussion. But, I was sickened because of what I view as Stefanik and others' disingenuousness. Anyone who has paid attention to the rise of white supremacy since Donald Trump's presidency knows that he and his followers (like Stefanik) care little if at all about the welfare of Jews. They have never called out white supremacists who marched through Charlottesville shouting "Jews won't replace us." They fail to distance themselves, much less to stop taking money from known antisemitic groups and individuals like The Proud Boys, the European American Unity and Rights Organization (founded by Holocaust denier and former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke), Nick Fuentes (a fan of Adolph Hitler) and antisemitic lawmakers and politicians such as Matt Gaetz, Steve King, Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, Mark Robinson and the list goes on and on.

I would like to think that pro-Jewish Facebook posts are a sign that my once antisemitic classmates have changed their attitudes. Unfortunately, these same people post pro-Trump comments regularly. Their support of Trump is a good indication that they share his antisemitic, racist, homophobic, anti-Muslim and xenophobic opinions. Call me crazy but I can't help but be skeptical about my classmates newfound' love for the Jews.

Recently, Trump said that Jews who vote for Biden or other Democrats "should have their heads examined." His point was that Biden's support for Israel is too weak. Really? Tell that to the antizionist protesters who feel just the opposite!

I have always been baffled by American Jews who vote for Conservative politicians based on their belief that they are "better for Israel." To me, this seems extremely short-sighted. After all, many pro-Israel Conservatives are Evangelical Christians who believe that we Jews are sinners, who should convert to Christianity. What do they really want for future of Israel and the Jewish people? Be careful what you wish for Zionist voters. Don't be fooled. Politicians who claim to care about antisemitism may not be who they say they are.

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percopolaura
May 03

Again....absolutely brilliant!

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Judith Smith
Judith Smith
Apr 30

Thanks for writing this, Simone. Such a hard and confusing time. Horrible to see conservative anti-Semitic politicians using this to flame the fires and create anti-Biden and anti-free speech events.

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