Update: Both Kimberley Barzola and Marwa Sayed were impeached by the student senate on Tuesday, November 10th. In response, students have launched a campaign for #BUStudentsAgainstSilence

Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston supports the Boston University Student Government E-Board in upholding the right of their Vice President of Finance, Kimberley Barzola, to criticize Israeli policies on her personal facebook page.  As Jews, we insist that criticism of Israel for its unjust policies is rooted in support for human rights, justice and anti-racism, not anti-Semitism.

Barzola, class of 2017, referred to Israeli actions against Palestinians as “systematic state violence” on her personal facebook page. Soon after, a group called “Terriers Against Discrimination” emerged online to accuse Barzola of “systematic racism” against Jewish BU students and call for her resignation. They cited her facebook posts as well as apparent attempts to schedule E-board meetings on Jewish holidays and to remove Hillel’s seats in government. Tonight, Barzola and another E-Board member, Marwa Sayed, face an impeachment trial based on “administrative concerns.”

The Student Government E-Board has come to Barzola’s and Sayed’s defense, refuting claims of discrimination against Jewish students and clarifying Terriers Against Discrimination’s motives:  

“It is clear that this group has targeted the VPF due to her political views…In an effort to silence her, and because she has not heeded to the group’s resignation calls, impeachment papers have been filed.”  

This stifling of academic freedom parallels hundreds of similar incidents documented by Palestine Legal in the report “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech”.

While Jewish Voice for Peace-Boston does not wish to interfere in the administrative affairs of the BU student government, we wish to clarify the distinction between criticism of Israel and oppression of Jews, or anti-semitism.

Criticism of Israel, which Barzola expressed, is usually an expression of support for the indigenous Palestinian population, whom Israel has occupied, displaced, and targeted with military violence since Israel’s founding in 1948. Both Jews and non-Jews engage in this criticism, and are motivated by principles of justice and anti-racism.  Anti-semitism is the oppression of Jewish people based on religious or ethnic identity, and it perpetuates violence and discrimination around the world.

As Jewish Voice for Peace documented in the report “Stifling Dissent,” the conflation between these two concepts is the result of long-term lobbying efforts by Israel advocacy groups who seek to silence critics of Israel’s ongoing violence against Palestinians. This is dangerous not only because it curtails attempts to support justice in Palestine/Israel, but because it erodes the ability of Jews to defend themselves from actual examples of anti semitism. When these false accusations are made on college campuses, they are not only motivated by anti-Palestinian racism; they often target students of color, especially Muslim and Arab students.

Addressing anti-Semitism must go hand in hand with addressing all forms of racism. As Boston-area Jews, we support the right of all students to criticize Israeli policies without being threatened or targeted. We support Kimberley Barzola and Marwa Sayed.

Contact: Liza Behrendt, liza@jewishvoiceforpeace.org, 603-397-2412